HP, eat your heart out. At $150, Lexmark's WiFi All-in-1 printer/copier/scanner/fax got my cash

HP, eat your heart out. At $150, Lexmark's WiFi All-in-1 printer/copier/scanner/fax got my cash

Summary: It's been a few months since I first helped my neighbor get her WiFi-based All-in-One printer/copier/scanner/fax up an running. See Inside one PC buyer’s mind (aka: A message for Michael Dell, Microsoft and other PC makers).

SHARE:

It's been a few months since I first helped my neighbor get her WiFi-based All-in-One printer/copier/scanner/fax up an running. See Inside one PC buyer’s mind (aka: A message for Michael Dell, Microsoft and other PC makers). For years now, I've been running a Red Hat Linux box in my basement as a file, print, and Web server. The server is noisy and if I have to move it, it has to be to a place where the printer will work as well. Just getting that printer to work right (and setting up the print queues in Linux) was a royal pain. I picked the printer on the basis of what printers had Linux support. On the Linux box, I had two print queues. One was called RAW. This was for printouts that were being sent to the printer by PCs that had their own driver for the printer. In this case, the Linux box was merely a pass through.

lexmark.png

Another queue was for printing Postscript-based print jobs. One step removed from the printer, the PCs that accessed the printer (via SAMBA) couldn't see any of the printer's diagnostic information (eg: ink levels). Nor could the Linux box: that was a level of detail the driver developers didn't bother with in an effort to make sure the printing itself worked well. Needless to say, it was complicated stuff and I'm looking forward to getting rid of that server.

So, when I was at my neighbor's house helping her to set up her WiFi-based HP C6180 All-in-One device, it got me to thinking what a cheapskate I was. She purchased it at Staples (which is a stone's throw from my house). And here she is, someone far less geekier than I with a far better printer setup in her house. Not only is it a wirelessly networkable printer and scanner, it's a copier and a fax with a bunch of slots for a variety of memory card types (eg: CF, SD) from which images can be directly retrieved and printed. "My decidedly non-geeky neighbor's C6180," I thought as I returned home, "is far better than anything I've got at my house. I need to get me one of those."

Two weeks ago, I finally ventured to Staples where she bought her HP 6180 to get one for myself. No one was using the Linux server as a file server. No one was using it as a Web server. And this? Having a wireless printer was far easier because I could locate the darn thing pretty much anywhere in the house I wanted to (not to mention that it was also a scanner, fax, and copier).

I'm not sure what Sue paid for her All-in-One device, but after a 20 percent rebate ($60 off), HP sells it for $239. I know it goes against everything we stand for here when someone like me doesn't research the options and then buy something online after zeroing in on whatever offers the best bang for the buck. But setting up Sue's printer was so easy and it just worked that I thought, "That's what I need, something that just gets the job done." But when I entered Staples looking for whatever WiFi All-in-One they were carrying from HP (you know how the models change), the store clerk said "You know.. with HP, you're just paying for a name. Instead of the HP one we sell for $300, take a look at this Lexmark X6570 for half that."

What? A person at in a retail setting who's actually knowledgeable about technology? Still my beating heart! For the first time since, well, since computers first came out, I was getting good advice at the point of sale and the guy was actually saving me a boatload of money. "So, let me get this right" I said. "Lexmark has an All-in-One color device that does printing (inkjet), scanning, copying and faxing for $150? No way."

"Way," according to the clerk. "And that $150 I'm saving you, that will cover you for a good amount of the consumables. Oh, and one other thing: the Lexmark only requires two ink cartridges. The HP? Four. Overall, refilling is more expensive with the HP." Was this guy for real? Here I was, ready to unload $300 on something that would cause a greater amount of repeat business (in the way of consumable-generated revenue) with his store, and he was sending me home with something that meant less revenue in the long run? Well, maybe not. That was good service. I'll definitely go back and ask for him next time I need something. I like to reward great customer service like that. I really felt like he was looking out for me instead of Staples.

I took the X6570 home. The kids were crazy excited about having a color printer upstairs (not in the basement like the other printer) to which their Mom could print coloring pages off the Web (we probably printed about 50 of these in the last week). Now, here's something I need to say. It's not that HP's installation process (the one I ran for my neighbor) was flawed, or bad. But I have to say that the Lexmark installation CD is pure genius.

Whereas I had to go down to my neighbor's basement and fiddle with the HP's control panel (to get network IP information), the Lexmark installation CD asks you to temporarily attach your computer to the printer for the initial setup with a USB cable that comes in the box. You don' t necessarily have to take this step unless there's a problem. In other words, it should be easy to set up wirelessly. But in my case, the printer saw four wireless networks (two in my house, and two others from neighboring homes) and wasn't sure which one to attach to.

Think about it: that's a pretty sophisticated problem for an installation process to overcome. Yet, the Lexmark installation process really made the printer installation a cinch. It just works. So much so that everyone in the house is printing (including a Mac). Everyone can get diagnostics. Everyone can scan (across the network). The software installation process comes with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software as well as a plug-in that optionally drops into your browser that makes it a lot easier to print Web pages (have you ever printed a Web page and had the output turn out all wrong? This solves that problem). By the way, there's a WiFi logo on the front of the printer that glows different colors depending on the strength of the WiFi signal. Green is best. How simple is that?

In recognition of how businesses like to use PDF files (because of how they're basically unalterable), the incredibly easy to use software makes it a cinch to convert a scanned document (even multiple page documents) into a PDF file.

The X6570's software is one feature that's a bit hokie, but I can see why consumers and small business owners might like it. When you start a print job, a small dialog box comes up and the notebook's speakers come to life with "Printing Started." When the print job is finished, you'll hear "Printing Complete." Earlier today, I heard "Black ink is low." When I looked at my notebook, I was being presented with a button to order more on line. Nice touch.

Again, HP and other printer makers probably have something similar. And, when it comes to print quality, I don't even know if this printer is best in class. Maybe it isn't (I wasn't seeking perfection, just something that works). But, in just the few weeks that I've had this device, I'm really feeling good about the $150 I spent on it (and that's the way you want to feel after a purchase -- as though you're really getting your money's worth). I wasn't going to write about this until last night, when I saw a TV commercial for Lexmark that attempted to convince viewers that Lexmark's printers offered an extraordinary value. I can't speak for all the other printers that, in the commercial, were marching down some street. But if the X6570 is representative of the rest of the bunch, then that ad may be true.

Topics: Wi-Fi, Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Printers, Servers

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

25 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • A little more writing needed, David....

    Great article, David, but I'd like to suggest a little more writing...either on Staples.com or directly to the guy's store manager. Whenever I get kickass customer service like that, I always ask for their manager's name and immediately follow up with a letter of compliment singing their praises. Now, you don't have to mention the difference in revenue, etc, but you could state how incredibly knowledgeable he was, how he found the perfect product for your needs, etc.
    I've made that a habit because nowadays, people are quick to write letters of complaint, but rarely do they put in the same effort for the purpose of praise. Your letter could provide him with the reward & recognition to ensure he's there next time you go back.

    Thanks for the great product reocmmendation.

    MGP2
    MGP2
  • You should have done your homework

    The cost of tri-color cartridges is way more expensive than the
    single cartridge per color over the life of the cartridges. Check the cost per page. The results are... interesting.

    Since I am looking to replace my old printer I have been reviewing a number of printers. Decent multifunction printers start in the $175 plus range depending on options. These all have separate cartridges for each ink color. You could do everyone a favor and reveiw these along with your "bargain" printer.

    And the old adage, you get what you pay for comes out in spades with printers.
    PeterBoyles
  • You get what you pay for.

    HP C6180 is now on sale for $199.00. You get a 2 1/2 inch photo preview window Lex you have to print a contact sheet out first and then select the photo and put it pack on the scan bed and scan the contact sheet and any photos you selected are printed; far too complicated and time consuming. 6180 will scan and OCR a document the 6570 can't. 6180 prints 32 black, 31 color 6570 prints 28 ppm black and 24 ppm color printing. Copy for the 6180 32 black, 31 color for the 6570 24 cpm in black and 23 cpm in color. 6180 is bluetooth compaitable and the 6570 is not. The 6180 prints in 6 colors the 6570 is optional (you swap the photo cartridge in and out). The 6180 has a photo paper tray for 4X6 and the 6570 does not. The 6180 can print panarama photo's and the 6570 can't. Shop at an office store and return your spent cartridges and they will give you $3.00 off so your new 02 cartridge for the 6180 is only $6.99. Seems to me that the 6570 just does not add up.
    deyberg
    • One point you seem to be missing....

      He GOT what he wanted, so he got what he paid for. Often times, people always think they have to buy top of the line so they can get every conceivable feature....and never use half of those features. So, it's one thing to buy the more expensive model, where you'll also get what you pay for, but you could also be paying for what you don't need.
      MGP2
  • RE: HP, eat your heart out. At $150, Lexmark's WiFi All-in-1 printer/copier

    I too work for Staples in the electronics dept. and we actually have three brands of Wireless printers/AIO's, HP, Lexmark and Brother.

    The only thing I have against the Lexmark's are they tend to be noiser and more expensive cost per page than the HP's, Brothers are even worse. The good news is I've not heard any Lexmark or Brother wireless owners complaining over problems with the wireless service were I do hear a lot of moaning from the HP folks. Lexmark also has an exellent policy with their LexExpress where they express ship you a replacement if yours craps the bed during it's factory warranty.
    devlin_X
  • Wired printers

    Dave, can you recommend a printer with a wired print server?

    Thanks.
    Scottman_z
  • Not sure about Lexmark but

    my HP 6310 AIO although being a wired network unit works flawlessly with linux as well as windows.
    Looks to me HP has been doing a good job of providing linux drivers.
    In my experience HP's printers are about the only one you can be reasonably sure of will have drivers for whatever you want to hook them up to a few years down the road. Not to mention availability of consumables be they original or from alternative sources.
    Beejaybee
  • Gotta love it

    I found the Lexmark 6750 at WalMart (I know, I know)... Office Max had only one of the series models but not this one. In fact, WalMart had FIVE models from the line with various features, and I found no other vendor came close.

    You left out one MAJOR benefit... the 6750 includes DUPLEX printing. For me this is superb and valuable... how did you ever not rave about it? It does slow printing, but raw speed is not often important to me (and setting up for print options is simple, so I don't really care about it).

    You're right, the install was simple and painless. The wireless connection was well-documented, although I didn't need to refer to anything. Done in five minutes, worked perfectly.

    The consumables argument is worth comment. Yes, I expect to pay a bit more over time, at least on a per page basis. I don't care. I'm not doing bulk commercial work. For me, 150-200 pages a month is probably a maximum range. If the difference in cost runs $50 a year, it's OK by me. It's worth it for the convenience of WI-FI and the absolute simplicity of operation. FWIW, I normally print in 'draft' mode, which clearly reduces ink application by at least 50%. This costs me a few seconds to set up options (four mouse clicks).

    I had no problem with picture production... pulled the SD card from the (Panasonic Lumix) camera, and the printer not only read it, but cranked up the included contact sheet software on the computer (damn WI-FI is good!) and showed me every pic... the software then let me click through to save, edit or print whichever print I wanted, offered me the chance to remove any image from the SD, etc etc etc. Typical need, no fuss, it just worked. BTW if all I want is a quick print, PictBridge works great.

    Likewise, the scanner component works just fine. When I scan something using the device alone, the scan runs perfectly and the application pops up on the screen to let me deal with the result. I have to say, for most everything I've tried, the thing works. Period. No fuss. And the OCR software runs without effort. And it generates stuff into correct PDF format on request.

    Oh... and getting things arranged on the network was dirt simple too... Sharing requires clicking on the option, and installing the software/driver package on each participating machine.

    There are other models in this Lexmark series that offer the same sort of features without the WI-FI, including one high-end office-capacity version with an ethernet connection built in (I presume the drivers to run it are as easy to deal with in that case as everything I have encountered).

    I wish I could say something positive about the clerks at WalMart, how they knew the features and value of the Lexmark line and cheerfully offered intellegent advice and assistance. Oh well. The packaging is well-done and the features of each model are easy to understand. Can't have everything.

    PS -- No, I'm not a Lexmark shill. I'm just impressed by things that work. Saving a few bucks isn't bad, either.
    semi-adult
    • More specific Please

      In your story you mention Linux. In a couple of posts to this blog Linux is also mentioned. Mentioned just does not get it for me. What I need to read is "it has/has not Linux Drivers. I tried it from a Linux PC and it worked great/ok/poorly/not at all."
      Sagax-
  • RE: HP, eat your heart out. At $150, Lexmark's WiFi All-in-1 printer/copier/scanner/fax got my cash

    Hi Dave,
    I have been running both HP and Lexmark All-In-Ones for about three years now and, by far, I think the Lexmark is cheaper. On the other hand I think HP has better quality. So you should analyze the situation, what do you really want and what do you really need, before dumping cash on an All-In-One. For bulk printing and personal use, Lexmark is good. For professional use, stay with an HP. I hope this helps.
    marknlin
  • Two cartridges vs. Four

    Let me know how happy you are with the Lexmark after you have to replace the color cartridge because it's run out of 1 of the 3 colors of ink it contains.
    SkiddMarxx
  • WiFi Security

    I can't imagine setting up a WiFi network without some level of security. What protocols are supported by the WiFi Lexmark printers? What protocols did you use? How easy were they to set up? Is Vista supported?
    dmhunter9
  • but wait! there's more

    Check staples on line for a $20 rebate. Brings the price down to $129!
    llweed
  • RE: HP, eat your heart out. At $150, Lexmark's WiFi All-in-1 printer/copier/scanner/fax got my cash

    Maybe...but the HP also has an Ethernet conection as well as Wi-Fi...and the document feeder will handle 50 pages vs 25 for the Lexmark.

    And...HP is selling it for $239.99 on their web site currently.

    http://www.shopping.hp.com/product/printer/Photosmart/1/storefronts/Q8181A%2523ABA
    IT_Guy_z
  • It all depends on what the customer will use the printer for...

    I'm a tech salesperson at an unspecified store, and I too have downgraded customers to other printers many times before. Not everyone needs top of the line technology all the time. My bosses always tell me that I need to upsell more, but i say screw that, I get the customer what he's going to need and that'll guarantee that he'll leave satisfied. With that being said, I do believe that the hp6180 IS the better printer. It's 6 cartridge system (not 4 like mentioned in the article) gives one a deeper color range than lexmark's printer for when printing photos. Also the cost of consumables is definitely higher with lexmark's printer. I could go on and on about the difference in features, but Dyberg already did that earlier. However, if David B. is not worried about having awesome photos and is instead satisfied with prtty good looking ones, and is not worried about not having the fastest printer, or if he won't even print a whole lot and is not worried about cost of consumables; then he made the right decision. No use paying for all these features if you're never going to use them.
    mindwarp311
    • 6 colors vs. 4

      [i]It’s 6 cartridge system (not 4 like mentioned in the article) gives one a deeper color range than lexmark’s printer for when printing photos.[/i]

      For most such printers, what the extra colors do is give you the ability to print light shades of color, such as sky and skin tones, without the appearance of visible dots. This is done with lighter shades of magenta, cyan, and sometimes black (as gray — light yellow isn’t as necessary for reasons which should be obvious).

      The Epson R800 and others like it use eight colors, and instead of light shades of CMK, use additional pure inks. They have two blacks, for instance: a glossy and a matte, plus a clear ink used as a gloss optimizer. The remaining two are Red and Blue. Yes, pure red and pure blue. These are more intense shades of those colors than is possible by mixing magenta and yellow, or magenta and cyan, respectively. Basically, it’s not possible to mix two primary colors to form a secondary that is as pure and intense and saturated as the primaries that compose it. It will always be muted, because on a CIE chart, the maximum intensity / saturation colors that can be formed from mixing two primaries in a subtractive color system (CMYK or any other used on paper as opposed to light-emitting displays such as CRTs or LCDs, which use additive color mixing) are always along a straight line between the two primaries, and while they can go further in (less saturation) than that, they can never go further out from the center. So, the gamut of any CMY system will always be a triangle. Adding more pure colors adds more vertices to the polygon, and thus increases the gamut.

      Pantone® has a similar system called Hexachrome® which uses fluorescent inks in six colors: CMYK, plus OG (Orange and Green). No blue though.

      I wish someone would do a sytem of CMYKRGB (or CMYKOGI, since the pure mix of Magenta and Yellow is closer to Orange than to Red, while the pure mix of Magenta and Cyan is closer to Indigo than to Blue) inks for maximum (truly hexagonal) color gamut.
      Joel R
  • RE: HP, eat your heart out. At $150, Lexmark's WiFi All-in-1 printer/copier

    Does it work with Linux?
    wxwrdmw029
  • Lexmark has never made a good printer

    I have my doubts that it won't just break within a year. I stopped buying lexmark when they had to recall their printers because the power supplies would overheat and ignite-- twice in 3 years.
    johnmarshall1
  • Lexmark, what a joke

    Having had a couple of lexmark printers, I can only tell you that they work fine for a little while and then they become anchors. The comsumables far outweighed the price of the printers...

    Never again...
    bastien1
  • Actually, it's 6 cartridges - the benefits?

    The HP C5180 and C6180 use 6 cartridges, so you were misquoted by that supposedly "knowledgeable" salesperson. They're less than $10 per color, $17 for the larger size black. 'But that's $67 bucks!' you say. Not so, as you don't have to replace them all at the same time - THAT's the beauty of individual inks colors. Run out of Cyan - get more cyan without wasting the magenta & yellow you still haven't used. OH, and go to Target for the 6 ink pack with 150 sheets of photo paper for $35. One color cartridge for that Lexmark's gonna run you $26. THAT'S WHY I BOUGHT THE HP.
    cmeisner1