Based on the same engine used to power the popular Lexmark c500 family of colour lasers, the x502n is a robust multifunction device from a respected manufacturer. But it’s not particularly cheap and leaves a lot to be desired both in terms of specification and ease of use.
The A4 laser engine inside the x502n is a single-pass device, with a top speed of 31ppm when printing in black and 8ppm in colour. A colour scanner and 35-sheet document feeder are also built in, enabling the Lexmark to be used as a copier, with an integrated 10/100Mbps Ethernet interface and fax modem to support network scanning and faxing.
Copy speeds top out at 21ppm (monochrome) and the duty cycle is a massive 35,000 pages per month. However, if it’s going to be used a lot you’ll need to add the optional 530-sheet second paper tray to save having to constantly re-stock the built-in 250-sheet drawer, adding £115 + VAT to the price.
Note also that, unlike a standalone laser, there’s no separate manual feed slot. Card, envelopes and transparencies can be loaded via the built-in paper tray but we found this very inconvenient. Similarly we couldn’t understand why a duplexer, now a standard feature even on cheap lasers, wasn’t available as an option.
On the plus side, print quality is good if not quite up to professional standards, with a maximum resolution of 1,200 x 600 dpi and driver support for both Windows and Apple Mac PCs. It’s also a very easy printer to maintain, with the toner cartridges slotted in behind a large door at the front of the unit. Moreover, based on the same laser as the c500, it will take the same consumables with relatively cheap cartridges available from a number of suppliers.
For example, we found 5,000-page black toner cartridges available for £78 + VAT and 3,000-page colour cartridges for £68 + VAT each. A separate photo developer cartridge (£122 + VAT) is also required but should last for around 120,000 pages.
A comprehensive control panel complete with backlit LCD is provided for local operation, Lexmark making big claims for the simplicity of its interface. Despite which, we had to consult the manual to perform even quite simple tasks. We also needed help when it came to scanning to a network PC or an e-mail address, both of which require potential targets to be configured in advance via the Web-based management interface.
Remote scanning, copying and faxing are also possible, using the client software (Presto! PageManager) provided, with client-side OCR tools also bundled with the printer. These were a lot easier to follow, although we would have liked to have seen more help and better documentation provided.
Performance was good and, compared to some inkjet-based multi-function printers, the x502n is a much more robust solution, better equipped to withstand the rigours of network life. However, that does come at a premium, and the lack of duplexer could be an issue. Plus, add in the less-than-straightforward interface and you may want to look at competitors’ products before making a buying decision.
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