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With all the improvements Lexmark has made to its inkjet range of printers and all-in-ones over the years, the one thing that hasn't improved dramatically is print quality. It's really not much better than output from machines produced five years ago. While it may be adequate for home use, there’s noticeable bleed of ink into the plain paper nap, giving a spiky effect to characters and make the text look blurred.
Colour graphics are much better and areas of solid fill are generally smooth, with little sign of banding. Colours aren't that strong, though and a colour photocopy looks decidedly pale in comparison with the original. Photo output appears slightly misty, with our landscape test piece looking as if there’s a heat haze, which isn't in the original. You can also see the printer’s dither pattern in areas of sky.
From this review on, we have started to use the ISO 24712 test set to calculate page yields. Lexmark claims 215 ISO pages from its standard yield, 23 cartridge and 550 from the high yield, 34. Similarly, you should get 185 and 500 colour pages from the 24 and 35 cartridges, respectively. Our tests came out very close to these figures and we're happy to use them in our page-cost calculations.
Both the supplied 23 and 24 cartridge versions are from Lexmark's recycle programme, where you agree to return empty cartridges to the company at the end of their lives. 23A and 24A cartridges cost a couple of pounds more each and you can do what you like with them when they run out of ink. There's a three-colour photo cartridge, type 31, which you can use to replace black for optional six-colour photo printing.
We calculate the cost per page for this machine at 3.26p for black and 6.64p for colour ISO pages, both including 0.7p for a sheet of A4 multipurpose paper. We used to allow 0.4p per sheet, but can no longer buy reasonable quality paper at that rate. Both these figures are acceptable for ink-jet print from a machine at this price point.
It would be good to be able to sing the praises of the X4550 and its wireless connection makes it particularly easy to deploy – it doesn't have to be tethered to your PC. However, that’s about all we can say in its favour. It's very slow, particularly when printing in colour and printed output on plain paper isn't worth the wait. At £90, we'd rather forego the Wi-Fi and look at faster, prettier prints from the competition.