Lexmark claims 23ppm for this machine and our five-page text document completed in 24s, giving a real-world speed of 12.5ppm, only just over half the rated speed. However, on the longer, 20-page test, the speed climbed to 19.4ppm, which is really not far off the rating.
Duplex print is also reasonably quick, with the same 20-page document printed on 10 pages in 1min 51secs, a speed of 10.8 sides per minute. Our five-page black text and colour graphics test took 26s, hardly any longer than the straight black document, so there's little time penalty for printing in colour.
Colour print from the front panel USB socket took 35s for an image around twice the size of a 15 x 10cm photo. It was slightly strange that a true 15 x 10cm print from the PC took 1min 39secs, but the result was repeatable. A single-page colour copy took 16s and a five-page black text copy from the ADF took a speedy 30s.
An interesting feature of this machine is its full duplex copy support. It's quite unusual to have duplex on a colour laser multifunction and to have one with a full duplex scanner as well as print engine increases its rarity. It works well and you can select to convert a single-sided original to a duplex copy, to take a duplex original and create a simplex copy or go 2-sided to 2-sided. Although the scanner has to make two passes when scanning duplex, the results are still quite speedy, with our 10-sided test document copying in 1min 32secs.
The print quality is very well geared to office use. With the default resolution of 1,200dpi, black text comes through very sharp and precise. Block colours, such as in business graphs and charts, are strong and vivid, with no signs of haloing around superimposed text. A colour copy was gratifyingly close to the original.
Colour photos are a bit too primary, but not enough to be distracting. In fact, for many uses this may well enhance the impact of some images.
Costing out all the consumables gives an ISO black page rate of 3.6p and an ISO colour page rate of 13p, including 0.7p for paper. The black cost is reasonable, though the colour one is on the high side. The X544dw can use extra-high yield toner cartridges, offering 6,000 pages black and 4,000 pages of each colour, which helps reduce maintenance costs.
This is a good, colour laser multifunction, well up to the rigours of a busy small office or workgroup. We still haven't worked out why printer makers think colour printer owners will print fewer pages than mono printer customers and can therefore put smaller trays on their colour machines. Other than that and the slightly high colour page cost, this is a high-value, versatile printer.