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Print quality is very similar to that from Lexmark all-in-ones we reviewed recently. Black text print shows some feathering of the ink into the paper and one or two places where the registration of one print pass to the next is less than ideal.
Colour print is better, with solid colours and good black overprinting. Colour shades are fairly accurate, too, making this a reasonable machine for home office use. The photo prints, while offering smoothly gradated tones and with well picked-out foregrounds, lack much detail in the shadows and are marred by scrub marks from the feed rollers, suggesting undue haste to keep print times down.
Interestingly, not to say annoyingly, the driver software stopped our print run and demanded colour cartridge replacement, even though the colour output was showing no signs of degradation. It allowed black print to continue until there was obvious ink depletion. This kind of protection is reasonable in a printer with permanent print-heads, but Lexmark's heads are built into each cartridge on the Z1520, so you're not going to damage anything critical by printing until the ink has really run out.
Comparing the page counts we saw with Lexmark's claimed ISO page yields shows their estimates are pretty accurate, so we've used the company's figures. This gives a cost per black text page of 3.73p and a cost for colour of 8.68p. These figures are reasonable and fit roughly in the middle of the field for printers in this price bracket. They rely on the use of the high-yield ink cartridges, though lower-capacity, standard-yield consumables are supplied with the printer
There are a lot of features in the Z1520 which make the spec sheet look good, but once again it's the core technology which lets the printer down. Black text on multi-purpose paper isn't as crisp as it should be and photo prints suffer from over-inking. It's time Lexmark upgraded its ink-jet technology, if it's going to compete with the likes of Canon and HP.
Against this, the wireless connection works well and increases the flexibility of the printer and the duplexer does rather better than its competitors in printing double-sided pages at reasonable speed. If you're happy with passable print quality and you're on a budget, check this machine out.
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