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Lexmark P707

This printer, currently the top of Lexmark's inkjet range, is only available through Dixons, Currys and PC World. It's similar to the P706 photo printer, but with the important addition of four memory card readers at the right-hand end of the unit. Although these don't function independently of a PC connection, they can be used to download images from all the major card formats used by digital cameras.

The printer’s heavily curved shape is reminiscent of an old-fashioned bread bin, but with a curved paper support folding up at the back and a paper receive tray sliding out from the front. The paper path during printing is conventional, with the two print heads printing directly down on the paper as it passes through.

Lift the silver cover at the front of the printer and you're presented with the twin carriers for colour and photo print cartridges. This printer comes with a six colour print mechanism as standard, though you can replace the photo cartridge with a single black one, if you use the printer for everyday correspondence as well as printing photos.

Just two buttons, one for power and the other for paper feed, are highlighted in a small embossed oval at the right-hand end of the unit. A power module slides in and locks at the rear, so you need only connect a standard two-pin mains lead. Next to the mains socket is a USB connector and at the right-hand end are the four slots for CompactFlash, SmartMedia, MM/SD and MemoryStick cards.

Installing the driver is simple enough and the printer is capable of aligning its own heads, so once you've clipped the colour and photo print cartridges into place, you can leave the printer to sort itself out. The machine also has automatic paper sensing and during testing, successfully set itself to the appropriate print quality for plain and glossy papers.

The printer driver expects to do a lot of things automatically, but you can override the automatic sensing with your own settings. You're meant to use the driver in collaboration with your applications, but some of the options, such as borderless printing, don't take precedence over application settings.

The driver supports various layout options, including mirror printing for T-shirt prints, posters, booklets and manual duplexing for two-sided jobs. There's no support for either watermarks or stamped over-prints though.

We chose to print the text and text-and-graphics prints using a separate black cartridge, rather than the photo cartridge supplied with the printer. We reasoned that anybody using the machine for day-to-day correspondence would invest in the extra black cartridge, rather than draining the more expensive photo cartridge of black ink. The photo prints, however, were completed using colour and photo cartridges, for full, six-colour output.

Print quality for black text print was fair, though as with the output from the HP DeskJet, there were examples of ink bleeding into the nap of the paper. There weren't many of these and for everyday use the output would be adequate.

The text and graphics print produced some of the cleanest areas of solid colour from any of the printers, though there was some slight banding in light blue. Colour trapping was not that good, with areas of white showing around some black text over coloured backgrounds.

Six-colour output of the photographic test piece was good only in parts. Although there was fair detail in the foreground trees and better shadow detail than from some other four-colour printers, quality of the colour gradation in the sky wasn't aided by the coarse grain of the dither patterns. It was possible to see distinct bands as the colour changed.

Print times were best on the black text print, where the P707 was faster than any of the other entry-level printers. The mixed text and graphics print, on the other hand, was slower than the others. The photo print, using either automatic paper sensing or manual settings, took over four minutes, twice the time of any of the others. This is really very slow when you consider that the quality of the resulting print is no better than average.

In the usage tests, we chose to use the black cartridge for text printing, as few people would print volumes of text using the photo cartridge. For the 20% colour usage test, we used the colour and photo cartridges, as we believe most people buying this printer would.

We produced 202 5% black text prints and 199 20% colour pages. These are both well below Lexmark's claims, with the black text print less than half the number of sheets claimed. The colour print usage resulted in a cost per page of 69p, over 50% higher than from any other printer tested here.

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