- Review Price: £506.78
Lexmark has long been a main player in expandable laser printers, machines that can grow with you as your business develops, offering more paper trays, collation and stapling facilities and separate feeds for envelopes and special media. The T642 is one such machine, which starts as a simple but quick, standalone printer, and can be expanded to the large workgroup or small departmental level, by judicious addition of options.
The T642 is a bulky machine for a mono A4 device, sitting up tall on the desk, as well as having a footprint nearly half a metre square. It uses a tried and tested paper path, feeding from a 50-sheet tray at the bottom to an indented tray in its top surface. The pull-down front panel reveals a multi-purpose tray, which can take up to 100 more sheets.
That’s just the start, though, as on the input side you can install up to three extra 500-sheet trays, a 2000-sheet, high-capacity tray and a duplexer – there’s no duplex as standard on the machine. On the output side you can have mail sorters, up to three separate output bins and a stapling finisher, so multi-page documents can be output stapled together.
A fully-expanded T642 should be well up to taking output from a number of network users, sorting jobs and filing them for easy access. The options don’t come cheap though, so best to contact Lexmark to get a quote for the configuration you’re after.
While discussing options, there’s no network socket as standard on the T642, just USB 2.0 and parallel. You have to buy the T642n for that, at around £120 more. That’s a lot for Ethernet.
Once you’ve made the local connection and run the installation software, the printer is very straightforward to use. The printer driver offers all the options you would expect, such as multi-page per sheet printing, watermarks and overlays.
The drum and toner cartridge comes pre-installed, but is one of Lexmark’s Return Programme cartridges, which insists you return them to Lexmark to get the price discount. While this encourages recycling, it also ties you in to the printer manufacturer as your consumables supplier.
As well as printing documents from your PC, the T642 is set up to handle print from memory drives. Although filetypes are restricted to PDF, TIF and JPG (why no DOC?), the control panel shows the names of files on the drive so you can navigate, select and print directly.
There’s also a Print and Hold facility where you can initiate a print from a PC, but not complete it until you’re at the printer. There’s a keypad on the control panel and a four-digit PIN is required to output your document. The logic here is that you may have sensitive documents to print on a shared printer, and need to be by the machine as they appear.
As usual, there’s a good deal of hype in the 43ppm print speed quoted by Lexmark. Our five-page text document completed in 18 seconds and the five-sheet text and graphics page took 15 seconds, so a maximum speed of 20ppm. The 15 x 10cm photo print in best quality also took 15 seconds.
Just for fun, we printed a six-page document in draft mode, with each page containing just the text ‘A test print’ and timed the last five pages to emerge. This happened in six seconds, giving a print speed of 50ppm, so you can see how printer makers reach these inflated speeds. In real life, though, you have to wait for page processing, data transfer, rasterisation, printer warm-up and page feed.
Quality of the output from the T642 is generally good. Text is clear and sharp, with no splatter or jaggies and greyscales in business graphics come through with only a little blotchiness. We printed using the machine’s PostScript Level 3 emulation, as well as PCL6 and there was little difference in text or graphics quality.
There are two places, however, where the quality does drop. First, photos are reproduced with noticeable banding and areas of the sky are irregular, where they should be smooth. Secondly, pages we manually duplexed came through with creases on printing the second sides. Although the paper might have been warm from printing the first sides, this is what the printer would have to handle when using the optional duplexer and it shouldn’t crease.
There are two different capacity drum and toner cartridges, a standard version, good for 6,000 ISO pages and a high-yield one, which should give 21,000 pages. We used the high-yield version in costing prints and came out with a figure of 1.47p per page. This is a very reasonable cost and the high-capacity of the integrated cartridge should mean low maintenance, as well.
Lexmark’s T642 is a good, workgroup workhorse, which has the potential to grow with you and still be the centre of your business printing, even when you’re company has grown considerably from the day it was purchased. Print quality and running costs are better than average and facilities for using memory drives and secure printing are an added bonus.
Score in detail
Print Speed 8
Print Quality 8