Add in colour, though, and things almost grind to a halt. The five-page text and graphics test took a coma-inducing three minutes 35 seconds, or just 1.4ppm, well short of even the modest 5ppm Lexmark claims. The 15 x 10cm, top-quality photo print took two minutes 17 seconds, which is also a lot slower than most.
Ink from the printer’s cartridges can be a problem too, when applied to Lexmark Premium photo paper. Normal colour printing is fine, but black elements of an image, made up from overlaid cyan, magenta and yellow, take a while to dry. If you stack a page straight out of the machine with others printed after, you can get ink transfer to the back of overlaying pages.
Print quality is very similar to print from many Lexmark inkjets we’ve seen over the last few years. The Z1420 doesn’t use Evercolor 2 inks, the latest ink-set Lexmark has developed, but an older formulation. It’s hard to see any improvement in image quality over previous printers and, unlike Canon, Epson, HP and Kodak, Lexmark never quite got to the ‘beyond photo quality’ level.
Our photo print looked washed-out in comparison with other four-colour samples we held up to it and you can see the dither pattern used to tint areas of sky, which isn’t apparent in prints from other makers, even at the low end of the price range.
Other prints, of text and business graphics on plain paper, are reasonable, though there’s some feathering of ink into the knap of the multi-function office paper we use for print tests.
There are two types of cartridges available for the Z1420: standard and high yield, but you can also buy these in Return Program and regular versions. The Return Program variants are slightly cheaper, but require you to send the empty cartridges back to Lexmark in the prepaid envelopes, provided. Good for recycling, but the scheme ties you into Lexmark consumables.
Using the cheapest high-yield versions of the cartridges, and taking Lexmark’s published yield figures of 500 ISO pages, we calculate a black page will cost 4.13p and a colour one, 8.10p. It’s slightly more expensive to print with this machine than from the X4550 all-in-one we tested a few weeks back, even though both machines use the same cartridges. Compared with similar printers, these page costs are well below average, i.e. good.
When we checked the print yield figures, using the same ISO page set as Lexmark, we printed 505 pages before black print faded noticeably and 525 pages before fade on colour. These figures are remarkably close to Lexmark’s stated yields of 500 pages for both black and colour, so we’re happy to go with those in our page cost calculations.
There’s no doubt it can be useful to have a printer which doesn’t need to be connected to a PC via a USB cable. If you already have a wireless network in your home or office, or if you’re contemplating getting one later on, the Z1420 is an inexpensive printer to buy and run. It’s also a very slow printer, particularly printing colour, and doesn’t give the best print quality you can get, even at this low entry price.