Buying a color printer is usually one of the first things a new computer owner will do. It is a natural add-on for any computer user. A computer without a printer is like a television without a remote. And if you are looking to buy your first printer, or replace your existing color printer with something a little more modern, the Lexmark P4350 may be right up your alley, providing you don’t need Intel Mac print drivers.
The P4350 is an All-In-One (AIO) printer, meaning it not only prints color, but it is also a scanner and a memory card reader for digital cameras. It can also fax, but needs the computers modem to do so. I did not test the faxing capabilities for this review.
The P4350 is not a new printer; it has been on the market for almost a year now. So why review it this late? Because it still sells, and is advertised as a Macintosh printer. I see these at all the big-box resellers, and I wanted to find out how well it works. I have been reviewing Lexmark printers for years, and I usually enjoy the print quality of their printers.
Print quality is the first factor in any printer buying decision. How nice a printed page, be it text, a PDF, or a glossy photo, usually trumps any other factor. Sure, being able to scan and use a card reader are nice features, but printing is key. In this regard, the P4350 does a nice job. While it is not a post-script printer, it does do a very nice job of giving you quality photo prints using glossy paper. It does have a nasty habit, as many inexpensive ink-jet printers do, of using a LOT of ink when printing full-page photos.
The P4350 has two ink-jet cartridges, one a tri-color cartridge for cyan, yellow, and magenta, and a photo cartridge with light cyan, light magenta, and black. This in effect gives you a six-color printer. Nice! You can replace the photo cartridges with a black-only, which will save you money for when you want to print more documents than color. I have found replacement ink for this printer from $19.99 for the black up to $56.99 for the tri-color. Not cheap, but in the same ballpark of its competitors. Honestly, if both colors ran out at roughly the same time, it may actually be cheaper to just buy an entirely new printer.
As for print quality, as I said, the output was nice. You can print either from the computer, or inset a memory card (from a digital camera) into the front of the printer, and print directly from there. It has a small, built-in 1.7-inch LCD that allows you to view the photos on the cards before printing. The LCD is also used for scanning options, menu, and much more. While the included software works fine, I actually preferred to control the printer from the front of the unit when scanning or copying. Very responsive and, for the most part, intuitive controls.
The flatbed scanner works well. It will allow you to scan a document or photo directly to your computer, using either the printers’ own controls, or the included Lexmark software. What’s nice about the P4350 is that the top cover of the scanner actually comes off very easily. This makes scanning a thicker object, like a book, magazine, or oversized paper (newspaper) much easier. There is also a blue light on the corner of the scanner, so you can easily figure out where the corner is when scanning a document. This was handing for late-night scan jobs.
One problem I do have with the P4350 is that the print drivers are not Intel Mac ready. In other words, they are not universal binaries. While the printer has been on the market almost a half-year before the first Intel Macs were released, Lexmark still sells this model all over the place; so not having updated drivers is inexcusable. At the very least, there should be updated drivers on their website, but a quick visit there shows the latest Mac OS X driver to be from a year ago. Intel Mac users will still be able to use the P4350, as there is a work around. Installing the PowerPC driver, going to Printer Setup, and choosing “Open using Rosetta” will work great, after a restart. So while it works, it is not the ideal situation, and the Lexmark control software itself is still pre-Intel code only. For such a large company like Lexmark to leave Intel Mac owner in the dark is simply bad business.
The built-in card reader supports CompactFlash, SmartMedia, Secure Digital, Memory Stick and xD cards. I tested both a CompactFlash and an SD card, using the LCD to preview and send print commands, and the process was very intuitive. I prefer, however, to print from my Mac so that I have much more output control, as well as being able to clean up photos in iPhoto or Adobe Photoshop. Still, some will find the feature of printing from a card handy.
The Lexmark P4350 is a nice printer. I would have scored it a 4 out of 5, but after a year on the market, and still no Intel Mac OS drivers, I can only give it a solid 3 out of 5.