Company: Lexmark
Price: $129.00 US

Ever have a plateful of items to review, and real life starts to get in the way? No? You don’t do hardware and software reviews for an online publication? Well, imagine, if you will, my predicament. Here I am, with a bevy of review items sitting in the queue, and not being able to sit down for a few hours to write a review. Imagine that these are actually products you requested to review, rather than the plethora of items that show up unannounced on your doorstep. That is my predicament and I would be remiss not to apologize to one company in particular: Lexmark.

See, Lexmark was kind enough to send me the PrinTrio for evaluation months ago. Originally, I had planned to review the unit in our Video Review feature. The unit lends itself beautifully to that medium of review. Yet in all these months, I have yet to film a new video review! Not wanting to put this review off any further, here I am writing a review of the unit. (A video review takes about ten times as long to film, edit, convert, and post than a text review.)

What really ticks me off, more than anything else, is knowing some of you went and purchased a new printer during the holiday season, and that you may not have picked this unit to buy. For that, I am sorry. The PrinTrio should have been at the top of your list of printers.

The specs
First, the price point. At only $129 (US) you can find cheaper priced printer. But can you find a less expensive printer, copier, scanner combo that works as well as the PrinTrio? Perhaps, though I’m not aware of one. (or should I say one that works with the Macintosh at any rate.) But all through my evaluation of this unit, I kept coming back to that price. Only $149 for all this?! Wow!

Output Quality- 2400 x 1200 dots per inch (dpi) in black and color Ð on all paper types. Of course, for quality prints, you will want a high-gloss photo-quality paper. While the dpi rating will tell you the technical specifications, usually real-world tests are more telling of the value of your printer. In this case, I tested a variety of different paper types (gloss, stock, color heavy-stock) and found that the PrinTrio handled all very well. Obviously the high-gloss paper produced the best results, with some prints indistinguishable from quality photographic 35mm prints. (Depending on the quality of the source, of course. A horrible picture will look horrible no matter the printer.)

Output speed varies depending on print quality. Lexmark advertises the print speed at 11 pages per minute for text pages, and 6 pages for color. While the 11 pages for plain text printing is accurate, I have yet to see the unit print 6 full color pictures quite that fast. In fact, the unit is actually downright slow in color mode, more so when you are printing a high-resolution graphic or picture on glossy paper.

Does the speed of printing reduce the quality and value of the PrinTrio? No, I don’t think so. I don’t think anyone would pay less than $150 for a printer expecting high quality color prints to fly out of the unit quickly. Especially an ink-jet printer.

Print-wise, I would have to give the PrinTrio high marks. It’s not a postscript printer; so graphic artists should looks at more expensive items. But for the average home user looking to print out photographs taken on their digital camera, they will be pleased with the output quality as will those printing out a lot of text pages.

Scanning. The build-in scanner is very nice, though small. You cannot scan an 11×17 item, but a standard letter size paper will fit fine. All the scanning is done via the Lexmark All-In-One Print Center software. At a maximum of 600 x 1200 CIS, you can get a lot of detail in your scans. While the scanning software is not the best I have ever used, and graphic professionals will need much more control over the scanning operation than the All-in-One Print Center offers, most average Mac users will be happy with it.

The software can auto-select for you, meaning that the software detects what you are scanning and automatically selects just the picture after the scan preview is complete. This is a little buggy, however, and the auto-select has in many cases decided to crop out parts of a scan image. This is easily fixed by the user, but it is somewhat annoying.

You can use the drop-down menu to select the type of image you will be scanning, such as Color Photo – Print (300 dpi), Color Photo Ð Web (75 dpi), Black & White Photo (300 dpi but at 8-bit grayscale rather than 24-bit color), and Black Text (300 dpi at 1-bit monochrome). You can also use the custom settings option, such as 24-Bit Color at 9600 dpi and the Descreen option.

Using the Adjustments option, you can set the Brightness, Contrast, Gamma, Blur/Sharpen, Invert Colors, Mirror left/right, and Rotate. For those using either Adobe Photoshop or a comparable image editing software package, you would be better served to leave the Adjustments alone and use those more advanced programs to manipulate the image after scanning.

From the software, you can also simply scan your photo to a saved file or have it opened in another program, such as Photoshop. A nice feature and it works very well. I always save my scans to a file, and open manually in Photoshop afterwards. I have yet to scan a file (on any scanner, not just the PrinTrio) that does not need some sort of color correction afterwards. (or scratches removed, red-eye corrected, etc…) The reason I don’t scan and send directly to Photoshop is in the case of a computer crash. (less of a problem with OS X than it was in the classic Mac OS!) This way my file was saved to disk.

The PrinTrio also has a built-in copy feature. Set a document or picture in the scanner; click “copy” and viola! However, the Copy feature relies on the software on your Mac, the same Scanning software above. So while this can be advertised as a “copier” it really is not. True, the Copy feature requires nothing more from the user than to click a button on the PrinTrio, but I have found that the copies it creates do not look as good as items scanned, cleaned up in Photoshop, and printed.

This is not the first Lexmark Copier, Printer, Scanner I have reviewed. That would be the Lexmark X73 back in September 2001. The big difference between the X73 and the PrinTrio is really the form factor. The X73 was large, and took up a lot of space. The PrinTrio, by comparison, is not much larger than an average desktop printer, such as an Epson. This is great for those who do not have a lot of space on their desktops, and for those who simply like a sleek-looking item like the PrinTrio.

All in all, the PrinTrio is a great buy for a sub-$150 printer. With the added feature of being able to Scan and Copy, this unit is a real steal. The only real downside is when you run out of ink and have to pay $28.99 for black and $31.99 for color. $61.00 is expensive for ink, but this is the case with every printer on the market. A case of giving away the shaver and making your money on the razor blades. Lexmark is no more guilty of this practice than any other manufacturer.

A good value. A good printer. You will not be unhappy with the PrinTrio. If you’re doing a lot of document printing, look at a faster laser-jet. If you are a home user, and only print out occasionally, this is the unit for you.

MacMice Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Tim Robertson

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