capsule review

Lexmark Z615

At a Glance
  • Lexmark Z615

Lexmark Z715
Photograph: Rick Rizner

If your criterion for choosing a printer is spending the least amount of money possible to get passable print quality, the $50 Lexmark Z615 is a reasonable choice. But unless your printing needs are very modest we recommend you invest a little more and get a much better printer, such as the $80 Canon i455. The Z615 is somewhat slow, even for an inkjet: Though it printed text at a respectable 4.3 pages per minute, just shy of the 4.6 ppm test-set average, the Z615 printed graphics slowly, at 0.5 ppm--less than half the average.

Prints from the Z615 looked better than the output from the more expensive Lexmark Z715, even when the Z715 printed on glossy paper using its optional photo ink cartridge. Still, the Z615's print quality overall was middle-of-the-road. Its text quality, though slightly rough-edged, was on a par with that of most of the inkjets we tested; narrow parallel lines blurred together and exhibited severe banding, and color glossies looked dark and dotty, and lacked fine detail. (All of our test documents looked worse on higher-quality inkjet paper than on plain paper.) Glossy gray-scale photos are the Z615's strong suit; they showed good detail and subtle shading.

As you might expect from a dirt-cheap printer, the Z615's design cuts some corners. The paper trays are flimsy, and the USB 2.0 port is somewhat recessed beneath the blocky power supply, which makes setup a little awkward (the installation process requires you to plug the USB cable in after the power is on, so you have to do some fiddling). Also, you must align the ink cartridges and select the paper type manually. But other than those issues, operating the Z615 is easy. Its drivers display a summary of all the settings you've chosen, and Lexmark includes a detailed manual that covers the driver features, troubleshooting, and special print jobs such as booklets and labels. People in cramped quarters will appreciate the way the input tray folds shut and the output tray slides under the printer to save desk space when the printer is not in use.

Mediocre print quality and slow graphics speed take the shine off this printer's rock-bottom price.

Dan Littman

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At a Glance
  • Lexmark Z615

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