Lexmark X560n

Lexmark's X560n combines a scanner, copier, fax machine, and color laser printer in a multifunction (MFP) device designed for medium-sized workgroups. An MFP sounds like a good value, but the X560n's difficult setup was an unnecessary headache for Mac users. It took us -- with assistance from Lexmark -- more than a week to set up the X560n's scanner. When we finally got it up and running, the X560n was an average overall performer.

Setup, usability, and design

The X560n is bulkier than most laser MFPs we've tested, weighing almost 90 pounds and standing 3 feet tall. Installing the toner cartridges is simple and straightforward, and so is connecting the device via USB. When we connected the X560n via Ethernet, the MFP appeared automatically in our Bonjour network.

Then came the scanner setup, which was extremely difficult. The X560n only supports network scanning; there's no USB support, which might have been easier to set up (although most offices sharing the MFP will most likely use the Ethernet connection). The scanner-setup portion of the user manual was very confusing, and we weren't able to configure the scanner to communicate with a Mac over a network. We contacted Lexmark for assistance, and a after a Mac user at the Lexmark office could not set up the X560n's scanner using the instruction manual, Lexmark rewrote its instructions. Only after that were we able to get the X560n's scanner to communicate with our test system. Getting the scanner to work was anticlimactic: You can only perform scanning using the control panel, and from you can only choose from very minimal scanning options (i.e., resolution, black and white or color).

The X560n has an old-fashioned, unattractive design. Copying, faxing, scanning, and scan-to-email are accessible on the X560n's control panel, which consists of gray buttons with gray labels. The buttons are an odd oval shape that doesn't match the size of your fingertips.

Copying on the X560n is simple and straightforward: a button on the control panel allows you to switch between color and black and white, and you can adjust quality settings with the arrow buttons. The X560n's built-in automatic document feeder adds to the copier's ease of use.

Speed and image quality

The X560n's strength is speed. It took 15 seconds for the X560n to print a 1-page Word document, 31 seconds to print a 10-page Word document, 1 minute and 57 seconds to print a 22MB Photoshop image, and 40 seconds to print a 4-page PDF. For comparison, Epson's AcuLaser CX11NF, a former Macworld Top Product in the multifunction laser category, took 10 seconds to print a 1-page Word document, 36 seconds to print a 10-page Word document, 1 minute and 26 seconds to print a 22MB Photoshop image, and 2 minutes and 19 seconds to print a 4-page PDF.

Our panel of experts gave the X560n's text output quality a Very Good rating for its crisp, legible text. In our color photo test print, the X560n's colors looked dull, blacks appeared flat, some fine details were lost, and blues were oversaturated. Our jury gave the X560n a Fair rating for photo printing. In our Graphics, Fine Lines, and Gradients test, the X560n earned a Good rating; graphics and gradients looked pleasing, but noticeable bends appeared in fine lines.

The X560n's scanner was somewhat anticlimactic given the amount of time we took to set it up. Our test scans of a picnic photo and fine-line chart both earned Good ratings from our panel of experts. Reds were oversaturated and blacks looked flat; fine lines appeared a bit fuzzy.

The X560n's copier earned a Good rating. In a copy of a Macworld magazine cover, artifacts appeared in bright colors. The overall image looked slightly over-sharpened.

Macworld's buying advice

Even though Lexmark's X560n is fast, difficult scanner setup results in a hit to productivity on the Mac. The X560n's average overall performance combined with its lack of Mac-friendliness should encourage you to seek better MFP alternatives, such as Brother's MFC 9840CDW.

[Brian Chen is an associate editor at Macworld.]

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