Lexmark X543dn Color Laser Multifunction Printer
At a Glance
Lexmark's X543dn color laser multifunction printer offers budget-strapped small offices or workgroups a few nice features at a tempting starting price ($599 as of April 6, 2009). Unfortunately, its expensive toner makes it suitable for light-volume use only.
The office-friendly bonuses include an intuitive control panel, automatic two-sided printing, and a versatile main input tray that can handle up to 250 sheets of letter- or legal-sized plain paper, as well as heavier stock. The tray's length guide is kludgy, however, and tough to extend with one hand. A single-sheet manual feed slot is integrated into the bottom of the main paper tray. Lexmark sells a combination 550-sheet input tray and 100-sheet multipurpose feeder as a $199 option. The standard 150-sheet output tray is a vertical plastic paper catch that hooks onto the back of the unit and snaps off when lightly touched. An MFP in this class deserves a sturdier, more conveniently located component.
In our performance and output quality tests, the X543dn's strongest suit was its print quality. Plain, black text was legible but lacked refinement in narrower lines and curves. Color images generally looked good, though (surprisingly) Lexmark's own photo paper produced the worst image: The image had a distractingly orange tinge and a grainy look. Print speeds were underwhelming: Black text pages exited at a rate of 19.4 pages per minute--close to the vendor's specified rating of 21 ppm, but not exceptional for a color laser MFP. Color graphics crawled at 3.4 ppm; and of the eight units we tested at the same time, the X543dn was easily the slowest at completing the timed scan tests. This might be in part because the unit ships with just 128MB of RAM, but upgrading to double the RAM costs a staggering $579-nearly as much as the whole machine at its base configuration. Scan quality was subpar, noticeably lacking in sharpness, depth, and color complexity.
Regrettably, the X543dn's toner prices are excessively high. Even the high-yield, return-program cartridges are very expensive: Black toner costs $70 for a 2500-page cartridge (2.8 cents per page); and each color of toner costs $83 for a 2000-page cartridge (4.2 cents per color per page), yielding a four-color page cost of 15.3 cents. The standard replacement cartridges are considerably higher--a bloated 4.5 cents per page for black text and 22.2 cents per page for four-color output. At least the cartridges are easy to swap out from their keyed slots on the side of the printer. Labels inside the panel explain how to use the color-coded release levers.
Lexmark's X543dn has a low enough sticker price to appeal to small offices and workgroups. Because of its exorbitant toner costs, however, we'd recommend it only for light use.