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Lexmark's Impact S305 Inkjet MFP Recoups a Low Purchase Price With Very Expensive Inks

At a Glance
  • Lexmark Impact S305

    PCWorld Rating

    It’s nice that such an inexpensive MFP includes Wi-Fi, but only low-volume users could tolerate the expensive inks.

The Lexmark Impact S305 inkjet multifunction printer (for printing, copying, and scanning) offers a basic set of features and capabilities for just $100 (as of June 7, 2010), which would make it a real bargain except that its ink prices are extremely high. If your printing needs are modest, you might not mind; but in this price range, the Canon Pixma MX340 offers more for the money.

Lexmark's setup routine can guide a novice through every step of printer setup; savvier users can skip through at a faster pace. The wireless installation we chose required a brief connection via USB. Lexmark installs exactly one shortcut--to the Lexmark Printer Home software, which adequately covers scanning but does not include the photo and creative features that some other vendors' software offers.

Aside from its Wi-Fi capability, the Impact S305's features are minimal (as you'd expect at this price). Though the few buttons and backlit monochrome LCD are scattered across a large control panel, they're labeled and easy to use. You don't get an automatic document feeder for the letter-size scanner, but the lid telescopes to accept thicker material such as books. The single, vertical rear input tray accommodates just 100 pages, which is enough for light home or student use. The foldout front output tray holds 25 sheets. Manual duplexing works on the PC platform, but not on the Mac.

The Impact S305 performed satisfactorily in our tests. Plain-black text printed at a midrange rate of 6.2 pages per minute on the PC, but a lackluster 4.1 ppm on the Mac. On either platform, text output looked crisp and very black. Full-color, 4-by-6-inch photos (printed on letter-size paper) averaged 1.9 ppm on the PC; on the Mac, a 7.5-by-9.9-inch, high-resolution color photo printed on letter-size paper took nearly 84 seconds to print (0.7 ppm). Photos exhibited a slight greenish tint and high contrast that provided great detail in darker areas but made fleshtones look unnatural. Color copies had a slightly brighter color palette than the originals, and we noted moiré patterns in large areas of solid color.

You might have seen Lexmark's ads for $5 ink cartridges on TV or the Web. Alas, that supercheap 105XL cartridge is unavailable for the Impact S305. And while it's not unusual for low-priced printers and MFPs to have high-priced inks, the Impact S305's are particularly expensive. The standard-size "100" inks include a 170-page cartridge black ($16, or 9.4 cents per page) and separate 200-page cyan, magenta, and yellow color cartridges ($10 each, or 5 cents per color per page). The high-yield ‘100XL' versions cost a little more than average: a 510-page black ($25, or 4.9 cents per page) and 600-page cyan, magenta, and yellow cartridges ($18, or 3 cents per color per page).

The Lexmark Impact S305 provides a beer-budget machine with champagne-budget inks. If you stick with the high-yield cartridges, this MFP may prove to be reasonably affordable for a low-volume home or student user. Still, we've seen better options among the entry-level inkjet MFPs we've tested.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    It’s nice that such an inexpensive MFP includes Wi-Fi, but only low-volume users could tolerate the expensive inks.

    Pros

    • Good output quality
    • Low initial purchase price

    Cons

    • Minimal configuration
    • Extremely expensive inks
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