Lexmark’s Genesis: A Photo Booth for Documents

All of a sudden, ink jet printer companies are trying out some radically new designs -- ones that stray far afield from printer form factors that have changed very little over the past 15 years or so. Last month, HP announced the Envy 100, a low-profile all-in-one that looks rather like a 1980s-era VCR. And now Lexmark is unveiling the Genesis, an unusually high-profile all-in-one. The tall-boy design has a purpose: It permits for a 30 percent smaller footprint. And Lexmark accomplished it by incorporating a scanner that's unlike any I've seen before.

First of all, the scanner bed is vertical rather than horizontal: You pull down the front of the Genesis, revealing a platen inside that you lean your document against. And there's no scanning bar that runs its way across the document to capture it -- instead, Lexmark is using digital-camera technology. There's a lens at the back of the Genesis that snaps a picture of your image. Since no moving parts are involved, scans are fast: Lexmark says that preview mode is "instant" and that the Genesis can do a full scan in as little as three seconds.

The vertical design means you can't slap down multiple small documents (such as receipts) any which way, but a clip at the top lets you fasten items such as photos into place at the top of scanning bed, then position others at its bottom. A Lexmark representative told me that the Genesis is actually better for scanning bound volumes than traditional scanners, because it's less likely to render scans illegible by producing a pitch-black shadow effect around the binding. I'd be curious to see how it fared with a variety of typical items. (Unlike some less creative designs, it doesn't do sheet-fed scanning of multiple-page documents.)

The Genesis has a 4.3″ MyTouch color touch-screen -- similar to the ones on recent HP printers -- and Lexmark's SmartSolutions, a Web-connected system for automating common printing tasks and providing document-related apps. (For instance, you can scan an image directly from the Genesis into your Evernote account.) The printer will sell for $399 and Lexmark plans to start shipping it early next year.

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