In many regards, the $1749 (as of June 20, 2011) Lexmark X548dte is an excellent workgroup color laser multifunction (print/copy/scan/fax). The output quality is good, the paper handling is generous, and the control panel, with its large, 7-inch color LCD, is a model of efficiency. Several minor design oversights spoil the effect, however.
Setting up the X548dte via USB or ethernet is a breeze. The Lexmark Home software takes care of all the printing and scanning chores on the PC. On the Mac, you get a Lexmark printer driver, but Lexmark defers to Mac OS's Image Capture scan application (ICA) or any TWAIN-compliant application for scanner tasks. The unit also has driver and documentation support for Linux.
The X548dte performed well in our tests. Text pages exited at a peppy 14.5 pages per minute on the PC and 14.2 ppm on the Mac. With a snapshot-size photo, it managed above-average speeds: 3.15 ppm at default settings on plain paper, and 2.1 ppm with nicer settings and paper. A full-page color photo printed on the Mac took 91 seconds (0.7 ppm), a tad slower than the norm. Color scans were very quick--up to three times faster than with most other MFPs.
However, the quality of those quick color scans is a weak point, as they came out overly dark and a little fuzzy. Color photos appeared oversaturated and a little grainy, while color copies looked fairly accurate. Monochrome prints and copies were nearly flawless.
The biggest issue with the X548dte is the output tray. For one thing, its 150-sheet output capacity seems inadequate for a workgroup-level printer. More concerning is its placement: Pages arrive facing backward at the back of the unit. With the nonretractable control panel jutting out in front, this makes grabbing the output an awkward 2-foot reach. The nearly 2-foot height of the MFP exacerbates the problem. If we were to continue using the X548dte, we'd either have to deal with the distance or set the MFP on a low table to make the output easier to reach--but then, taller users would need to stoop to read the LCD.
One other problem we encountered with the X548dte concerned the scanner lid. While the hinges allow it to telescope an inch or so, the cable connecting it with the rest of the unit's electronics doesn't stretch to accommodate--cutting the travel in half on the left side. The official thickness accommodated is one-half inch.
The rest of the X548dte's paper handling is excellent. The MFP prints, scans, and copies two-sided (duplex). The automatic document feeder for the scanner holds 50 pages. The unusual and versatile input tray design includes a 250-sheet drawer with a single-sheet input (for one envelope, for example), plus what Lexmark calls a "Duo Drawer," a 550-sheet input tray whose fold-down front panel reveals a 100-sheet multipurpose tray. All of that brings the standard capacity to a generous 900 sheets.
Toner costs per page for the X548dte range from very good to far worse. The extra-high-yield supplies all cost $139; available are an 8000-page black (1.7 cents per page) and 4000-page colors (3.4 cents per color, per page), making a four-color page cost a mere 11.9 cents. Things get pricey in a hurry, though: The high-yield cartridges consist of a $70, 2500-page black (2.7 cents per page) and $83, 2000-page colors (4.1 cents per color, per page); a four-color page would run 15 cents. The standard-size toner cartridges--a $45, 1000-page black and $59, 1000-page colors--cost a whopping 4.5 cents per page for black and 5.9 cents per color, per page, or 22.2 cents for a four-color page.
Normally we applaud printers that handle the basics well--especially one with output as nice as the Lexmark X548dte's. However, its design is inconvenient, and its toner can be expensive.
The X548dte's paper handling and peppy performance address workgroup needs well, but its toner costs can be prohibitive.
- Generous, versatile paper handling
- Fast color scanning
- Rear output tray is difficult to access
- Only extra-high-yield toner is reasonably priced