The Lexmark Z55se is a new addition to the Lexmark ink-jet range. The Z65, which we tested quite recently, is a higher-end model, but costs only around £20 more than the Z55se. The main appreciable difference between the two is a slower print speed with the Z55se.
After a glance at the specifications of this printer you're left with the feeling that this is quite an advanced bit of kit. Lexmark like to make things as easy as possible for the user and it's got automatic media detection, automatic print-head alignment and even automatically corrects the alignment of the paper if you stuff it in wrong. Does all this automatic technology make a good printer? Read on to find out.
Lexmark Z55se specifications
- 3 and 10pl variable colour drops
- Black and tri-colour inkjet cartridges
- Automatic Cartridge Alignment
- Automatic Paper Type Sensing
- Accu-FeedPaper Handling
- USB and Parallel connections
- Linux, Mac and PC drivers
- Priced at around £100
- 1 year on-site exchange
Lexmark do seem to care a lot about the user experience of their printers, in some ways at least. The automatic features do make it a very easy to use printer and Lexmark are about the only manufacturer to openly provide Linux drivers for many of their printers.
Design, interfaces and installation
The styling of the Z55se is quite radical for an inkjet, it's as if the designers produce racing cars in their spare time. With curves and shapes not unlike a part of a sports car, the Z55se could be aerodynamic...though we didn't try throwing it to find out.
The fold-out and pullout paper trays do feel marginally less well built than the equivalent from manufacturers like HP. The user interface on the printer is very simple though, with only two buttons to worry about. Installation is absolutely painless with a choice of USB or parallel connection and you can be quickly ready to print.
Just as we've seen in the past with other Lexmark printers, the Z55se driver is very straightforward and shouldn't be difficult to master, even for those totally new to ink-jet printing. It allows you to easily save different combinations of settings, making the process even simpler still. There are also a number of 'printing ideas' such as printing on both sides of the paper, or a banner.
There's an automatic update option, ensuring you have the latest drivers and you can even change the appearance of it. However, it's not all good news. There is a serious lack of selectable paper types, and it would be preferable to have a greater amount of control over the image quality.
This section gives an overview of some of the automatic features the Z55se offers. They are duplicated from our Z65n review as they are equally applicable.
Their Accu-feed technology (right) aims to keep the paper print area parallel to the edge of the sheet and reduce the chances of jamming. Testing this for the first time I have to admit I was impressed. It's something that a lot of photographers may never need, but in a family environment with children using this printer it could prove very useful.
Also offering extra convenience is the automatic paper-type detection (left). This, Lexmark say, is able to detect between plain paper, coated paper, glossy/photo paper and transparencies. Printer settings in the driver are set accordingly but this feature can't be relied upon with all paper types.
Automatic print-head alignment is another feature making this printer easy to setup for the first time user.
As the Lexmark specifications state, the Z55se is indeed slower than it's more expensive brother, the Z65. These speeds are slow compared to most printers and look snails-pace compared to some more expensive printers from manufacturers such as Canon. Still, if you're only going to print the occasional photo, or are very patient these times needn't worry you.
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||A4 Photo Paper
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Sharing some of the same technology as the Z65 we didn't expect print quality to be very different on the Z55se. It wasn't and the Z55se showed the same flaws, namely prints often appearing dull, with poor colour accuracy.
On the positive side, the printers variable drop technology did seem to work, with droplets on the paper being hard to spot. There was also no sign of banding, showing the automatic head-alingment is more than marketing speak.
|This image gave the Lexmark the most problems. The pitch black areas appear a dark grey and some background details aren't as sharp as they should be. Lastly contrast levels are poor and the whole photo looks slightly weak.
|The Z55se didn't fair much better with this very colourful image. Colour accuracy in the blue area was very poor, whilst other colours, particularly red areas appeared over saturated.
|This is the least challenging image we threw at the Z55se. Although also appearing slightly dull, the overall effort isn't too bad. With no bold colour areas or large dark areas to spoil the image it appears a reasonably good looking print.
Text quality is the best feature of the Z55se. This blown up scan on standard paper shows a good level of sharpness for a sub £100 printer.
As a photo quality inkjet printer, the Z55se isn't a great success. Colour accuracy, contrast and overall quality leaves a lot to be desired in some cases. If you're an enthusiast digital photographer, you'll get far better results saving your money for a printer like the Canon S900 or something in the Epson range. See our Inkjet reviews section for more information on other printers.
On a more positive note, the Z55se provides a similar level of performance to the more expensive Z65 making it better value for money.
In summary the main positive points of the Lexmark Z55se are:
Better value than the Z65
Higher than average 4800dpi resolution
Good automatic features
Negative points are:
Poor colour accuracy
Dark prints appear dull
Colourful prints appear over-saturated
Three colour cartridge system