Lexmark Interact S605 inkjet MFP

The Lexmark Inc. Interact S605 colour inkjet multifunction printer avoids being just another $200 (as of May 22, 2010) printer/scanner/copier by including a 4.3-inch colour LCD touchscreen for its control panel (think iPod Touch or iPhone).

Unfortunately, that embellishment doesn’t fully compensate for the machine’s pricey inks and other shortcomings. Overall, the Hewlett Packard (NYSE: HPQ) Officejet 6500 Wireless is a better deal in the same price range.

The Interact S605’s 4.3-inch touchscreen control panel is its standout feature. Not only does the touchscreen look great, but Lexmark did an excellent job with its icons and menu structure, making it intuitive, easy to navigate, and well thought out. The touchscreen also gives the machine a cleaner look than a raft of buttons would. Automatic duplexing (two-sided printing) is the other big plus. But otherwise, the Interact S605’s features are unremarkable: There is no automatic document feeder, just a letter-size flatbed scanner. The rear, vertical input try holds a scant 100 sheets, and the front output area accommodates 25 sheets. Media slots support MS/MMC, SD, and xD card; there is a USB/PictBridge port as well.

Lexmark’s adaptable setup routine walks novices through every step, but allows savvier users to skip through at a faster pace. The wireless installation we chose required a brief connection via USB. There is no Ethernet. Lexmark installs exactly one shortcut–to the Lexmark Printer Home software, which covers scanning sufficiently but does not address any photo or creative features.

The Interact S605 performed adequately in our tests. On the PC, plain-black text printed at a mid-range rate of 6.4 pages per minute, but on the Mac, it managed a lackluster 4.1 ppm. On either platform, text was crisp and very black. Full-colour, 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 colour photo printed on letter-size paper in about 83 seconds (0.7 ppm). Photos exhibited a slight greenish tint and high contrast that provided great detail in darker areas but made fleshtones look unnatural. Colour copies looked washed out.

You may have seen Lexmark’s ads for $5 ink cartridges on TV or the Web. Alas, the Interact S605–unlike, say, the Lexmark Pinnacle Pro901–can’t work with that supercheap 105XL cartridge. The standard-size ‘100’ inks include a 170-page black cartridge ($16, or 9.4 cents per page) and separate 200-page, cyan, magenta, and yellow colour cartridges ($10 each, or 5 cents per colour per page). The high-yield ‘100XL’ versions are a little more expensive than average: a 510-page black costs $25 (4.9 cents per page) and 600-page cyan, magenta, and yellow cartridges cost $18 each (3 cents per colour, per page). These high prices may be tolerable if you print fairly little, but they dampened our enthusiasm for this product.

The Lexmark Interact S605 has some nice features that could tempt someone buying for a small or home office. Unfortunately, its pricey inks make it unsuitable for all but the lightest-volume situations.

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