The Impact S305 is Lexmark’s budget printer for homes that don’t have a lot of money to spend but still want the added functionality of a multifunction printer. We hesitate to slap the “all-in-one” label on it, as the device has no dedicated fax capability. It can print, scan, and copy, however, with ease and impressive speed. The Impact S305 not only printed faster than every competitor in the sub-$100 range, but also maintained a solid quality rating across every sample print. The $99 Lexmark Impact doesn’t flaunt the most groundbreaking design, but we suspect you will find the printer’s speed and efficiency equally satisfying.
Design and Features
Sub-$100 printers hardly ever cause a stir in attractive designs, but we were surprised to see the low-profile, sleek silhouette on the Lexmark Impact S305. Sitting at 7 inches tall by 18 inches wide by 16 inches deep, the printer is by no means compact, but its short stature and lack of protruding accessories keep the package tight and visually appealing. The top of the scanner cover features small perforations complemented by a glossy gray border and a matte black overlay that should have no problems fitting in with the rest of your office theme.
The control panel sits on the front face and can either stay flush within the unit or rotate out at an angle for unobstructed visibility. Given the limited set of features, this cockpit only gives you the minimum buttons necessary to operate the printer: a large power button and a setup key live on the top left, followed by start and stop buttons and a color/black toggle on the top right, and a 2-inch LCD with a navigational pad and three feature buttons for Copy, Scan, and Photo are accessible right in the middle. All of the buttons on the control panel light up in the dark, as well.
The Impact’s biggest competitor in terms of price and features is the Canon PIXMA MX330, another budget multifunction printer with gains over Lexmark in LCD size and an included automatic document feeder. Lexmark gets points for including a media card reader with a Pictbridge USB port on the lower half of the machine. The reader supports SD, MemoryStick, xD, and MMC cards, effectively letting you leave the USB cable for your digital camera at home.
You get another USB port on the back for a direct connection to your host computer, but you can also use the built-in 802.11g/b Wireless print server. Setting up the wireless connection is a simple matter of inserting the included setup CD and running through the connection wizard. We also hand it to Lexmark for offering a foolproof step-by-step guide on the CD that holds your hand through the initial setup.
The Impact S305 can handle up to 100 sheets of plain paper in the rear-loading, adjustable tray, and all prints shoot out of the front onto an extendable plastic arm. This method is standard for modern printers, but office jockeys used to robust features like auto-document feeding, double-sided printing, extra-large paper trays, and alternate page layouts might find Lexmark’s Platinum Pro 905 more tailored to their needs.
Part of the initial setup requires you to install the print head and each of the four black, yellow, cyan, and magenta cartridges. While many other manufacturers like Canon include only a two-ink cartridge bay in its budget offerings, Lexmark forges ahead and gives you three individual cartridges plus a separate black cartridge for richer, more realistic snapshots. The printer is also one of many to feature Lexmark’s newest Vizix individual ink cartridges. Using the XL capacity cartridges, which offer a better overall value for the page yields, we calculate the price of one page of black ink to cost 5 cents per page and 3 cents per page for color. Both costs are average for a printer at this price.
The Lexmark Impact S305 ships with minimal paperwork to conserve paper, and you can access most of the instructions, warranty information, and promotional offers on the CD included in the box. Along with the drivers that support Windows XP, Vista, and Mac OS X, the CD also automatically installs several Lexmark productivity programs onto your computer. The Lexmark Toolbar gives you a shortcut bar on top of your Web browser for easy-access printing. Lexmark’s Productivity Studio and Imaging Studio programs provide an easy way to auto-edit or crop your photos and include them on a series of creative projects, and the Lexmark Service Center acts as a troubleshooting aid, should you encounter a snag in the printing process. We also enjoyed using the onscreen progress bar that automatically pops up when you print. It shows you the progress of your job in an easy-to-read percentage bar (the LCD on the control panel also shows the progress), displays a graphic representation of your ink depletion and provides a warning when the paper trays are running low.
If you weren’t already impressed by the bundled features and ease of use, you’ll be confident knowing that the Lexmark Impact S305 laid down total domination in the race for print speed. The best example of the $100 printer’s unreal gains over the rest is its 7.31-page-per-minute (PPM) text speed. Next to the $200 HP Officejet J6480’s paltry 5.54 PPM, the Impact S305 should start looking more appealing by now, but it’s not just the text speed. In fact, the S305 bested the competition in text speed, color graphics speed, single-sheet photo speed, and presentation speed. If all you’re looking for is an inexpensive and superfast printer, the Impact S305 deserves your undivided attention.
We maintain a similar opinion about the S305’s print quality. The black text prints aren’t lacking at all–in fact, they are close to laser quality, which we’ve come to expect from Lexmark. Lines appear rich, with a slight hint of wicking that produces a slightly blurred image, but such imperfections are acceptable with inkjet printers, especially ones at this price. We also have few complaints about the quality of color prints and snapshot photos. After closely examining several sample prints, we found all of the 4-inch-by-6-inch photos pointedly reproduced with a strong color gamut and little loss to overall quality.