Businesses shopping for a new multifunction printer already have enough decisions to make without throwing a touch-screen option into the mix, but most of the big printer vendors already have models with one or one in the works. We’ve reviewed the Brother MFC-990CW and the HP Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless, but Lexmark’s latest printer, the $400 Platinum Pro 905, forges into new territory by offering a touch screen without any additional buttons.
To get around the benefits of having such buttons (shortcuts, essentially), you can connect the printer directly to the Internet and browse a handful of “Smart Solutions,” Lexmark’s nickname for customizable widgets that you can add to the touch-screen’s display. It’s a great idea and works effortlessly with the hardware, but the Platinum Pro 905 suffers from iPhone syndrome. Sometimes, hard buttons just make things easier, especially in a business environment. Instead of the Platinum Pro 905, we recommend the HP Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless, it’s a more utilitarian solution for businesses that can use a touch screen for creative purposes without sacrificing efficiency and time.
Design and features
The Lexmark Platinum Pro 905 is the expected size for a business-ready printer, copier, scanner, and fax machine. It measures 12.1 inches tall by 18.31 inches wide by 15.42 inches long. The printer makes a departure from Lexmark’s former glossy white Apple-esque aesthetic in favor of a darker, more professional-looking design. In addition, the entire printer–including the paper trays drawers, touch screen, and even the auto-document feeder–are void of sharp edges, creating a look (in conjunction with the blacks and dark grays) that summons memories of Tie Fighters in that old space wars movie, whose name currently escapes me.
There isn’t a lot happening on the front of the printer. The only hard button on the 4.3-inch “MyTouch” LCD is a small power button to the left of the touch panel, leaving a small Wi-Fi status indicator and a media card reader with a PictBridge USB port on the right to round out its face. The paper tray at the bottom is another feature that gives the Platinum Pro 905 an advantage over its competition. Instead of creating just a simple tray like so many others before it, the printer actually has a silo drawer built into the base that adds more heft and durability to the 150-sheet container. Additionally, the Platinum Pro 905 also includes another 150-sheet paper tray, bumping the total capacity to 300 sheets of paper. However, there is a downside. Only the first tray has the necessary guides to accommodate 4×6-inch photo paper–the bottom drawer only supports legal and letter sizes. The lower tray is also easy to detach from the rest of the machine if you’re trying to save space on a desk.
The entire control panel is 9.5 inches wide, but the actual display is only 4.3 inches long. The screen is bright and easy to read, but we wish you could adjust the display’s angle. Instead, it sits at a fixed level that’s a little hard to read unless you’re standing directly over the printer. As expected, the black reflective LCD is also a serious fingerprint magnet. Four large icons are prominently displayed on the home screen, including one for “Smart Solutions” that brings you to a customizable menu for all your downloaded applications. Hitting one of the “add more applications” plus icons takes you to the SmartSolutions landing page where you have to register for a user name and password. From here, you can connect the printer to a network with an Ethernet cord or you can connect wirelessly through the Setup Utility built into the driver; however, Bluetooth isn’t supported on the printer.
We were able to set up the printer to communicate with our lab test system and the Internet connection in less than 10 minutes; however, we encountered a snag in our own security that forced us to use Wi-Fi. Lexmark already offers a handful of free solutions in its library that you can add to the printer, ranging from direct application shortcuts (scan to e-mail, scan to fax, copy, and so on) to photo viewers (Photobucket and Picasa), and online apps like Google Calendar. Once you drag an application to the window that represents your printer, the software immediately gives you even more customization options by way of various icons, relabeling, print quality, and so on. You can also adjust each solution to a different setting. Once you’re satisfied with the order and layout of your new apps, it takes almost no time to sync them to the printer, where they will show up under the “SmartSolutions” button on the home screen.
Currently, there are only 12 additional SmartSolutions available to add to the printer, but most of them are simply application shortcuts that would probably exist as physical buttons on any other printer–options such as scan to fax, scan to file, copy, and so on. According to Lexmark, more exciting applications are on the way, but the app store is still lacking–for now.
We tested all of the SmartSolutions and one of our favorites is the Eco-Copy shortcut that lets you customize a button to immediately print on both sides of a sheet of paper using minimal ink and at a low quality. We also commend Lexmark for building a cartridge finder SmartSolution that locates and prints out a copy of a map showing the nearest retailers carrying the ink cartridges for the Platinum Pro 905. The driver gives you the option to print using all available ink, black ink, or color ink only to extend the life of consumables.
The printer is one of many to use Lexmark’s newest Vizix individual ink cartridges–one pigment black for printing text and three dye-based yellow, cyan, and magenta cartridges for color prints. Using the $5 105XL cartridges, we calculate the cost of a black page of ink to cost 1 cent, and 3 cents per page of color. Business users who print a large volume of black text and graphics will be happy to see such a low cost for black ink, even cheaper than the Officejet Pro 8500’s 1.6 cents per page. On the other hand, the 8500 can handle 5,000 more prints per month with a 15,000-page duty cycle before it needs time to cool down.
The Platinum Pro 905 ships with minimal documentation 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, Windows 7, and Mac OS X, the CD also gives you an 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 a warning when the paper trays are running low. A similar message also shows up on the MyTouch screen and you can even see exactly what page the printer is working on at a quick glance.
There’s no doubt that the Lexmark Platinum Pro 905 is one of the fastest printers in the industry right now, but for $400, it really should be the fastest. That award still goes to the $399 HP Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless that prints at almost twice the speed with the exception of the single-sheet photo speed test, which the same time as the Pro 905 at 1.39 pages per minute. Don’t be fooled by the sorting in the graph–take a closer look and you can see that even the Epson Artisan 800 beats out the Platinum Pro 905 in four out of the five tests as well. We aren’t dissatisfied with the results of this printer, but the competition exceeded our expectations whereas Lexmark only delivers average speeds.
We maintain a similar opinion about the Platinum Pro 905’s print quality. The black text prints aren’t lacking at all, in fact, they are close to the laser quality that we’ve come to expect from Lexmark. The black lines appear rich with a slight hint of wicking that creates a blurred image, but such imperfections are acceptable with inkjet printers. On the other hand, the color graphics test sheet and photo snapshot just don’t compare against the HP Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless. While the HP’s photos look consistently sharp, the Lexmark suffers from jagged edges and smearing that ultimately create an inferior snapshot, not to mention that the color photos look inferior compared with the original. Businesses that aren’t in the business of printing photos won’t be disappointed with the Platinum Pro 905’s print quality, but creative professionals and photographers will find a superior investment in the Officejet 8500.