Even if we’re not fully convinced that touch screens belong on printers, the Lexmark Interact S605 is the most convincing printer we’ve tested to include a functional, easy-to-use interactive LCD. Home users and small businesses will also appreciate its ability to churn out professional quality graphic and text documents with speeds rivaling pro laser printers that cost much more than the $200 Interact. As long as you don’t expect it to produce kiosk-quality photo prints, the Lexmark Interact S605 is a worthwhile purchase.
Design and features
The current line of Lexmark printers is the first to adopt its new, simpler nomenclature and also features a complete redesign. The Interact’s chassis looks almost identical to its less-expensive linemate, the Lexmark Impact S305, with an unassuming silhouette and a perforated scanner cover that adds flair to the otherwise straightforward device.
A folding paper tray behind the printer feeds paper into the device that runs through the spooling process and exits out of an extendable tray at the bottom lip. The 100-page paper input tray is open to a variety of media sizes from letter to legal to envelope thanks to an adjustable arm that corrals incoming sheets before they enter the printer.
The most-obvious difference between the two models is the S605′s massive 4.3-inch LCD screen that sits directly in the middle of the control panel. Aside from a small media card reader and a PictBridge USB port on the right side, the LCD occupies the most space. We should also note that the Interact’s LCD locks into place the first time you swivel it up into its fixed position. Depending on your work environment, you might prefer a printer that allows you to adjust the screen for the best viewing angle.
You’ll notice that the display only has one physical button to press; the rest of the controls appear virtually on the LCD and only show up according to the application you’re using. The right side of the screen features a function button for print/copy/scan and a “Stop” button to cancel a job in progress. Lexmark hopes this strategy will ease the confusion associated with printers that feature crowded cockpits, and we found the user experience fluid and more importantly, customizable to our preferences via its SmartSolutions shortcut widgets. Hitting one of the plus signs onscreen guides you through the process of adding more SmartSolutions to the home screen. You need to register a username and password first, but you can physically connect the printer to the Web with an Ethernet cord or you can connect wirelessly through the Setup Utility built into the driver.
Lexmark 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, etc.) to photo viewers (PhotoBucket, Picasa), and online apps like Google Calendar. Once you drag an application to the window that represents your printer, the software immediately offers you even more customization by way of various icons, relabeling, print quality, etc. 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.
We played around with 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 reduced output quality. Eco-friendly shoppers can also go green and save money with the built-in duplexer for hands-free, double sided printing. 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 necessary cartridges for the Pro905. The driver itself gives you the option to print using all available ink, black ink, or color ink only to extend the life of your consumables.
Since we first encountered the SmartSolutions on the high-end Platinum Pr905, Lexmark has released several new solutions on top of the existing shortcuts, including a copy shortcut for A5-size paper, an Apple news aggregator, Business Card Scan for Windows, and more. Lexmark also plans to release an SDK later this year that will offer developers a chance to create their own applications.
The printer is also one of many to feature Lexmark’s newest Vizix individual ink cartridges: one pigment black for text and dye-based yellow, cyan, and magenta cartridges for printing color photos. 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 multifunction printer.
The Interact S605 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, Windows 7 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 aide 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 a warning when the paper trays are running low. A similar message also shows up on the screen, and you can even see exactly what page the printer is working on at a quick glance.
The Lexmark Interact S605 excelled in all four of our output speed tests, although it isn’t quick enough to beat out the reigning champ of print speeds, the Epson WorkForce 610. Lexmark comes in second to Epson in text, graphics, and presentation documents, but takes first in the single photo speed tests at 2.07 pages per minute at its default “Normal” setting.
Horsepower aside, photos printed on the Lexmark S605 are severely lacking in quality. Similar to the Pro905, which also uses Vizix ink, the Interact S605 puts out excellent quality black text prints that rival many of the monochrome laser printers that we’ve tested, but we remain dissatisfied with the emerging photo snapshot and color graphic documents. Prints suffer from jagged edges and smearing that ultimately create an inferior snapshot, not to mention that the color photos look inferior compared to the original. As long as you aren’t expecting photo kiosk-quality snapshots, the Interact S605 remains a worthwhile purchase.