Lexmark OfficeEdge Pro5500 review
A huge, expensive desktop device, but it offers low running costs, a great interface and decent output
Review Date: 21 Jun 2012
Reviewed By: David Bayon
Price when reviewed: £256 (£307 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
The line between laser and inkjet printers is blurring in the small office space, with users demanding speed and quality, along with low running costs and high reliability. We've already seen Epson's WorkForce Pro WP-4525 attempt to be the best of both worlds with some success, and now Lexmark is giving it a go with its new OfficeEdge Pro5500.
It may straddle the line in many ways, but it's still an inkjet printer. It uses four large tanks that slot into the print head through a door on the front, a door on which Lexmark handily provides details of compatible inks. You can buy XL tanks - 2,600 pages for the black, 1,600 for each colour - to get best running costs of 1.1p and 5.5p for a mono and colour page.
Next to the ink door is a selection of memory card slots and a PictBridge port, and one of the chunkiest paper output trays we've seen. It extends out with its curving surface and a stylish metal catcher; it feels sturdy and long-lasting, and will effortlessly take the weight of a large stack of prints. If you need more paper-handling capacity, the Pro5500t adds a second input tray for around £80 extra.
The key to the Pro5500's usability is the same 4.3in touchscreen we've praised on previous Lexmark devices. It's smooth and responsive, which can't be said for most printer interfaces, and the SmartSolutions - essentially complex actions saved as one-touch icons - make it easy to create a custom print task and push it out to multiple Lexmark printers, or download other users' existing tasks if they fit. Lexmark sees the OfficeEdge as the part of a network that sits in locations isolated from the main office, such as a classroom or a shop branch. SmartSolutions makes handling this simpler, as do the presence of Ethernet and Wi-Fi.
Once set up - and after 12 minutes initialising the ink tanks - the Pro5500 demonstrated its strengths and weaknesses. The first thing to make clear is that this isn't really a photo printer: we couldn't get any borderless prints from it, although the quality on glossy paper was better than we expected. Our test prints were a little grainy and yellowish, but the detail was better than the HP Officejet Pro 8600 Plus. It will do a job.
With documents it's better, running off normal-quality pages at 20.7ppm in mono and 17.1ppm in colour. Text is thin, but still sharp and legible, and it's also perfectly readable in a draft mode that outputs at 31.6ppm. In colour pages we saw plenty of detail, with none of the grain evident in the HP's prints. However, it struggled with areas of solid colour: black bars on a chart had faint grey patches and print lines, for example.
The scanner works quickly, and it effortlessly handles duplex scanning and copying. It copied a mono page in ten seconds and a colour page in 18, and fed through our four-page document in 42 seconds. It took twice as long as the HP to produce a single duplex copy - 1min 9secs to 34 seconds - but the Lexmark's copies were bold, colourful and nicely detailed. Its print and scan drivers are also superb, with a wide range of genuinely useful options.
The OfficeEdge Pro5500 isn't a cheap device to buy, and its running costs are marginally higher than the HP, so for a home office it's probably overkill. It's also a different proposition to the much cheaper and slower Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4525. But with its robust build quality, its SmartSolutions app approach, and its extensive network options, it's ideal for extending your business out of the main office.
Author: David Bayon
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