Lexmark's US$130 X4650 color inkjet multifunction printer occupies a crowded area of the market, where competitors strive to stuff more features into a smaller, less costly package. Though the X4650 has its good points, it falls short in features and especially cost per page.
The X4650 made a good first impression because of its performance in the PC World Test Center's speed tests. It spit out plain-text pages at an astonishing rate of 11 pages per minute--faster than all but one machine in our rankings. Text samples had nicely black, crisp letters. On graphics pages it bogged down, managing an anemic 1.3 ppm. Color images tended to look a little pale, especially on plain paper, but otherwise they were pretty smooth and detailed. Color test scans looked too dark, while monochrome scans seemed too light. Copies were a bit rough.
The unit has integrated Wi-Fi and media slots for most common formats, as well as a PictBridge port. Its minimalist paper handling consists of a 100-sheet, rear vertical input tray, plus a 25-sheet, foldout front output tray. This model lacks an automatic document feeder (ADF), but it supports manual duplexing (through the print driver).
The control panel is simple, with a two-line monochrome LCD, straightforward navigation controls, and buttons to initiate major functions. The button to toggle black or color copying is too subtle for my taste, as it has icons instead of word labels, and what do to with it isn't obvious.
The biggest problem with the X4650 is its ink costs. High-yield returnable supplies are supposed to be cheap, but in this case they aren't--the $25 black cartridge lasts 500 pages per industry-standard ISO measurements (5 cents per page), while the $30 tricolor cartridge lasts 500 pages (6 cents per page). The costs for the standard-size cartridges are exorbitant: 11.4 cents per page for black, 14.6 cents per page for color.
Lexmark hits both extremes in the quality of its service and support. On the one hand, the documentation for the X4650 is great, from the almost fully automated setup process to the well-written, thorough PDF user guide. However, the same company that obviously put so much time into its publications also has the dubious honor of owning the lowest overall score in PC World's Reliability and Service survey. Lexmark has said it's working hard to improve its standing.
The Lexmark X4650 is an adequate machine in most respects, but it pales in comparison with similarly priced competition. HP's Photosmart C5280 costs the same currently but offers a much better package.