Lexmark can't be faulted for modesty in picking the lofty name of Lexmark Genesis for its groundbreaking new inkjet multifunction printer.

The price is similarly ambitious at $400 in the US (we're expecting it to be around £250 when/if it launches in the UK). This is far more than most home or small-office users would typically pay for an MFP. Is it worth the money? As with the equally innovative and expensive HP Photosmart eStation All-in-One, that depends on how much you want the gadgets tacked onto the machine.

The Lexmark Genesis is visually unique due to its vertical, display-like profile, which practically invites you to walk up and examine it. The front panel showcases a 4.3-inch, capacitive touchscreen LCD and context-sensitive touch controls that light up only when needed. This display is especially fun to use with Lexmark's Smart Solutions, an ever-growing collection of apps that you can program to automate local multifunction tasks or use to access Web-based services. Lexmark is adding the ability to search and view your Twitter feed, as well as to view and print from your Facebook wall. We'd love to see this display get a lot bigger on a future model so that it could function as a Web browser, digital frame, or kiosk.

Behind the design news, you'll find the technological news: a 10-megapixel camera for creating digital images, instead of the traditional CIS (contact image sensor) or CCD (charge-coupled device) scanning technology. The vertical platen has a wide clip for holding small pieces in place, and the cover telescopes to accommodate media up to 10mm thick. In our tests it scanned any kind of image, regardless of complexity, in a matter of several seconds, as opposed to dozens or hundreds of seconds using conventional means. Even though the Genesis, like many consumer-level multifunctions, lacks an automatic document feeder for handling multipage documents, the speed of its scanning certainly compensates.

Beneath those two head-turning features, Lexmark managed to shoehorn a modestly configured printer. A 100-sheet rear vertical input lives in the shadow of the front display and scanner. You adjust its width guides horizontally by a right-hand slider that, counterintuitively, moves vertically. The front, sliding output tray holds merely 25 sheets. On the side you'll find a single media-card slot for MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, SD Card, and XD-Picture Card, as well as a USB/PictBridge port. A lower front panel unfolds to reveal the ink cartridges, which large hands might have trouble handling within the small, cavelike opening. A commendably lengthy three-year warranty covers the Genesis.

As a printer, the Lexmark Genesis performed fairly well. On our PC-platform testbed, it managed middling times of 6.4 pages per minute when printing plain, black text; 1.9 ppm when printing snapshot-size colour photos on letter-size paper; and 3.7 ppm when printing a typical monochrome copy of a text page. On the Mac platform, plain-text pages limped out at an anemic rate of 3.9 ppm, but colour PDF pages and a high-resolution colour photo posted comparatively high speeds of 1.8 ppm and 0.8 ppm, respectively.

Output quality was generally good. Text printed on plain paper was deep black and mostly crisp, though we did see some feathery places here and there. colour images on plain paper looked washed out and orangey. On Lexmark's own photo paper, the images sometimes erred the other way - coming out oversaturated - but they still appeared smooth and mostly natural. The camera showed its own foibles in our copy and scan samples: Copied text looked a little faded, and finer details in line art and colour photos seemed a little foggy or jagged. The camera also picked up more surface flaws on our samples than most scanners do.

The ink costs are the only truly disappointing part of the Lexmark Genesis package, in the US at least they're high, but tolerable if you print fairly little.

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Lexmark Genesis: Specs

  • COLOUR TECHNOLOGY 4 Color Inkjet - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black
  • PRINT RESOLUTION, BLACK Up to 2400x1200dpi
  • PRINT RESOLUTION, COLOR Up to 4800x1200dpi
  • MAXIMUM MONTHLY DUTY CYCLE: UP TO 3000 pages per month
  • PRINT NOISE LEVEL, OPERATING 50 dBA
  • REDUCE/ENLARGE RANGE 25-400%
  • COPY NOISE LEVEL, OPERATING 50dBA
  • SCAN TECHNOLOGY: 10 Megapixel Mono CMOS Image Sensor
  • Flatbed scanner
  • 10 megapixel image
  • SCAN AREA, MAXIMUM 8.5 x 11.7 inches
  • SCAN NOISE LEVEL, OPERATING 40dBA
  • 4.3 inch (109 mm) Color WQVGA touch screen display with screen saver
  • COLOUR TECHNOLOGY 4 Color Inkjet - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black
  • PRINT RESOLUTION, BLACK Up to 2400x1200dpi
  • PRINT RESOLUTION, COLOR Up to 4800x1200dpi
  • MAXIMUM MONTHLY DUTY CYCLE: UP TO 3000 pages per month
  • PRINT NOISE LEVEL, OPERATING 50 dBA
  • REDUCE/ENLARGE RANGE 25-400%
  • COPY NOISE LEVEL, OPERATING 50dBA
  • SCAN TECHNOLOGY: 10 Megapixel Mono CMOS Image Sensor
  • Flatbed scanner
  • 10 megapixel image
  • SCAN AREA, MAXIMUM 8.5 x 11.7 inches
  • SCAN NOISE LEVEL, OPERATING 40dBA
  • 4.3 inch (109 mm) Color WQVGA touch screen display with screen saver

OUR VERDICT

Lexmark certainly has something to brag about with the Lexmark Genesis, offering a game-changing design and technology that other high-end home MFPs like the Canon Pixma MG8120 and Epson Artisan 835 can't touch. We'd be more excited about the Lexmark Genesis if the inks weren't so expensive; even so, it's a very interesting and appealing MFP.

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