Skytopia > Projects > Software/hardware articles > The Lexmark X1130 - review

The Lexmark X1130 - review

...and a comparison with printers of old

Can you buy a high quality colour printer for 55 pounds these days?
Yes. But you get not just a printer, but a scanner, photocopier, microscope, fax...

Article created 15/09/2004
Printers and scanners have come a long, long way in the last 15 years. Even in the past few years, there have been dramatic improvements in the quality and speed of printers.

Citizen Swift 240c
Courtesy of Orion27
I remember my first dot-matrix printer, the Citizen Swift 240c colour printer. A cumbersome machine, it relied on ribbons for the ink, which seemed to fade after about just 10-20 printouts. Colour contamination, and the infamous 'banding' was also a problem, while the loud high pitched whine it made when printing was enough to drive almost anyone insane. It set me back around 350 pounds at the time (~1993).

Epson Stylus Color Esc/P2
My next printer, the Epson Stylus Color was a generation leap up from the Citizen Swift 240c, and used inkjet technology instead of messy short-lived ribbons. The ink was contained in separate cartridges, and the result was deep blacks and rich saturated colours that lasted till the last drop of ink. Colour banding was still a problem, but not half as bad as the Swift. Overall, it was quieter, quicker, and an altogether less painful experience.

The infamous banding from the dot matrix days is almost (but not quite!) gone.
Then on March 12th 2004, I purchased a brand new printer - this time the Lexmark X1130. Not a bad deal at 55 pounds. Banding is less of a problem than ever (non-existant in high quality mode), noise is less than 44 dBA (at 1-2 metres?), so it's much quieter than the Epson Stylus. But it's not just a printer - these days you get a free scanner chucked in too hence the printer category "All-in-One". It's great because you save on desk space, money, and a USB port.

Picture comparison

Let's compare the difference in quality. I'll be looking at the three printers I've already mentioned:

  • Lexmark X1130 - new
  • Epson Stylus Color Esc/P2 - 5 years old
  • Citizen Swift 240C - 10 years old

    Citizen Swift 240C (above) - Look at that wonderfully murky yellow and green! (almost as bad as the green on monitors). This printout was probably done after around a dozen printouts, which is why there is so much colour contamination. Also notice how similar the red is to the 'magenta'. Finally, the greys/blacks could do with a little gamma correction. Click here, or the main picture for a zoom in.

    Lexmark X1130 - That's more like it. Saturated colours, no colour pollution, a decent range of greys, and no visible colour splitting. Click here, or the main picture for a zoom in.

    Epson Stylus Color
    (Click picture for zoom in)
    Epson Stylus Color
    Lexmark X1130
    (Click picture for zoom in)

    Lexmark X1130

    But for the ultimate quality, you can't beat photo glossy paper. Colours are richer, and there's less spidering. The Epson Stylus is also capable of printing on photo glossy paper, but the one shown here is from the Lexmark. Click the image to zoom in.

    Oh here's the original full PNG quality picture by the way. It's less blurred than the ones above, but that's more to do anti-aliasing (when I shrink the pictures), than the printouts being blurred.

    Okay, graphics are significantly better on the Lexmark than either the Stylus or the Swift, but now let's try text. I tried to pick a similar font (CG Palacio or Times New Roman) and size (point 9 or 10). Click on each picture to zoom in.

    Right, well comparing the Lexmark to the Stylus, we can see there's a slight improvement, but there's not much to choose between them really. On the other hand, the Swift looks very washed out. Since I don't have the old Citizen Swift set up, I relied on an old printout, so there's a chance that it has faded over time. It's worth mentioning though that due to the 'conveyor belt' style of the ink ribbon, the Swift was very good at fading after not too many prints!

    Even the computer could affect the final results. For the Stylus and Swift, I used an Amiga equipped with TurboPrint. For the PC, I used the standard Lexmark software. One thing's for sure - they haven't quite solved the spidering yet! However, glossy photo paper helps here (as well as making the text darker).

    Under the microscope...

    The Lexmark's Scanner is excellent too - rich colours, very fast, and a /lot/ less expensive than the Epson flatbed 6500 scanner I had 10 years back.

    See that dead leaf just above? On a standard 14 inch monitor at 800*600 resolution, it's approximately double the actual size of the real thing (which was 5 or 6 cm).
    Now take a look at this - a vastly enlarged version of the tip of that leaf:

    Obviously this bigger version of the picture was created with a high-end 5,000 computer microscope - right?.....
    ...Wrong!. Nope, this beauty was scanned with our 50 Lexmark X1130's built-in scanner - which is capable of up to 9600 dots per inch - no less! Okay in reality, it probably only reaches around a quarter of that, and 'anti-aliases' anything above (doing some research, I find it's actually reaches a resolution of 1200dpi - still very good). To see some more scanner close ups, visit this page.

    The scanner is perfect for scanning in every day stuff such as magazines, photos, and documents too. To the right is a scan of the 'Sonic Jam' game cover. Click the thumbnail for the full scan.

    Lexmark X1130 Downsides

    There's not much to say really, apart from the fact that the ink cartidges don't last very long. Also, you can print in draft mode, but it would have also been nice to have an even fainter mode to save on even more ink. Finally, although the magenta is better than the Citizen Swift, it seems to veer over to red side more than it should. Perhaps this can be fixed by altering the colour balance though, but I couldn't see how.

    To sum up...

    If this review seems like an advertisement for Lexmark, that's probably because I love the thing :-) Apart from the speed and print quality, the Lexmark's ease of use was another surprise for me. There's no need to fiddle about with paper thickness, or gamma correction (though it would have been nice to have the option anyway). Everything is handled by the software which is seemingly transparent across all software applications. Naturally, you can expect to print on a range of paper, including envelopes, coated paper, photo/glossy paper, banners, transparencies, and in any size (as long as the width is A4 or less of course). Heck you can even print out and scan in something at the same time! Talk about hardware multitasking...

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