The Lexmark Impact S305 pulls out all the stops. It's a copier, printer and scanner that, courtesy of its built-in Wi-Fi networking, is perfect for use in small groups. All this for around just £100 sounds too good to be true. In some respects, it is, but the S305's excellent text performance and great photos will charm home and small-business users.
The S305 is a consummate professional. Its best-quality text output on photocopy paper is indistinguishable from a laser printer's produce, and even its draft-quality output is good enough to use for a begging letter to the bank. Set to print at draft quality, the S305 completed a ten-page run in just 58 seconds. Spool time was a steady 2 to 4 seconds over our wireless network.
In terms of graphics, the differences between each quality setting are more pronounced, but draft-quality prints on photocopy paper are perfectly usable. We could easily discern every one of 21 shades in a greyscale run where each differed from its neighbour by just 5 per cent, and plain black text on a white background was clearly legible down to 4 points at all settings. Likewise, black text on a coloured background maintained its crisp edges at our three test sizes of 8, 12 and 24 points, which is impressive indeed on low-grade paper.
The only fault in our graphics test was slight banding through solid blocks of colour in draft mode, but the pay-off was the S305's impressive performance. At the draft setting, it dropped our test page in the output tray in just 15 seconds. Upping the quality to 'photo' increased the print time to 34 seconds, but it was worth the wait. The difference between this setting and 'normal' (23 seconds) is marked. Although the normal setting is good, solid blocks of black looked too grey in our tests.
Scanning to the page
The differences between the settings became even more pronounced when we switched to copying images. 'Draft' output is poor, 'normal' is acceptable and 'photo' is good, albeit it very wet, due to the amount of ink laid down. Even at this best-quality setting, though, there's fine banding in the mid-tones and reproduced colours lack the punch of the originals. Switch to 'mono' using the dedicated button on the front and steel yourself for the draft results, which demonstrate a very obvious weave in the half-tone.
None of these problems manifested themselves when we scanned plain text, even at draft quality. Although slightly dappled, draft-quality output is more than sufficient for copying recipes, timetables and newspaper clippings.
Despite the S305's screen having only two lines, the menus are comprehensive and easy to use, allowing you to specify not only the number of copies you want and how light or dark they should be, but how large or small they should be, how many copies should appear on each page and whether or not to collate multiple originals.
Besides normal copying, the scanner is also used for selecting photos from cameras and memory cards plugged into the USB port and card slot on the front. You don't have a colour LCD display on which to preview and pick the photos you want to print, so you have to first use the on-screen menus to define a broad group -- say, the last 20 shots, or all photos you took in September -- and print a contact sheet. You next fill in the lozenges below the thumbnails to specify how many of each should be printed, how they should be laid out on the page and whether the printer should apply any processing, such as converting to monochrome or detecting and fixing red eyes. When you then scan the sheet, it reads your filled lozenges, retrieves the appropriate photos and prints them as specified.
The results, when sent to glossy photo paper, are excellent. Definition is sharp, colours are bright and realistic, and the S305 demonstrates excellent tonal range, with smooth transitions between similar shades. It's fast, too, printing an A4 test photo at best quality in just 1 minute and 41 seconds.
The Lexmark Impact S305 is an excellent all-round printer. If Lexmark were to sell it without the scanning and copying functions at two-thirds the price, we'd buy one today. It's an excellent choice for light home use, with four individual ink cartridges and a simple, if time-consuming, set-up routine, which had us printing wirelessly within 45 minutes.
Edited by Charles Kloet