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Lexmark Genesis, Part 2 – fast, high quality printing or slow, financial black hole?

Issue #1112 – Genesis undoubtedly has its upsides and the innovative use of flash scan technology in a desktop device is effective. However, as reviewed in the first article about Genesis, there are downsides to Lexmark’s implementation of the technology and, although print quality is excellent, Total Cost of Printing is appalling. In this article we look at installation, usability, print quality and cost of printing.

Installation
Installing the device was simple enough, not particularly better or worse than other manufacturers – and certainly no problems were encountered. But, Lexmark has always taken the approach that a cabled USB connection is required for configuration of the wireless networking.

While not a ‘problem’ as such, it seems unnecessary when other manufacturers are capable of installing and setting up the wireless network interface and connectivity without any recourse to a cable. It is also a nuisance but at least Lexmark provides the USB cable for this purpose. If a purely wireless setup procedure were devised, the cost of the USB cable could be saved and the user could be provided with the ultimate installation experience.

Usability
With the device sitting on your desk, the first response tends to be – wow this is big! In fact, as an AiO device it is not particularly big but feels big because it stands so high because of its near-vertical scan platen.

At 42cm, Genesis permanently stands about as high as many traditional inkjet AiOs ‘with their scan lid open’ – i.e. at a temporary height, only for placing or removing originals for copying/scanning!

Lexmark GenesisLexmark Genesis

Brother’s business A3 MFC-5890CN needs height clearance of 46cm; many of Brother’s smaller A4 format AiOs need only 39 to 42cm clearance; Canon’s MP520 needs clearance of 43cm; Epson’s Stylus Office BX610FW needs no more than 43cm and Hewlett-Packard’s professional business inkjet Officejet Pro 8500A needs up to 51cm with the lid fully open but can be operated easily at only 45cm when the lid is held part open (which is, after all, how many people will use the machine for the quick single copy!).

When used in printing mode, or ADF copying/faxing mode, these alternative machines stand only 24cm; 14cm (no ADF) to 18cm; 17cm (no ADF); and 28cm high respectively. This tends to make any but perhaps the largest somewhat less imposing than Genesis.

In terms of footprint, one might expect Genesis to be correspondingly small. Not so!

With a gross footprint of 46cm x 39cm, Genesis requires almost 1800cm2 of desk space. Comparing this to the other models mentioned, it has the same footprint as Canon’s MP520; is 12% bigger than Epson’s Stylus Office BX610FW; and is actually a massive 23% larger than a Brother MFC-J615W. Compared to the Brother MFC-5890CN, with its A3 print format, Genesis manages a footprint only 35% smaller and comes out only 21% smaller than Hewlett-Packard’s Officejet Pro 8500A – with all of the advantages these two models offer.

So – is Genesis really the type of machine you want sitting on your desk? Apart from the size of the machine, remember what we said in the previous article about the device () regarding the need really to be standing in order to operate Genesis as a scanner or copier!

Moving on to the control panel, there are a variety of buttons that light up on the panel according to the function in hand – e.g. ‘Start’ the copy job or ‘Cancel’ the print job. The panel is clean, effective, visible and responsive.

There are a few minor shortcomings though. For instance, to wake the machine up from sleep mode it is necessary to press the pulsating on/off button – tapping the display itself does nothing.

In addition:

  • When scanning documents to a PC, after scanning a page, the device does not complete the job without a second touch on the display. This is because the device has no ADF and so wants reassurance that there is no additional page to follow. What it means in practice is that the user can be left staring at the PC screen wondering where on earth the scan is till realising that the display has to be touched again to finalise the job. Annoying. If the machine is just abandoned, a time-out does eventually complete the job.
  • When making adjustments to settings using the control panel, it is often necessary to OK a setting when logic might have determined that simply making the selection was enough. Again, annoying to have to remember to complete the process with an extra tap on the display.
  • Setting simplex/duplex mode on the machine itself is certainly handy when copying but to have this as the primary setting for the printing function as well can be confusing and lead to paper, ink and time wastage (see comment below).

Talking of duplex mode – an issue I have with most, if not all, inkjet printers and many laser printers is that, when printing a job with an odd number of pages in duplex mode, machines do not have the intelligence not to actually ‘print’ a blank page. Genesis is no exception – again, needs sorting in the driver/firmware by most manufacturers.

Lexmark Genesis displayLexmark Genesis display

Furthermore, because the primary simplex/duplex mode is actually set on the machine itself – even for printing, it could present a significant annoyance factor if the machine is located well away from any individual user. For instance, in a home, the printer may well be located downstairs in a study while the user is upstairs in a bedroom. In order to adjust the duplex function, the user would have to go downstairs before sending the print job, go back upstairs to send the job and then return downstairs to collect the printed pages. And – if another user were to send a job in the meantime, the settings could be wrong for that user.

The driver settings on the computer do offer the option to accept the machine setting for duplex or to set it as On/Off/Manual. However, the settings are buried in an ‘Advanced Settings’ tab within the printer properties. It typically requires 4 mouse clicks to select the desired setting but it does work. So, one has to ask the question, “is it worth having both methods available to the user or does it introduce confusion and an extra time overhead because a remote user will have to select the driver settings for every print job regardless of what is believed to be the default setting on the printer itself – just to be sure?”

It would seem that the only benefit is when undertaking copy jobs. That function, when available, is always set on-printer at the time of processing a copy job anyway. Although the way duplex is handled on the printer display looks smooth, sounds smooth as a concept and works effectively for copy jobs, in practice it should be limited to the copy function without having any effect on print jobs sent from a computer.

One useful function of Genesis is the on-screen (PC) notification that tells the user how far through the print job the device is (e.g. Copy 2 of 5). This information is also shown on the printer’s screen (Printing Page 2 of 5). The only downside here is that if the user switches applications on the PC during the printing process, the message disappears and will not return – meaning that the user can end up wasting time by waiting for the print job to end. It would be just as easy to go to the device and wait for the job to finish there. The benefit of an on-screen message of this nature is specifically to maximise efficient use of time through maximum knowledge of progress.

Use of SmartSolutions requires the creation of an account with Lexmark and this is not covered here.

Print Speed
Most of the time Genesis is pretty slow to get going. Even when scanning to PC, the print head is initialised (completely unnecessarily) and a brief maintenance cycle performed – resulting in the scan process being much slower than it needs to be.

Colour printing in particular can be very slow. With our standard MS Excel test page, although Genesis starts off at full speed, about 40% through the page the print carriage suddenly begins to pause for a couple of seconds between each pass, resulting in the remainder of the page being horrendously slow to print.

However, black printing is very fast and, because subsequent sheets are picked while the first/previous page is being printed, the printing process is almost seamless page-to-page – very efficient and impressive. Most other printers tend to stop and think for a while before picking another sheet of paper and starting to print again – this is not necessary and is another characteristic that should be addressed by the manufacturers concerned.

SIMPLEX Lexmark
Genesis
Hewlett Packard
Officejet Pro 8500A
Brother
MFC-6890CDW
Time to print
Single-page black doc
22 seconds 18 seconds 23 seconds
Time to print
Single-page colour doc
54 seconds 25 seconds 35 seconds
Time to print
5-page black doc
60 seconds 40 seconds 1 minute
21 seconds
Time to print
5-page colour doc
3 minutes
53 seconds
1 minute
44 seconds
2 minutes
17 seconds
DUPLEX Lexmark
Genesis
Hewlett Packard
Officejet Pro 8500A
Brother
MFC-6890CDW
Time to print
5-page black doc
1 minute
31 seconds
1 minute
53 seconds
3 minute
9 seconds
Time to print
5-page colour doc
4 minutes
15 seconds
2 minutes
49 seconds
2 minutes
49 seconds

You’ll note from the tables above that Genesis is fastest only when printing a 5-page black document in duplex. Admittedly the Officejet Pro is a formidable device to beat when it comes to print speed but this model of Brother MFC is not. The MFC-6890CDW is from Brother’s 1st generation A3 range. In the last few months Brother has introduced its 2nd generation (not tested yet), with a new print head, that is capable of approximately three times the speed (to be confirmed).

So, for Genesis to be slower than the MFC in half of these scenarios is pretty poor and the expectation is that the new MFC models will beat Genesis hands down. And, the only reason Genesis is faster than the Officejet with a duplex 5-page black document is because the default ink drying time on the Officejet is set to an unnecessarily high level and, on this model, is not adjustable.

Print Quality
Now here is one area where Genesis can barely be faulted!

Print quality and quality of colour has proved to be very good in almost every test conducted.

Genesis fine white line resolutionGenesis fine white line resolution

Colours are rich and vibrant in business documents without being over-saturated and copies closely match the originals (apart from the widespread dot placement noted in the previous article). The device is even capable of just about resolving fine white lines on a black background – a very difficult task and one that most printers fall down on.

Unfortunately, when asked to print graduated colour bars from a graphics program, Genesis just cannot get it right (a common problem). Yellow is fine but both the Cyan and Magenta bars are awful, with a large quantity of the opposite colour mixed in.

Genesis colour gradationGenesis colour gradation

Printing of photographs, however, is impressive with vibrant colours, excellent contrast and exceptional sharpness. It has to be assumed that Lexmark has applied an image sharpening algorithm to its photo printing as results are noticeably sharper than hard copies from other printers.

It certainly does look as though Lexmark’s colour engineers have come up with the goods with print quality. To be in danger of outperforming Hewlett-Packard in this respect is quite a feat.

Cost of Printing
As indicated in the previous article about this model, Genesis has a price tag that is way, way above the level justified by its specification and features. Note here that we include Brother’s new, current and faster MFC-J6510DW for cost comparisons rather than the 1st generation device.

This is not intended to be a direct comparative analysis. Rather it is meant to emphasise just how absurd the pricing on Genesis is when other devices that provide better features and capabilities are considered.

Hardware Purchase

Wireless Inkjet AiO


At €372 (median price sourced in Germany), Genesis is a massive 69% more expensive than the Officejet Pro 8500A and less than 20% cheaper than the A3 MFC-J6510W. There is nothing I have seen from the machine that justifies this price level. If it is targeted at home users, it is 3-4x overpriced or, if it is targeted at business users, it is both overpriced and underspecified as well as underperforming.

Then, when consumables pricing is considered, Genesis follows the usual Lexmark pattern of being massively expensive – just look at the chart below!

Total Cost of Printing

Wireless Inkjet AiO


Note that for this level of machine, the mixed mono/colour CPP over three years shown in the accompanying table is calculated on the basis of 500 pages per month; 70% pages in mono and 30% pages in colour; is based on the use of maximum capacity supplies; takes into account any standard, or starter, supplies shipped with the device; and also includes the cost of purchase. All prices are Median Street Price with tax, sourced in Germany.

Black ink for Genesis costs an incredible 311% more per page than Brother’s new high capacity LC1280XL black ink – i.e. more than 4x the cost – and 267% more than black ink for the Officejet Pro.

Similarly, colour inks are 144% more expensive per page than Brother’s colour inks and 176% more expensive than Hewlett-Packard’s.

Needless to say, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that high purchase price + high ink prices = ridiculously expensive machine over time. In this instance, we see Genesis costing a total of 178% more than the Officejet over a three-year period (500 pages per month and including purchase) and 89% more Brother’s MFC. This means that users of Genesis will end up shelling out nearly 3x the money over three years compared to what they would spend on the Officejet Pro 8500A and nearly double what they would spend taking advantage of the A3 format of Brother’s MFC-J6510DW.

Total Cost of Printing

Wireless Inkjet AiO


Varying the number of pages printed each month, the numbers change but the positions do not change at all. The only point to note in the chart above is that the high initial purchase price of the MFC-J6510DW pushes the overall Total Cost of Printing over three years upwards a little at very low monthly print volumes so that the line falls closer to Genesis than it does to the Officejet Pro 8500A.

However, on a different subject, if Brother’s hardware pricing falls over the next year or so – particularly if Hewlett-Packard introduces some more competitive A3 offerings (Officejet 7500A is not a close enough competitor) – we could easily see a scenario where an A3 business AiO from Brother becomes highly competitive against the A4 Officejet Pro series for serious business users.

To conclude:
Genesis is a strange device. On the one hand, its black print speed is impressive and its print quality and colour rendition is also excellent in both print and copy modes but, on the other hand, its colour print speed is poor, the near-vertical scan platen makes the device awkward to use and both purchase and running costs are prohibitive.

Therefore, at the end of the day, Genesis is just incapable of presenting itself as a rational option. It does not make sense and does not offer value for money at any level.

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