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The Lexmark X342n monochrome laser printer is a very basic printer, so it only comes with the basic equipment—power cord, phone cord for hooking up the fax, auto-feeder paper tray, dust cover, the installation CD-Rom (Windows only), and quick setup guide. The toner cartridge comes installed with protective tape and tabs.

Manual/Quick Start Guide (7.00)

The quick start guide is mostly graphics only—black and white with color numbers and arrows to indicate steps and movement direction, respectively. Printer setup on most printer models is very easy these days, so visual-only setup aids are generally not problematic. The X342n’s instructions are no different in this respect.

The manual, or "User’s Guide," comes only as a 105-page PDF document, which users should discover when they install the drivers. Two notes in small type on the quick start sheet instructs users to refer to the User’s Guide for more information, but these are the only indications. Users not installing the drivers, notably those who may be using the unit as only a copier and fax, may not know where to look for the documentation, so a clearer note in larger type on the quick start sheet should be included.

The manual includes detailed information on setting up the individual functions and installing the software, as well as installing additional language control panel faceplates and optional paper trays. Graphics and text boxes describe the printer and its controls. A detailed troubleshooting menu guides users simply thorough problem-solving.

Setup (5.50)

Setting up the Lexmark X342n is as easy as unpacking it and plugging it in if all the user intends to do is use the copy function. Getting the printer fully set up takes about 20 minutes, a long time in general but about average for a multi-function laser printer. The only pieces to put together are the auto document feeder tray, which comes in two pieces and snaps into the top of the feeder unit. The toner cartridge needs to be removed, plastic tabs and tape removed, and the cartridge reinserted before the unit can be used.

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The on-unit menu’s default settings serve fine for first-time users, but as familiarity grows, settings can be changed to accommodate paper types, copy density, fax settings, etc.

Drivers and Administration (5.00)

The X342n is meant to work with computer applications, so there is very little in the way of driver interface such as is found with photo all-in-one inkjet printers. This is a document workhorse, so a plethora of settings are not necessary.

The Properties window accessed through Microsoft Word and other programs is five-tabbed: Layout, Paper/Quality, Watermark, Profiles, and About. Basic print orientation and page order settings are possible in Layout. Paper/Quality allows the paper source and type to be set. An Advanced button provides extended options, such as toner darkness and paper size. Paper size is not but should be an option available in the main driver window. It’s something that users will want to change often, so it should be readily available.

The Watermark tab allows users to add standard or customized watermarks (Confidential, Draft, etc.) to documents, helpful for business users. Profiles can be saved in the profiles tab, allowing users to save custom settings for continued use.

Driver-Watermark.jpg

The Help menu is, in keeping with the printer, very basic and utilitarian—just 2 to 3 line instructions and text boxes describe simply the printer’s settings and options.

Driver-Help.jpg

Software (7.00)

The X342n ships with one software program, Presto! PageManager, and two utilities. OCR, optical character recognition, is a plug-in for use in Word and other text editing programs. QLink is a very basic scanning utility.

Presto! PageManager is a document browsing and organizing program. Users can import and export documents, save files as PDFs, print and fax documents, and scan files from the Lexmark X342n. For office users who manage multiple documents, this is a pretty handy program. It features the typical browser setup, with the file tree on the left and the window pane on the right for viewing document and image thumbnails. Users can import and export files, as well as set scan settings.

A separate toolbar window with quick scan controls appears when Presto! is opened. These five customizable buttons allow users to quickly scan media to specific applications or file types. OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is also enabled with this program, allowing users to scan text documents and convert them into editable text. The Scan button on the scanner can be linked to any of the selected programs via this program as well. Presto! can interface with any scanner hooked up to the computer.

Presto.jpg

QLink is a very stripped down scanner control. Opening the utility allows users to change the scan settings for each location scanned to, either to a file or to a specific application. The list of applications can be added to. Settings are minimal, with selections for image type, size, and resolution; file format; and file path. Image types include text, gray, and photo. Image size ranges from 2.5" x 5" card to a legal-sized document. Strangely, Presto! Allows users to set resolution from 150 to 1200, but QLink only allows from 100 to 600.

QLink.jpg

Document file format can be set in QLink as bitmap, jpeg, or pdf, while setting the Photo file type allows the addition of the tiff format. The only adjustments that can be made are brightness and contrast settings.
General Performance

Warm-up (4.15)

The X342n came to Ready status in 45 seconds, much quicker than the HP Color Laserjet 3600n, but worse than the three all-in-one inkjet printers in the lab. This extended warm-up time is common with toner printers, as the printer needs to reach an optimal temperature for affixing the toner to the page.

Power Usage (4.47)

Power scores are determined by factoring in the amount of power a printer uses in three different modes—Off, Ready, and Printing. We measure this with the use of a watt meter. The Lexmark scored low in this test, as is often the case with laser printers. They use more power than an inkjet because of the need to maintain a minimum temperature to adhere the toner to the paper.

As with the warm-up test, the Lexmark X342n scored better than the color laser printer we’ve tested, but worse than all the inkjet and dye sublimation printers. It used 17 watts in Ready mode, compared to 26 for the HP 3600n. This dropped down to 13 watts in power save mode (what we call idle). The X342n used a mean of 310 watts when printing, with a range from 48 to 667. We also test self-cleaning mode, but self-cleaning is not possible with the X342n. The User’s Guide illustrates instructions on how to manually clean the printer inside if the print quality is not up to snuff.

Document Speed/Timing (7.39)

We test print speed on the highest quality setting, and we subtract the first print from our calculations, as this takes into account spool times. As a result, our print speeds are not directly comparable to the manufacturer’s reported speeds, which are typically conducted using normal or draft mode.

Nonetheless, the Lexmark X342n performed well in our black text printing test, with a respectable rate of more than 24 pages per minute (ppm). A more expensive toner printer, the HP Color Laserjet 3600n was only able to print about 12 ppm. This is an even more impressive score considering that the X342n’s 150 MHz processor speed is less than half that of the 3600n (360 MHz).

Graphics speeds, printed in grayscale, were much slower. Our timed rate was 3.96 ppm. This is what drags the X342n’s score down below that of the HP 3600n, which was actually able to print color documents at 15 ppm, faster than its own text printing rate.

Document Quality

Text (6.00)

Text documents printed with the X342n reproduced well, but not quite as crisp as documents printed with the HP Color Laserjet 3600n, another laser printer that recently passed through our lab. As can be seen in the examples below, letter edges are sharp, but not quite as rich or sharp as the 3600.

typecomp.jpg

Photo Speed/Timing (0)

The X342n is not built for printing photos, so we did not conduct a photo printing test.

Color Accuracy (0)

The X342n is solely a black-and-white printer, so no color accuracy tests were possible.

Color Gamut (0)

The range of reproducible colors is not relevant to the X342n, since it only prints with black toner.

Dmax (2.80)

Dmax is an important gauge of a printer's capabilities of reproducing gray and black tones. We test this by printing out a standard test chart from Imatest. Then we read the chart’s black strips with our EyeOne Pro spectrophotometer, which results in density readings. The blackest black the X342n could produce resulted in a Dmax score of 1.49, on par with other laser printers, but certainly no comparison to the densities of blacks from inkjet printers. (The maximum density typically achievable by high-end inkjet photo printers is 2.50.) We used Staples Heavyweight Gloss Color Laser Paper for this test.

While the X342n is not intended for photo printing, the multifunction can print in grayscale, so the Dmax score is a good indicator of the range of tones the printer can produce. With the black density scoring as low as it does, this narrows the range of reproducible gray tones. Examples can be seen in the next section.

Monochrome (4.00)

This narrowed range of tones discussed in the Dmax section above can be clearly seen in these reproduced test images below. The image on the right is the digital image we use as a test image for our monochrome printing test. The image on the left is that same image printed using the Lexmark X342n. (The image printed with the Lexmark X342n has been scanned, so it is used here for illustration purposes only and not as a direct reflection of the printing capabilities of the printer.)

Despite this being a scanned version of the print, it can still be seen that the range of tones is clipped, notable especially in the highlights and shadows of the X342n image. The baboon baby’s head lacks the detail found in the original. Likewise, the noses of the two adult baboons are more blown out and contain less detail than in the original.

photocomp.jpg

The charcoal gray chassis should serve to keep dirt and fingerprints from showing up, unlike the white plastic chassis of most printers, especially toner printers.

Front

The matte silver control panel stands out among the overall charcoal gray of the Lexmark X342n's chassis. This is positioned at the top of the printer, extending out from the front and angled for easy sight and use.

Above the control panel sits the top of the scanner/copier door, and above this, the side of the auto document feeder is visible. Below the control panel is the document output tray, a cave open in the front and the back. At the front of the tray is a scooped depression with a handle at the top that serves as the handle for the front cover. The cover opens to reveal the toner cartridge and inner workings of the printer.

Below this door is the manual feeder, a slim mouth where paper can be fed one sheet at a time. This is useful for single sheets of specialty papers.

The main and only standard input tray on the X342n sits at the bottom of the printer. A long narrow cutaway at the bottom serves as a handle to grasp the tray and pull it forward. On the left side of the tray’s front is a pill-shaped cutaway that reveals the paper level indicator, a spring-loaded plastic marker that shows the level of the paper at a glance.

Lexmark_X342n_Front.jpg

Back

The rear of this printer shows the hinges for the scanner door at the top. Below this the output tray opens into its chasm. A door with a simple tab at the top sits below this; it allows access to the paper path for removal of heavier paper as it leaves the printer and presumably for clearing of paper jams.

The panel below this door features the manufacturer’s label and the AC cord port and power switch. The rear of the paper tray can be seen at the bottom of the X342n's back. A separate plastic half-box can be attached to the back which shields longer paper, accommodated by extending the paper tray, from dust and dirt. However, the paper tray’s position at the bottom of the printer leaves it subject to normal tabletop dust and hair, which could easily enter through open slots in the printer drawer.

Lexmark_X342n_Back.jpg

Left Side

The X342n's left side is very Spartan, with only an indentation for the carrying handle seated in the upper center and the light gray button release for the front cover toward the front of the unit. At the bottom is another indentation from which the printer could also be carried.

Lexmark_X342n_Right.jpg

Right Side

The right side of the X342n exhibits few features. The seam of the scanner door is visible at the top. The right handle, a simple indentation, sits in the upper center. Below this and to the right is a slotted vent for the escape of heat. Like the left side, an identical handle sits at the bottom of this side.

Lexmark_X342n_Left.jpg

Top

The top of the X342n multifunction printer is made up of the scanner/copier door and auto document feeder. The feeder consists of the rollers encased in a plastic box. Documents are fed into the top at an angle and supported by the paper tray, which is extendable for larger documents. The tray below the feeder into which the scanned documents exit is ridged to allow for easier pickup of the paper.

Opening the door reveals the scanner platen, or glass, which occupies most of the space beneath. The only other feature visible is the lock switch on the left, which holds the scanner head in place.

The scanner glass, as well as documents and books, are kept safe from damage by the smooth, white plastic sheet backed by a foam pad that forms the underside of the scanner door. The left side of this pad is where the auto-fed documents issue forth to slide onto the platen and back.

Lexmark_X342n_Top.jpg

Interior

The front cover opens to reveal the single toner cartridge with its blue handle. The cartridge is easily removed by pressing the release button below. Two conical rubber stoppers extend from the inner side of the door to brace against the cartridge to keep it form shifting when the unit is moved. The drum is visible when the cartridge is removed.

Lexmark_X342n_Interior.jpg

Components

Display (5.00)

The X342n’s display is a simple, two-line, 0.5" x 2" LCD screen, standard on most toner printers. These displays don’t make navigating the sometimes lengthy menus very easy, but this is what they’re offering us. Multifunction printers from Brother often have backlit, 5-line displays, a vast improvement over this pathetic little screen.

Lexmark_X342n_LCD.jpg

Paper Trays (5.50)

The X342n comes with one input and one output tray. The input tray can handle a maximum of 250 sheets, standard for many printers in this class. This is expandable to 800 sheets with the purchase of the optional 550-sheet drawer. The output tray can handle 150 sheets. The manual feeder tray can only handle one sheet at a time, while most of its competitors can handle from 10 sheets (HP Laserjet 3055) to 50 sheets (Brother MFC-8460N) in their equivalent trays. The auto document feeder can accommodate a maximum of 50 sheets of standard paper.

Lexmark_X342n_Paper_Trays.jpg

CD Burner (0)

Some all-in-one inkjets feature CD burners, but this is not a standard option on multifunction laser printers. The X342n is without one as well.

Lexmark_X342n_Ports1.jpg

Power Supply

The X342n comes with a 6-foot power cord, equivalent to the length of most laser printers.

Internal Memory (5.00)

The X342n has a buffer of 64 megabytes, standard on toner printers in this price range and plenty of memory to handle the types of jobs this printer will be used for. However, there is no option to expand this capacity.

Multi-Tasking (0)

This multifunction can only perform one function at a time.

Hard Drive (0)

No hard drive is included with the X342n.

Accessories (8.00)

Standard replacement toner cartridges (2,500-pg yield) for the Lexmark X342n run $102.25, and high yield cartridges (6,000-pg yield) cost $155.50. Return program toner cartridges are available in both standard and high yield sizes, for $82.25 and $135.50. These are sold with a license agreement that the customer use the cartridge only once and return it to Lexmark for remanufacturing or recycling.

Wireless print servers compatible with the X342n are also available for purchase from the Lexmark website. The Lexmark N4050e 802.11g Wireless Print Server ($149) can hook the printer up to a computer network, while the MarkNet N7020e Gigabit Ethernet Print Server ($349) can connect up to four printers to an Ethernet network.

Input paper capacity can be expanded from 250 to 800 sheets with the purchase of the 550-sheet drawer for $199. This attaches to the bottom of the printer.
Controls/Buttons/Dials

(7.00)

The control panel on the X342n is intuitively laid out, with the display in the center and the other major controls on the ends, clearly labeled. The navigation control is simple and responsive.

Lexmark_X342n_Buttons2.jpg

The 0.5" x 2" LCD screen sits right in the middle of the panel, with the printer name, X342n, above and the "Lexmark" logo in raised type below. The three main, lighted control buttons to switch the unit from Copy to Scan to Fax sit at the extreme left of the panel, while the main Start and Stop buttons sit to the extreme right.

To the right of the Copy/Scan/Fax buttons lie three sets of vertically arranged buttons: the Copy buttons (Scale, Collate, and Options), Fax buttons (Phone Book, Redial/Pause, Options, and the On/Off hook button, symbolized by a handset phone), and the five preset speed-dial buttons, next to which sits a removable card with space to write in the five numbers. A small shift button to the bottom right of the card allows users to shift to speed dial numbers 6 to 10.

Lexmark_X342n_Buttons1.jpg

The navigation control lies immediately to the right of the LCD screen. This circular control has two semi-circular buttons above (scroll up) and below (scroll down) a central OK button, symbolized by a check mark. Just below these buttons are the small Back and Menu buttons.

To the right of the navigation control sits the numeric keypad for dialing numbers or for indicating number of copies. Between this keypad and the Start button are the Content selection button, to choose the type of document being copied, and the darkness button, to select the level of lightness or darkness of the print.

Lexmark_X342n_Buttons3.jpg

Menus (7.00)

The menus on the X342n are fairly simple, but more complex than can be easily read on the two-line digital display. The menus can be printed out via the Print Menu command.

Size / Footprint (3.12)

We take both size and weight into consideration in our footprint score. We measure the space the printer occupies with all the doors and trays open, as this needs to be taken into account by consumers when considering where to put the printer. The X342n takes up a sizable chunk of desk real estate, but no more than for any other printer in its class. With the scanner door open, it measures 21 inches wide, by 19 inches deep by 26 inches high. At 36 pounds, it certainly is heavier than its HP competition, the Laserjet 3055 (27 lbs.), but equivalent to the Brother MFC-8460N. The auto document tray extends upward further than some printers without this feature, so this brings its score down somewhat.
Configuration (8.00)

The X342n monochrome multifunction printer uses only one black toner cartridge, so it is simply for users who want to print and copy text and simple black graphics documents. The cartridge sits behind the front cover, and it installs easily is and is removed by depressing the lock button below it and pulling on the cartridge handle.

Lexmark_X342n_Cartridge.jpg

Value (6.00)

Standard replacement toner cartridges (2,500-pg yield) for the Lexmark X342n run $102.25, and high yield cartridges (6,000-pg yield) cost $155.50. This results in a cost per page of 0.041 cents and 0.026 cents, respectively. Return program toner cartridges are available in both standard and high yield capacities, for $82.25 and $135.50. This brings the cost down to 0.033 cents and 0.023 cents, respectively. These cartridges are sold with a license agreement that the customer use the cartridge only once and return it to Lexmark for remanufacturing or recycling.

The HP Laserjet 3052 has only one size of toner cartridge available, with an estimated yield of 2,000 pages. This sells for $69.99, resulting in a cost per page of 0.035 cents.

The Xerox WorkCentre PE220’s replacement cartridges have an estimated yield of 3,000 pages and cost $99, breaking down to a per page cost of 0.033 cents.

Standard replacement toner cartridges for Brother’s MFC-8460N contain enough toner to print an estimated 3,500 pages for a cost of $73.99 at Staples. (Cartridges are not available directly from Brother, so we went with the most popular retailer.) The high-yield cartridges cost $97.99, with an estimated yield of 7,000 pages. This results in the lowest prices per page of any of the competitors, with 0.021 cents and 0.014 cents per page, respectively, for the two cartridges.

Toner Management (4.00)

The only way to check toner capacity on the Lexmark X342n is via the printer’s menu. One of the menu options is Supplies Information, which can only be accessed by selecting the Print Menu function on the printer’s menu. This shows a bar graph of how much toner is left in percentages. The Device Statistics tell you how many pages have printed, faxed, copied, and scanned.
Print Quality Settings (4.00)

Paper settings are possible with the X342n, but print quality settings are minimal. Users can select the type of document being copied or faxed—either Text, Photo, or Mixed—and they can select three levels of darkness settings. Both of these are selected with their own button and an LED to indicate which settings are current. Quality settings are limited in the printer drivers as well, with only a toner darkness setting of 1 through 10 possible.

Internal Editing (1.00)

Image editing internally is not possible at all with the X342n, other than the simple functions outlined in the Print Quality Settings section.

Dedicated B&W Settings / Effects (1.00)

Similarly, other than toner darkness settings, there are no options to alter black and white settings, like adjusting the toning to sepia or cyan, since this is not a color printer.

Media Types (6.00)

The Lexmark X342n accepts the normal range of paper types, including card stock, envelopes, and plain paper, paper labels, and transparencies. The maximum paper size it can accommodate is legal paper (8.5" x 14"). Paper sizes include A4, A5, Executive, Folio, JIS-B5, Legal, Letter, and Statement. Envelope sizes include #10, #7 3/4, #9, B5, C5, and DL.
Formats / Compatibility (1.00)

The X342n is hooked up to a computer via a high-speed USB 2.0 connection. No connections for Direct Print Order Format (DPOF), PictBridge cameras, or other similar connections are provided. These are more common on all-in-one inkjets, printers that are better geared for printing photos.

Media Slots (0)

This monochrome multifunction is a low-end office toner printer, copier, and scanner. There are generally no media slots on these type and price class of printers, as is the case with the X342n.

Wireless Interface (4.00)

Wireless connectivity is possible only with the optional Lexmark N4050e 802.11 g Wireless Print Server.

Lexmark_X342n_Ports2.jpg

Network (8.00)

The X342n is designed to be network compatible, with an Ethernet 10/100Base TX connection. There's a port at the rear of the unit to hook a network cable up to. Only this or the USB connection can be used at one time. This is probably not an issue, as most users will be utilizing either one or the other connection. Users can also purchase separately the External MarkNet N7020e Giagbit Ethernet Print Server, which allows up to four printers to be hooked up to an Ethernet connection.
Copy Features (6.00)

One of the main functions of the X342n is the copier, and this is the default feature. When the unit is not being used, it rests in copy mode. (This default mode can be changed and any of the other two modes can be set as the default.) Options which have dedicated buttons on the control panel are scaling and collating. A separate options button allows users to select, via the menu, paper source and paper saver, which allows users to gang several pages up onto one sheet.

Other settings that are changeable with buttons on the control panel are document type and darkness settings. Darkness, Content, Number, Collate, Scale, Paper Source, and Paper Saver are all adjustable via the menu button on the control panel. Darkness settings have five levels of adjustment in the menu but only three with the quick button on the right side of the panel.

Copy Speed/Timing (9.12)

We normally test print, copy, and scan speeds on the highest quality settings, but setting quality levels is not possible with this printer, as they are with inkjet printers. Users can only select document type, which does not seem to have an impact on copying speeds.

The Lexmark X342n performed extremely well in our copy speed tests, yielding 27 copies per minute (cpm), in line with the manufacturer’s reported rates. As expected, this far outpaced the all-in-one inkjet printers that we’ve tested. No other multifunction laser printers have been tested yet, but comparing manufacturer reported speeds in this price class shows that the X342n ranks near the top in terms of copying rates, with only the Brother MFC-8460N reporting higher rates.

Copy Color Quality (0)

The X342n is a monochrome printer, so testing color quality was obviously not possible.
Scan Features (6.00)

Scanning features are very limited on the X342n. On the printer's menu, users can only select the location of the scanned image. The software program that the scanner communicates with is QLink, a rudimentary scanning program which comes bundled with the multifunction unit. More options can be accessed through the Presto! PageManager file managing software. See the software section (link) for more information on this and other included software programs.

Scan Speed/Timing (5.59)

The X342n proved to have very quick scanning times. Compared to the three all-in-one photo inkjet printers we’ve tested, the X342n’s times were among the best. Some of the others, namely the Canon Pixma MP600 and the Kodak EasyShare 5300, had the same or better times at low resolutions. However, the Lexmark beat all the others when scanning at 600 and especially 1200 dpi.

In the case of black text documents and 4" x 6" photos, the multifunction printer only needed a few more seconds to scan at 1200 dpi than 600 dpi. A color graphics document took the longest, at 2.5 minutes, and an 8.5" x 11" color photo took a half minute less. It took the Canon four minutes to scan these last two document types, and the HP Photosmart C5180 took many minutes to perform the same task. All of the scans on the Lexmark X342n were conducted with the Presto! PageManager software, which comes bundled with the multifunction printer and has the most options for scanning.

Scan-Chart.jpg

Scan Color Quality (4.76)

Color quality is scored based on how well the scanner reproduces the Gretag Macbeth Colorchecker chart, a standard chart used for testing cameras and other optical equipment. The chart, reproduced below, contains 24 color patches of ideal skin tones, grays, and colors often reproduced photographically, such as blue sky, green foliage, and others.

The X342n's mean color error was 10.5, among the highest tested so far. The mean color error is the mean of the difference between the scanned and ideal color values of the chart. Reds, yellows, and greens showed up very undersaturated. The colors showing closest affinity with the ideal were dark and light flesh tones. The chart below is a representation of these values; the circles represent the scanner’s colors and the squares the ideal values.

LexmarkX342n_Colorchecker_S.jpg

The Lexmark X342n’s scanned colors were very undersaturated, with a mean chroma (saturation) of 74.6 percent. (Ideal would be 100 percent.) Many scanner and camera manufacturers tend to oversaturate colors to make them more appealing to the eye, or they make them adopt a different hue, as in making green foliage appear more yellow. Other than undersaturation, the X342n only exhibited shifts in some colors, notably cyan, which drifted both toward white and magenta.

Fax-Controls.jpg

Fax Features (7.00)

Faxes can be sent by placing documents on the scanner glass or feeding them through the ADF (auto document feeder), which is ideally used for multiple-page documents on standard paper. Numbers can be dialed manually or by using one of the 10 stored numbers in the speed dial menu

Some of the sending options on the X342n include broadcast send, which allows users to send faxes to up to eight people by creating groups. Users can scan a document and fax it later using the Delay Send feature by entering a specific time to send the document. Fax forwarding allows incoming faxes to be routed to a different number. A shortcut feature lets users select up to 99 shortcuts to make sending regular faxes easier. The keypad lets users enter alphanumeric symbols with letters assigned to numbers.

Ease of Use (7.50)

The Lexmark X342n is an intuitive printer, with simple, clear, easy-to-operate controls. Paper is easily loaded in the main tray, but single sheets are a little awkward to load in the manual feeder. A tray that allows the user to load more than one sheet would be helpful, especially if it’s a large enough document to make single-sheet feeding awkward, but small enough to not make it worth switching paper from the main tray. Most competing models (see Comparisons section below) provide a better manual feed tray with more capacity. The auto document feeder functions well, pulling documents in and out quickly.

The toner cartridge slips in and out of its seat effortlessly. Although there is no self-cleaning option, the instructions for manually cleaning the printer seem easy enough.

The Lexmark X342n’s menu is relatively simple to navigate on the two-line display, but that also means that the menu options are somewhat limited. A larger screen would be better.

Value (5.00)

At $399, the Lexmark X342n is not the cheapest monochrome multifunction printer in its price class. Print speeds are quicker than many others on the market, so if speed is a primary criterion, this might be a good deal. However, better quality scanners can likely be had on HP and Brother models.

Comparisons

HP3055.jpg

HP's Laserjet 3055 All-in-One sells for $100 more, $499, than the X342n and has most of the same features. The major differences are the printing resolution—1200 dpi on the HP as opposed to 600 x 600 dpi on the Lexmark—and the 3055 has a faster processor: a 264 MHz Motorola Coldfire V4e. Despite the faster processor, this HP multifunction has slower manufacturer-reported print speeds. Its paper capacity is equal to the X342n, except for a 10-sheet priority tray in addition to the main tray. This compares to the X342n’s single-sheet manual-feed slot. The 3055 also weighs only 27 pounds, almost 20 pounds less than the X342n.

HP3050.jpg

The HP Laserjet 3050, the next model down from the 3055, sells for $299, with the main differences being that the 3050 is network optional and the auto document feeder maxes out at 30 sheets. The estimated maximum monthly output is only 7,000 pages, compared to the Lexmark X342n’s 15,000 pages.

Xerox-PE220.jpg

The Xerox WorkCentre PE220 sells for the same price as the X342n ($399) and can produce prints, scans, and copies at 600 x 600 dpi—equivalent to the Lexmark X342n. However, the multifunction printer’s RAM maxes out at 16 megabytes, much less than the 64 mb on the X342n and the 3052. The input paper capacity is less than the Lexmark as well, maxing out at 150 sheets in the main tray and 30 sheets in the auto document feeder. The X342n can accept 250 sheets and 50 sheets, respectively. The PE220 is not network compatible, unlike the X342n and the HP 3055, which come with standard Ethernet capability. On the plus side, the PE220 is Energy Star compliant.

Brother-MFC-8460.jpg

The Brother MFC-8460N sells for the same price as the Lexmark and the Xerox models. It ships with only 32 megabytes of memory, but unlike the other models, it is expandable to 544 mb. Standard connectivity equipment on the Brother are parallel, USB, and Ethernet ports. Printing and scanning resolutions are greater than any of the other three models, at 1200 x 1200 print dpi and 1200 x 2400 scan dpi. Bit depth is also greater than the other models, at 48-bit. Main tray paper capacity is equivalent to the Lexmark and HP models, at 250 sheets. However, the multipurpose tray can accept 50 sheets, greater than any of the other models. Its max duty cycle is the greatest of the bunch, at 20,000 pages per month—5,000 pages more than the Lexmark, four times that of the Xerox, and nearly three times that of the HP model. Another plus is the 5-line, backlit LCD display, a big improvement over the typical two-line display found on many lasers and all three of its competitors discussed here. Like the Xerox PE220, the MFC-8460N is Energy Star compliant.
The Lexmark X342n is a mid-range, bare-bones, monochrome multifunction printer which can be hooked up to a network or a single computer. The copier and fax function independently of a computer connection, and the driver and software connection for the printing an scanning functions is minimal. The MFP comes with a single software program (See Software section), which is user-friendly and effective. The X342n is simply designed, with easy-to-load toner cartridges and paper trays. It comes with a 50-sheet auto document feeder. The control panel is intuitive and easy to use. Buttons respond well.

Lexmark_X342n_Vanity.jpg

The printer uses a large amount of power while printing, typical of most laser printers. However, its warm-up time was significantly less than other lasers.

The printer produces decent quality text documents at relatively quick speeds (27 ppm), but attempts to print photos showed up the limited tonal range of the printer (see the Photo Performance section). Copying speeds were even quicker than print speeds, and scan times also were very fast, even at high resolutions. Scan color quality showed large color error with undersaturated colors.

On-unit menu functions were limited, with only basic settings possible. The unit is meant to be mostly a document printer, so editing options and print settings are not the main focus.

For the price tag—$399—better units can be found than the Lexmark X342n. The HP Laserjet 3050 sells for $100 less, has most of the same options except for standard network connectivity. The Brother MFC-8460N sells for the same price as the X342n and has all of the same options, but it also has expandable memory, a larger display screen, greater monthly capacity, greater scan bit depth, higher print and scan resolutions, and more connectivity options (See the Comparisons section for more details).

Specs/Ratings****

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Tom Warhol

Tom Warhol

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