Lexmark X 7170 All-in-One Multifunction Printer

A few months ago, I purchased a Lexmark X7170 All Purpose Printer. The “all purpose” refers to the fact that it is also a copier, scanner, fax machine, and photo printer, features that can be accessed independently of a computer. I go through a lot of printers, not because of hard use, but because the inexpensive printers on the market today have very short half lives, not much over a year, I think. Most of the time something goes bad in the feeding mechanism and I suspect it would not be difficult to repair, but I like buying new things, anyway and always talk myself into one more feature so that it won’t be a lateral move. This was inexpensive, anyway, about $120.00 at Sam’s Club. I chose this particular machine because I believed (mistakenly, as it turned out) that I had a number of ink cartridges for it. The printer that it was replacing was about a two year older Lexmark multifunction that was in the same series. So, silly me, forgetting the ink game played by the printer manufacturers, I thought it might use the same cartridges. The game is simple; try to make it necessary to buy as many of the ridiculously overpriced cartridges as possible. That entails constantly changing them so that they are not interchangeable, design them not to be refillable, and make printers that don’t last very long. This, of course, is why printers are inexpensive. As long as you use them only as paper weights, you can have quite a collection for a reasonable sum of money. However, even if they last a while, if you use them for actual printing, they tend to be quite costly. More about this, later.

First, a few facts. It came in a frighteningly large box, reflecting the fact that it is a rather bulky printer. It is roughly 19 � ” wide, 16 �” deep, and 13″ high. The height does not include the height of the lid when opened to insert items to scan, so you need at least a little larger space for access. Although this is rather large for a modern printer, it does save the space that you would devote to other machines, granted that it actually performs all the tasks it claims. It does, reasonably well, too. It has a control panel that just out in front with a small, blue lit LCD screen for status and functions. This panel is also a phone pad for the fax machine. In addition, there is a “Pict-Bridge” receptacle on the front, allowing direct access to your camera for the ‘photo printing’ function.

There is supplied software for organizing and manipulating files, as well as converting them to PDF format. The printer and software are compatible with any Windows or recent Mac operating systems. The paper tray accepts a wide variety of paper types, including cards, envelopes, photo paper, transparencies, and iron on transfers.

Printing: The print quality is acceptable in the automatic mode and the speed is reasonable. A test sheet of Ariel Black text printed in nine seconds on the “automatic” quality setting. However, on best print mode, the same sheet took 34 seconds, a bit slow for a long document, but the quality was markedly improved. Paper handling was good, in fact better than any other inexpensive desktop printer I have owned (except an old laser, which wasn’t so inexpensive). It does jam on occasion, but it is not a serious problem, as with some machines. It has a very large paper capacity, depending on the type of paper.

The standard black ink cartridge has about a 1400 page lifespan; the large capacity cartridge, is advertised as having about three times that, but I have not tested one. I have not run out of any color in the months I have owned the printer, but then I don’t print much in color. The cartridges are manufactured to make refilling them as difficult as possible. Several aftermarket suppliers make kits to do so, however, and, in general, with a little practice, these work reasonably well. I have a way that works better.

A trusty Dremel type drill, a narrow bit, ink, and a large syringe with about a number six needle (size is flexible) are all you need. Make sure you know where the ink reservoir is, drill through to it, fill the cartridge, and seal the hole. On these, and all cartridges, there is a visible place in which the factory filled the cartridge originally. It is usually best to drill through this part. Insert the ink slowly, tapping the cartridge several times on a hard surface, to discourage bubbles, as you fill it. You are injecting the ink into a sponge like reservoir, so be careful not to damage the material as you fill it. My experience has been that cartridges take between 20 and 40 cc to fill. This technique has worked with three different types of cartridges. The first filling of the black cartridge that came with my printer worked flawlessly. The second filling of the same cartridge had poorer results. Incidentally, the printer came with full black and color cartridges. This is not always the case. Many come with ‘demo’ cartridges with enough ink to smudge a couple of white shirts. They are intent on your beginning the profitable part of their business as early as possible.

Copying: Black and white copying is good. Color copying is less satisfactory, yielding less saturated colors.

Scanning: Scanning was quite good but the bed is limited to an 8 � x 11 inch sheet. The software that allows full manipulation of the scanned sheets is very useful.

Faxing: The fax feature has worked flawlessly and operates at what is evidently a 33.6 Kbps. Rate. It boasts a 100 page memory (that I haven’t tested) and a pretty good multipage document feeder, a feature I have always found troublesome on other multipurpose machines. I use it for all of my faxing now, despite several other available fax machines.

Photos: These are surprisingly good, flexible, and, with the photo ink cartridge, colors are handled very well. In fact, I cancelled my plan to replace my flawed Olympus dedicated photo printer (that died after 36 pictures) with another dedicated printer. A word on the side, about Olympus: the customer service was so entirely uncooperative, that I lost all interest in repairing, or even diagnosing the problem with the printer. It is now weighing down a stack of papers.

All in all, this does everything it says it will do, most of the functions reasonably well. It is a good deal for the price. It comes with a one year warranty and if it lasts much longer than that, it is a bargain. Time will tell.