A fast, well specified and very expandable network laser, the T656dne is a good choice for small companies looking for a flexible shared printer and larger organisations needing lots of departmental workhorses. The colour touchscreen adds an extra dimension, simplifying operator tasks and allowing the printer to host a variety of useful applications, the only downside being that you have to pay for anything beyond the basic examples included and can't develop apps of your own.
Fast laser engine with integrated duplexer; extensive paper handling/finishing options; built-in hard disk; colour touchscreen; ability to run custom applications.
Monochrome; A4 only; no tools to develop applications.
£ 1,220 + VAT
Up to 53ppm A4 monochrome laser engine; 1200dpi output; integrated multi-protocol network print server with Gigabit Ethernet port; USB 2.0 interface for direct PC/server attachment; front mounted USB port for printing from memory sticks; 256MB RAM expandable to 1280MB; integrated hard disk. 550-sheet paper drawer as standard; additional paper drawers raise overall capacity to 4,300 pages; optional mailbox sorter, stapler/finisher and card reader. Windows/Mac drivers; PCL5e/6 and PostScript Level 3 emulations; support for PPDS, PDF 1.6, Direct Image and Microsoft XPS. 7in touch-sensitive screen; embedded framework for local applications; web-based remote management; SNMP support.
In many respects Lexmark's new T656dne is much like any other network mono laser printer, albeit one that can deliver good quality A4 documents at an impressive rate of up to 53ppm. In addition, however, it has a unique distinguishing factor: a built-in colour touchscreen, much like those found on more complex multi-function devices, enabling it to run local applications.
We'll start by looking at the printer itself which, as we discovered, is a compact A4 mono laser capable of printing at up to 1,200dpi, or 2,400dpi with a little software help. A duplexer comes as standard and, as with all Lexmark printers, paper handling proved to be top notch with no jams in any of our tests.
It also lived up to expectations in the performance department, delivering long Word and other documents at close to the advertised maximum rate, and that all-important first page consistently appeared in around seven to eight seconds with nearly everything we tried.
Print quality was what we expected too. Not brilliant, but more than good enough for the kind of applications the T656dne is likely to be put to, from general office printing to churning out emails, invoices, work orders and so on.
It's also clearly made for sharing, with a built-in network print server, a Gigabit Ethernet interface and a recommended monthly throughput of up to 35,000 pages. Plus, it's possible to fit a range of add-on paper drawers underneath the main unit, increasing capacity from 550 sheets on the bare desktop model we tested, to a huge 4,300 pages altogether. A mailbox sorter is yet another option, plus a stapler and a set of wheels, to make it free-standing.
Unlike other departmental lasers we’ve tried, the T656dne was remarkably light and easy to set up, with a clear quick-start guide to point us in the right direction. On the downside it took a while to work out where the toner cartridge was located, but it was plain sailing once we'd found the hidden catch behind the fold-out multipurpose feeder.
Our only concern was the size of the 10,000-page cartridge supplied, which isn't much on a printer of this type. Fortunately, replacements can cope with up to 25,000 (high yield) or 36,000 (extra high yield), the latter being the most economical at just under £300 + VAT, working out at around 0.8p per page.
We used a PCL driver for most of our tests, but PostScript and direct PDF printing are both supported, and there's a USB port located at the back for direct PC/server attachment, if needed. There's also a second at the front, right next to the colour screen, which we used to print direct from a USB memory stick without the need for a PC.
A hard disk is another standard feature and this too can be very handy. For example, from the Windows driver we were able to upload documents to the printer and, instead of printing directly, have them stored on the disk for later retrieval, with the option of PIN code authentication for security.
And it was here that the 7in colour screen started to come into play, making light work of browsing, printing and generally managing documents stored this way. Likewise, when we plugged in our USB stick, up popped a menu allowing us to browse for, print and delete the documents it contained.
However, that's not all. The touchscreen can also provide an interface for a variety of add-on applications designed to run under what Lexmark calls its embedded framework. A number of examples come pre-installed to give you a flavour of what's possible, including an on-screen advertisement called the Showroom, which could be adapted to act as a company message board. There's also a Forms and Favourites app that lets you retrieve and print documents held on a web or FTP server.
Unfortunately you can't develop applications of your own at present, and there's no apps store like that for Apple's iPhone. Neither is it possible to customise those provided beyond changing basic preferences. However, Lexmark and its specialist resellers can supply (i.e. sell) and customise applications for you, with Lexmark Print Release typical of the kind of thing available.
Also available for multifunction devices, this application allows users to print to a central network queue, then retrieve and print their documents from any nearby device, so-called follow-me printing, optionally identifying themselves using yet another T656dne add-on in the form of a card reader.
Document management and accounting applications can, similarly, take advantage of the new touchscreen, which is an interesting new development on this kind of device. Whether or not it takes off remains to be seen, but it certainly doesn't detract from what Lexmark has to offer here as, even without it, the T656dne is an impressive network laser and well worth investigating further.