A Tale of One Multifunction Printer

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Our review of the Lexmark X560n( ) multifunction laser printer that ran Tuesday is only about 800 words, but there’s an epic tale behind it. Given the number of complaints we’ve received about Lexmark printers in our Macworld forums, I felt it’d be useful to flesh out the story about our problematic experience with the X560n—which I quite honestly wanted to resolve with a baseball bat after some time.

The X560n sat in my cubicle for three weeks, requiring multiple extensions of my deadlines because of the number of issues I encountered. First and foremost, as I mentioned in the X560n review, I could not set up the X560n's scanner to work with my 2.66GHz Mac Pro running OS X 10.5.2. I thought I must have overlooked something in the manual, but when Macworld lab director Jim Galbraith took the reins, he couldn’t figure it out either. I poked around Lexmark’s Web site and realized that the X560n’s driver was not yet Leopard compatible. “Oh, that must mean I have to downgrade to get the scanner to work,” I thought. So I downgraded to OS Tiger and thought my problems would be over. I was wrong.

I e-mailed Lexmark and explained our situation; a representative wrote back saying Lexmark’s technicians were able to set up the scanner just fine. Lexmark pasted into an e-mail sent to me the specific part of the manual about setting up the scanner (which I had already read) and asked me to try again. I tried again, and so did Jim—to no avail.

After a week of back-and-forth e-mails, I was starting to get pretty darn frustrated. I faced a brick wall. Here, I had a multifunction device with an entire function not working—and a company unwilling to admit it. Nonetheless, I had a deadline to meet (that I had already missed) so I plowed forward with my review, giving the X560n  , which would be the lowest rating I’ve ever given any product here at Macworld. I had to leave an entire portion of our test results blank for the X560n—the scanner results, of course, because I couldn’t get the bleeping thing to work!

When I turned in my review of the X560n, I knew it wasn’t over yet. At Macworld we strive for fairness when reviewing products, so when we discover major issues with a product, we give vendors a chance to acknowledge and, in an ideal situation, fix the problems. What do you think is more constructive: Hastily posting the review with a   rating, or getting Lexmark to fix the problem? Despite how much I wanted to get the review over with, I would say the latter option is more beneficial for everyone.

So along with Jim and senior editor Roman Loyola, we contacted Lexmark again. The technician we spoke with insisted the X560n's scanner worked; we insisted it didn’t. So he asked us to take a screenshot of our settings. We complied, and he said our settings looked fine. As an experiment, the technician asked a Mac user at Lexmark’s headquarters to try to set up the X560n's scanner using the included instruction manual. To our favor, that Lexmark employee failed. Lexmark was then kind of enough to write a new set of instructions that were more Mac friendly. We followed them and were able to set up the scanner. Eureka.

But getting the scanner to work only solved half of the issue. The other problem remained that the X560n wasn't Leopard-compatible. Thus, the X560n was now set to receive a rating of  . Fortunately, days before we were set to publish our review, Lexmark e-mailed us with a Leopard-version of the X560n driver—hence the   rating that you’ll see on the review.

Some of you might ask, "Why not just run with the   rating so Lexmark learns a lesson?" Well, ripping apart Lexmark would indirectly solve the problem; it might not solve anything at all. Besides, our job as journalists is not only to inform readers, but to influence positive change. Did we inform you of the problems? Yes. Did we get Lexmark to fix them? Yes. It took a lot of time, but we got the job done—and I'd say it was worth the wait and aggravation.

In the mean time, Macworld Lab will keep a watchful eye. This isn't the first time we've encountered issues with network scanning to a Mac on an MFP. (For example, the Brother MFC-9420CN's scanner exhibited quirky behavior when we tested it in 2007.) The X560N is just a small part of a large issue that we're trying to address—one product at a time.  

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