Lexmark Interact S605 £190
6th Nov 2009 | 10:00
Why does an inkjet printer need a touchscreen and internet access?
For years the humble all-in-one printer has been a simple tool for getting your documents onto (and off) paper. But while it's great to have a machine that can reproduce your files, spreadsheets and photos, what you really need is a printer such as the Lexmark Interact S605 that can show you the news headlines from MSN. Or so Lexmark believes.
Three of its new range of all-in-one printers come complete with touchscreens. There's nothing too remarkable in that, as HP and Epson have made all-in-ones with touchscreens for a couple of years.
Lexmark has tried to add extra value to the touchscreen proposition by using some innovative firmware and taking more than a glance at what Apple has done with the technology.
The touchscreens, which are available on two of the new range of Professional all-in-one series and the Interact S605 from the Home Office range, give the units a very clean, no-nonsense look. There's now just one physical button on each of their control panels, and that's for power.
All the other functions are devolved to the touchscreen or a number of single-function buttons ranged around it. The function controls only illuminate when their functions are valid, so the control panels look very sparse.
When powered up, the screens show three main icons – Copy, Scan and SmartSolutions. The touchscreens are capacitative, so are reasonably responsive to the touch. They also support multitouch gestures, such as a flick to move left and right from screen to screen.
The Interact is a well-specified all-in-one that boasts a large-swathe print head and separate ink cartridges. Vizix improves print quality considerably, so now text print is closer to Canon and HP output and photos are a lot better.
There's no automatic document feeder on this machine, sadly, and it still sports the slightly cumbersome feed tray featured on other models.
Print speeds have been improved, though, and duplex print is much quicker than on equivalent Canon all-in-ones. A memory card socket takes SD, MemoryStick and xD cards, the PictBridge socket doubles for USB drives and wireless networking is incorporated.
Print costs are on a par with the machine's main rivals, so the premium cost of the touchscreen is the only real blot on the Interact's otherwise highly competent page.
The key to the versatility of Lexmark's new screens is the support provided by its SmartSolutions tools. These are effectively mini printer apps that can be downloaded from Lexmark's SmartSolutions site and added to the range of functions available on any of the devices that support them.
At the moment there are 14 of these. You could argue that some of them, such as the single-touch copy function, should be standard on a machine like this anyway. Some of the others, though, show the scope for innovation that this flexible approach provides.
There are three different photo viewers, for example, including a way to get to your Picasa folder and display any albums of photos you've uploaded there. While these viewers could be quite handy, it would be more useful to be able to get at the photos from your Pictures folder on a network-connected PC.
Most of the current SmartSolutions rely on RSS feeds. One of them uses an MSN feed to display headlines on the screen. There's no BBC feed as yet, but there's nothing to stop a suitable app being added.
All the tools currently available are written by Lexmark and there have obviously been some time and cost restraints, as they're all pretty simple. If the idea takes off, though, there's no reason why information and service providers couldn't write their own.
So is it just a gimmick to sell more printers? Well, touchscreens are so popular that many new phones, PDAs and netbooks now feature them. With Windows 7 including direct support, this trend is likely to continue.
There's a price premium to pay, though, with a touchscreen all-in-one device costing around £70 more than a similar machine with physical controls. If Lexmark can attract third parties to write useful SmartSolutions, then it could just make the premium worthwhile.
We'll wait and see, but there's no doubt it's certainly one of the most interesting innovations in printer control for many years.
Follow TechRadar Reviews on Twitter: http://twitter.com/techradarreview