Review: Lexmark's strange new Genesis Printer – So, do we need Apps on Printers?

Come on, lets face it: printers are not that exciting. They just sit in the corner of the room, and are expected to spit out the occasional document. Same from scanners – we use them occasionally, and then we dread having to use the software on our machines. So someone really has to bring something new to the table to make people sit up and take notice.
Lexmark‘s Genesis is one of those printers. First off – it looks different. Its big black slab, with an upright scanner on the front of the device, and a big 4 inch capacitative touch screen. It is solidly put together – none of that cheap feel I normally associated with Lexmark printers of the past. Lets first talk about the scanner. This device scans much faster than any other scanner out there, because it does not use a traditional the traditional flourescent bulb which sweeps slowly accross the page.Instead the Genesis simply has a CCD like the one in many digital cameras, and then just takes a picture of the document in perfect clarity, in all of two seconds.
In fact, the moment you put a page inside the scanner, the front screen already shows a picture of the document being “scanned”. Click the scan button on the screen, and within two seconds the page or photo appears on your desktop. This just makes me wonder – why doesnt all scanners work like this? The only drawback to the printer is that it does not have a paper feeder for scanning – you have to manually place each page on the scanbed. You can however scan multiple photos at once, using clips on the top of the scanbed, as can be seen below.

The other big feature of the Genesis is its large capacitative touch screen on the front. While many printers these days come with colour screens with which to preview images, the Lexmark is entirely touch driven. The screen can be used to quickly scan, copy or fax, which we are all used to. However – Lexmark added a feature called SmartSolutions, which enable you to download small “apps” to your printer (currently available on the high end Lexmarks). For example, you can place a page in the scanner, click on SmartSolutions, and then fire that page off to your Evernote account, just like that. It works for social networks as well – Send a memory card’s photos directly to Facebook. Scan a press release directly to Twitter. Quickly print the following week’s weather report from Accuweather. Check and print Google analytics results from your website. View photos from your Flickr account. See your Google Calendar for the day… You get the idea! Its pretty easy to add these widgets – you add it on screen on your printer, which then communicates with your PC (or Mac) and installs the app you want on the printer. Once the apps are installed, the printer does not need your PC to use the widgets.
Now you have to ask – is this really necessary in a printer? Well, it depends on who wants to use it. I think for household members who are not overly technical, this printer really does save a lot of hassle. I really like the use of the widgets – because there is very few things that frustrate me more than having to deal with scanner software. For example, I like to use the “Email to Me”  app, so pages I scan just arrive in my inbox. No messing with scanning software if I dont want to. I like that.

Oh yes – its a inkjet printer as well. And a very good one at that. Pages print quickly, and the quality is pretty great. Photo prints require inkjet photo paper, otherwise the images do appear washed out, which is a common issue with photos on inkjets. More simple graphics look stunning however, and black and white text is very crisp. It claims to print around 30 pages per minute, but I never got close to that, rather 15 ppm in “eco-mode” (but it does take around 15 seconds before it prints out that first page). The eco mode also enables duplex printing, which is handy. Now a inkjet printer is never cheap to operate, and the Genesis does not really fix that, but it can handle extra large cartridges which do lower the cost per page somewhat.
The printer has 802.11n networking built in, so setup is easy, and you can place it anywhere within your wifi’s range. It functioned well in my home environment, and I never had any software issues. Another cool feature is that you can print photos directly from your iPhone. You install the Lexmark printing app, choose the photo from your iPhone’s photo library, and it prints out. However – this is not Airprint, which I was quite disappointed by. Maybe it can be added with a firmware update, Lexmark?
Overall I was very impressed by the Lexmark Genesis. It is clearly marketed as a upmarket device, and drops the almost disposable feel of cheaper printers (the packaging with all its folders and binders, and the should be a clue already). Print and scanning performance is good for home and office environments, if you take into account the cost of inkjet printing. The standout feature however is the touch screen with the SmartSolution apps. No, I do not believe that these All-in-one devices need “apps” but it really does cut down on effort and does save time. The easy of quickly adding a document to my Evernote library is still great, and something I can really get used to.
All in all I believe that Lexmark does have a product differentiator with its SmartSolutions software, and I hope they add to as many of their printers as possible, not only the high end ones like the Genesis. I have used HP’s similiar services, but I did not find it as polished as the Lexmark software.

Rating: 4 out of 5

  • Good looks (for a printer)
  • Very fast scanning
  • SmartSolution apps are genuinely useful
  • Good printing quality
  • High perceived build quality


  • Quite large for a AIO device
  • Not a cheapy
  • No paper feeder for high volume scanning

Cost: $ 400, SA pricing still unavailable (will update), Warranty: 3 years