Genesis is a new beginning for multifunctions.

In the beginning there were printers and scanners. They were separate, they were slow, and they were HUGE. As time passed, the printer and the scanner got a little cozy, giving birth to the multifunction. They were still slow and still HUGE.

It’s a new beginning for Lexmark with a device they’ve code-named “Genesis”. The S815 to its friends, Genesis is a re-imagining of what a multifunction should look like, and how fast it should be. Lexmark calls it the first “Now-in-One” printer, speaking to the speed of their new Flash Scan Technology. They’re not kidding about that: it really is the fastest scanner I’ve ever used, and I’ll admit that I’m impressed.

What’s under the hood?

There are a few cool features that make Genesis appealing. The first is the most obvious as it’s the one most lauded by Lexmark: Flash Scan. They’ve removed the typical CCD scanning bar that traditionally would march up and down the page, scanning data sequentially. In its place you’ll find three lenses and a 10 megapixel imaging sensor; Genesis essentially shoots a photo of your document, delivering the fastest document-to-digital results I’ve ever seen. This also means that copying and faxing is suitably accelerated, cutting down the amount of time you’ll spend on these chores.

The touchscreen offers contextual features, keeping the interface clean at all times.

Up front you’ll see the 4.3” Touch Screen, Lexmark’s answer to confusing and often poorly labelled hardware buttons. The screen gives you context-related commands, so when you’re scanning, Genesis is all scanner. When you’re copying? All copier. When you’re pulling down content from the web using the integrated Smart Solutions to access information without turning on your PC? It’s… er… Yeah. The Touch Screen serves as the home for Lexmark’s own Smart Solutions applets. This feature connects to Lexmark’s website, allowing you to download new features and functionality. Need to make a backup of your ID card or print your google calendar? There’s a Smart Solution for that.

The touchscreen is also handy for getting an idea of how much ink you have left, turning on Lexmark’s Eco Mode, and toggling page duplexing. I like two-sided printing, so that was a great feature for me.

Is it any good?

I like Genesis. It’s a premium printer that carries a serious price tag, but it’s part of a new wave of emerging multifunctions. manufacturers like Lexmark have decided that perhaps the idea of giving printers away with tiny amounts of ink in the hopes that you’ll buy margin-heavy replacement cartridges simply wasn’t working. Speaking from experience: when those old $29 printers ran out of ink and I was expected to pay $60 for cartridges I did what I think most people would do and I junked the printer. Not good for the printer company, not good for the environment, and not good for me.

With Genesis you get a machine that comes with a full set of cartridges out of the box, giving you some lead time before you’ll need replacements. Printing is very fast, and while there’s a delay on each page if you’re duplexing (it pauses for a moment to get its bearings, I think) it’s incredibly fast if you’re single-sided printing in both black and colour. Lexmark doesn’t use ISO print speed ratings (something I think every manufacturer should move to) but I can say that it’s speedy. The hardware itself is robust; it feels solid and there are no noticeable squeaks or weak spots.

Genesis foregoes the traditional CCD scanning bar and associated mechanics in favour of three lenses and a 10MP camera chip.

Flash Scan works. Dropping a document into the scanning bed automatically wakes the device and puts you into scanning mode; three large icons ask if you want to scan to your computer, scan to a USB memory device, or scan to email. It’s nice to have options. Scans are clean and crisp; you can change contrast on the fly, as well as manipulating the rotation and crop of the image even before you scan. There’s a charming “click” as the camera inside the Genesis shoots your document.

Connecting to your computer can be done through USB 2.0, or Wireless N networking. I’ve done both, making Genesis available to my desktop computer via USB, and sharing it over my network for other devices. Printing from my iPad and my iPhone were both one-touch easy.

Any other thoughts?

Lexmark has turned the idea of the multifunction on its head in several ways here. Substituting a camera for the old, noisy mechanics of a CCD scanning bar is a moment of genius–something that makes you stop and say “why didn’t they think of that 5 years ago?” We’ve seen other camera-based document scanning technologies, but to my knowledge this is the first time they’ve been implemented in a mass-market multifunction. It’s smart, it’s fast, and it’s well implemented here.

The space savings of this new tech has allowed Lexmark to physically rotate the orientation of Genesis, letting it stand up instead of lying down. The footprint is much smaller than most multifunctions, giving you space back on your desk. If you’re doing a lot of scanning or copying you’ll want to place Genesis on a slightly lower work surface. I found that with it on my desk I’d have to get up to change documents, or I’d have to shift to one side to get around the scanning “lid”.

The last thought here is the finish. Lexmark has opted for a gorgeous glossy black and silver colour scheme, letting Genesis really stand out. It’s both a blessing and a curse; while it looks beautiful and catches a lot of eyes, it also catches a lot of dust, picks up fingerprints like a rookie at Scotland Yard, and scratches incredibly easily. Lexmark has done the right thing and included a polishing cloth that stores conveniently in a small nook above the ink carriage, but sadly that cloth can’t polish out the scratch that somehow emerged on my demo unit within the first week. I have no idea what scratched it, but it’s driving me bonkers! Go matte next time, Lexmark!

The final word.

Genesis is new and different, but I can say with some confidence that you shouldn’t shy away from it. The technologies inside it are mature, and Lexmark has proven that they have the chops to create a premier, groundbreaking device that may be a game-changer for this category. It’s faster, quieter, smarter, and prettier than a lot of its competition. If you’re tired of a constant cycle of cheap junk multifunctions, Genesis is here as your new beginning.

As an added bonus here’s Elliott Chun from Future Shop speaking with Lexmark about the Genesis at its launch in December.

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