Dell Laser Printer 1700
At a Glance
Dell Laser 1700
Slow to print, though graphics print quality is high. Optional 550-sheet second paper tray is a bargain at only $100.
At $199, the Dell Laser Printer 1700 is inexpensive. And this attractive model in Dell's signature black-and-silver colors is cheap to run, too.
Dell delivers the lowest cost per page we've seen--provided that you take advantage of the company's use-and-return program for its toner cartridges. Dell sells cartridges rated for 3000 or 6000 pages; the 6000-page units cost $90 (or $130, if you opt not to return it). If you count the $50 replacement cost of a printer drum every 30,000 pages, you pay 1.7 cents per page above your paper costs. (This calculation is based on Dell's own estimate of page yield, based on an average of 5 percent ink coverage per page and relatively long print runs).
In our speed tests, the 1700 was slow to spit out the first page of each job: It took 24 seconds, more than twice as long as the average time to first page for its peers. Though its overall text-printing time wasn't that slow, it lagged behind the other small-office lasers we tested for our November 2004 issue by a fair amount. We clocked the 1700 at 7.4 pages per minute, versus an average speed of 11.3 ppm.
On print quality, the Dell came out close to the top in our tests. We were pleased to see clear, readable text--even at the smallest sizes--and clean, distinct narrow lines. The 1700 handled our sample grayscale image well, earning a Very Good score. We noticed only slight wide banding, and fine details were nice and clear. But the good-looking graphics come at slow print speeds: a below-average 3.6 ppm in our graphics performance tests. You can upgrade the printer's memory from the standard 16MB to as much as 144MB, which might help performance.
If you need to print on a wide variety of media, you can use the manual-feed slot on the front of the printer--but only one sheet or envelope at a time. You can't feed envelopes from the paper tray, and you'll want to open the rear exit tray at the back of the printer to give them (and other thick media) a flatter path through the printer.
The standard paper tray can handle up to 250 sheets; and Dell sells an additional 550-sheet drawer, which attaches to the underside of the printer, for only $100.
Since the printer doesn't accept an internal network adapter, you'll need to use Windows--or purchase a separate printer server (Dell sells several brands starting around $70)--to share the printer among local PCs. Again, the extra 550-sheet drawer could be a good investment if the printer gets heavy usage. Like most stand-alone printers, this Dell model installed easily. The documentation is unimpressive: A poster helps you with the setup, but the printed manual is more concerned with legal fine print than with operating details. Even the electronic User's Guide is patchy in quality.
Its price and print quality are attractive, but the 1700's speed is substandard.