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Dell Laser Printer 5100cn

At a Glance
  • Dell 5100CN

    PCWorld Rating

    Fast workhorse offers built-in duplexer and optional high capacity paper trays. However, print quality could be better.

Dell Laser Printer 5100cn
Photograph: Rick Rizner

The big and boxy Dell Laser Printer 5100cn is a $999 powerhouse that you can load up for high-speed, double-sided color printing.

This printer allows you to add enough paper drawers at once to achieve a sizeable input capacity. The default paper drawer holds up to 500 sheets, including legal paper size, while the fold-down multipurpose tray feeds up to 150 sheets. Only the multipurpose tray supports printing on thicker media, such as envelopes and labels. You can stack an optional 500-sheet paper drawer, priced at $280, under the printer; $500 gets you an extra 1000-sheet drawer, and you can combine both of these with the default trays to get a massive total paper capacity of 2150 sheets. A built-in duplexer lets you print double-sided pages, and your completed printouts drop into a 250-sheet output bin atop the printer.

The 5100cn should be reasonably economical to run. Black toner cartridges, capable of printing up to 9000 pages according to Dell's page-yield estimates, cost only $50. Each color cartridge (cyan, magenta, and yellow) costs $170, rated for 8000 pages. When you factor in the $140 price of replacing the drum every 35,000 pages, Dell estimates, you'll pay only about 1 cent for its consumables per black-and-white page.

We also clocked the 5100cn as one of the fastest color lasers in our performance tests. In monochrome this model spit out 21.1 pages per minute; in color it produced 6.1 ppm. We wish it had fared better in our quality tests, however. Though its text printing wasn't too bad, we did see some jagged and fuzzy edges in lettering. Our line-art sample displayed some banding and bleeding between closely spaced lines. The grayscale image had a significant amount of narrow horizontal banding and showed noticeable moiré patterns on clothing. However, the grayscale photo also exhibited smooth tonal changes and plenty of detail in the darker areas. On color photos, we saw good detail in shadows, but dot patterns were too visible in light areas, contributing to the photo's general softness.

Installing the printer on our network at the PC World Test Center via its built-in ethernet port was straightforward. Once we used the control panel (which features a backlit, two-line LCD screen) to assign a unique IP address and loaded the driver on our server, we were able to print from our PC without loading more software. The printer also has parallel and USB 2.0 ports. Unlike its small-office cousin, the Dell Laser Printer 3000cn, the 5100cn supports PostScript printing.

The Web-based administration software is sufficient for a small office with few printers. The printed documentation consists of a setup poster, a quick reference sheet, an owner manual, and a user guide. The latter two have some overlap, with the user guide focusing on installation issues and the owner manual concentrating on printer maintenance (including information on using the printer with a Mac). The user guide is supplied only as a Windows Help file on the software CD-ROM.

The Dell Laser Printer 5100cn is fast and should be an economical choice for a workgroup that plows through paper, but its image quality could have been better.

Paul Jasper

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Fast workhorse offers built-in duplexer and optional high capacity paper trays. However, print quality could be better.

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