Dell Photo All-In-One Printer 942
At a Glance
Dell All-In-One Printer 942
Prints attractive photos but subpar graphics on plain paper. Copy speed is above average.
The $149 Dell Photo All-In-One Printer 942 has the same small footprint as the $79 Dell 922 we've reviewed previously. But you also get an attractive 2.5-inch color LCD for viewing menus, previewing images, and performing simple edits (such as cropping). And while printing, the 942 also provides a graphical display of the ink levels.
Dell includes two media slots that read all the major formats (though, strangely, not XD Picture Cards larger than 512MB). You can choose the images you want to print by browsing them on the LCD--no need to go to your PC. The 942's index prints are basic grids of images, unlike the attractive layouts from Canon, Epson, and HP models that you can use to produce full prints. Thanks to its fast USB 2.0 connection, the 942 quickly uploads images to your PC from a memory card. A PictBridge port lets you print directly from any compatible digital camera.
Though the buttons on the control panel look cheap, they're quite efficient to use. A mode button lets you switch between photo, fax, copy, and scan tasks, indicated by a set of four LEDs. The 942 doesn't have a built-in fax, but you can send scanned documents via your PC's fax modem.
With the optional photo cartridge installed, the 942 produced attractive photos on glossy paper; however, the prints looked highly saturated and less sharp than those from many other MFPs we tested. On plain paper, dithering was visible in photos, and colors--especially skin tones--didn't look realistic. Our text and line art prints looked nice and dark, thanks in part to the pigment black ink. But prints showed excessive narrow horizontal banding, and lettering looked smudged. Text printed at an admirable 7.5 pages per minute, and our test photo was done in 97 seconds, much faster than the 127-second average for the nine MFPs in our test group. Color graphics printed at a below-average 1.4 ppm, however.
The 942's color scanning was particularly impressive, reproducing tones faithfully, and extracting plenty of detail. The unit's scan speed was average, though its copy speed of 3.6 ppm was significantly better than the 2.9-ppm average.
Dell based the 942's software driver on Lexmark's well-designed All-In-One Center, revealing this MFP's origins. The large package of software includes the Abbyy FineReader 5.0 Sprint Plus OCR application for converting scanned documents into editable text. Unfortunately, Dell supplies Jasc's Paint Shop Pro image editor only as a trial version.
The Dell 942 is a good buy because of its low price, ease of use, and high scan quality, but you'll have to live with lackluster print quality.