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Dell Laser Printer 3110cn

At a Glance
  • Dell 3110cn Color Laser Printer

    PCWorld Rating

    The 3110cn is economical to run, and takes an optional duplexer that costs just $199. It's slow to print in color, however.

The Dell Laser Printer 3110cn may have the same black-and-silver styling as the 3100cn model it will replace, but under the skin, it's a very different beast. Yes, it carries the same $500 price tag (as of 10/6/2006), it continues support for both PCL and PostScript, and the control panel is almost identical to that of its predecessor. But lift the cover and you see the toner cartridges stacked one above the other along a simpler, single-pass vertical paper path, instead of in the carousel arrangement of the four-pass 3100cn.

In theory, the new design should lead to much faster printing, especially for color pages, but this wasn't borne out in our performance tests. Text printing times were up slightly at 18.9 pages per minute compared to the 3100cn's 17.8 ppm, and they remain competitive with other printers in this price range. However, the speeds of our color-print tests dropped from 3.4 ppm to 2.2 ppm on plain paper, and 2.3 ppm to 0.6 ppm on glossy paper. These results seriously lag the average color-printing speeds of 3.9 ppm on plain paper and 1.5 ppm on glossy paper produced by recently tested models.

The 3110cn maintains its predecessor's fine monochrome print quality. Our panel of judges scored its text output slightly lower than the 3100cn's because it looks a little lighter on the page, but characters are generally clean and sharp. Line art looks as superb as before, with crisp and distinct lines, though, again, a little light overall. Our grayscale image showed smooth tones and good detail, falling just short of top marks due to some minimal banding and moiré patterns. Color graphics on plain paper didn't look quite as good as those from the 3100cn, with dull colors and some posterization (lack of smooth gradient).

For our best-quality photo test, Dell chose 32-pound, 90-brightness Hammermill Glossy Color Laser paper. You don't expect photo quality from a color laser, but the 3110cn gave us accurate colors, smooth skin tones, and good shadow detail.

Like its predecessor, the 3110cn offers a good assortment of paper handling options, but the design is a little odd. Dell builds the 150-sheet bypass feeder into the front of the 250-sheet main drawer. As a result, the main drawer extends out under a dust cover at the rear, giving the printer a larger footprint. Worse, the whole front of the printer folds down to give access to an enormous and ugly paper tray for the bypass feeder. Envelopes feed only from the bypass tray, where Dell says you can stack them up to 15mm high. (That's somewhere between 10 and 20 envelopes, by my back-of-an-envelope calculations.) You can take the maximum paper capacity up to 950 sheets by adding the optional 550-sheet drawer for a very reasonable $229. At $199, the optional duplexer is much cheaper than the 3100cn's $300 option.

The 3110cn also continues Dell's tradition of reasonable toner costs. The printer comes with standard-capacity cartridges rated for 5000 monochrome pages and 4000 color pages. Dell rates all four of its high-capacity replacement cartridges at 8000 pages--they cost $110 for black and $215 for each color. Additionally, you need to replace the fuser unit ($160) and transfer belt ($162) every 100,000 pages, but these are included in the standard one-year warranty and the optional extended warranties of up to five years. Outside of the warranty, the estimated page costs are a very competitive 1.7 cents for monochrome and 9.8 cents for color.

Paul Jasper

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The 3110cn is economical to run, and takes an optional duplexer that costs just $199. It's slow to print in color, however.

    Pros

    • Low price, $199 duplexer option
    • Economical to run

    Cons

    • Slow color printing
    • Ugly manual tray design
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