capsule review

Dell Laser Printer 1720dn (Monochrome)

At a Glance
  • Dell 1720dn

    PCWorld Rating

    This fast, well-equipped laser can handle both SOHO and workgroup needs, and it has room to grow.

Dell's 1720dn Laser Printer is a reasonably priced, well-equipped, capable monochrome laser. It would work well in either a small-office/home-office setting or a small workgroup.

The 1720dn performed well in our tests. Plain-text pages averaged a fast 29 ppm (pages per minute), while graphics pages averaged a good 5.7 ppm. Text samples looked smooth, precise, and black. Photos appeared a little rough but naturally shaded--pretty good for a monochrome laser.

Like the similar Lexmark E352dn, the 1720dn contains an impressive number of features--but for a lower price. The automatic duplexer comes standard. A slightly bendy, 250-sheet, letter/legal input tray has clearly marked adjustments, but the paper-length labels could be more precise. A manual-feed slot for thicker media is paired with a foldout rear-exit tray. A side button opens the front panel to reveal the toner cartridge and imaging drum, which can be removed separately or together with the push of a button. Ethernet, USB, and even a parallel port are located in back. For strictly personal use, a lower-cost base model (the 1720) with no ethernet or duplexer is also available.

Kudos to Dell for making a potentially inscrutable control panel a lot easier to use. The array of blinking/flashing lights are labeled with both icons and plain English--a good first step; but I was impressed to see that the lights even have word labels for what their primary blink patterns mean (although you still have to consult the documentation for the rest).

The rest of the printer's status is displayed on your computer screen. A Printing Status Window tracks your job and shows the toner level. A Printer Alert Utility pops up when there's an error and offers help; the Status Monitor Center, an HTML-based utility for networked printers, shows you basic settings like the IP address, and also offers access to administrative utilities for reporting and security. The driver has nice-looking, helpful graphics and plenty of options for making booklets, posters, watermarks, and more.

Toner costs range from really cheap to reasonable, aided in part by lower costs for recyclable versions of the toner cartridges (nonrecyclable versions cost more). The printer comes with a 1500-page starter cartridge. A standard-size, 3000-page, recyclable toner cartridge costs $70 (2.3 cents per page); the 6000-page high-yield cartridge costs $90 (1.5 cents per page). Dell sells five- and eight-cartridge packs that drop the per-cartridge cost to even less. The separate imaging drum lasts 30,000 pages and costs $50 to replace--adding a small fraction of a penny per page.

A clear and detailed setup poster covers unpacking and the CD-based installation. In addition to the comprehensive HTML-based user guide, a handy paper manual covers the most frequently sought topics.

The 1720dn Laser Printer offers a lot of features and flexibility for an accessible price. A small office with big ambitions won't have to leave this printer behind.

--Melissa Riofrio

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This fast, well-equipped laser can handle both SOHO and workgroup needs, and it has room to grow.

    Pros

    • Fast; easy to use
    • Automatic duplexer is standard

    Cons

    • Slightly bendy input tray
    • Some panel lights are hard to understand
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