capsule review

Dell 3130cn Color Laser Printer

At a Glance
  • Dell 3130cn

    PCWorld Rating

    Spoil your small workgroup with this printer's speed, great output quality, and cheap toner.

Editor's note: After this review was written, Dell upgraded the standard configuration of this unit to include automatic duplexing.

Dell's 3130cn Color Laser Printer is a near-perfect starter printer for a small office or workgroup. It's extremely capable on all counts, and it has room to grow.

The tall, broad 3130cn is as powerful as it looks. In our tests, plain-text pages burst out at a rate of 25.3 pages per minute (ppm), one of the faster times we've seen. Its tested graphics speed of 5.7 ppm is extremely fast. The speed wasn't the only thing that impressed us, though: Text looked crisp and black, and photos appeared realistic even on plain paper.

With so much available power, I was surprised that Dell omitted a duplexer from the unit's standard configuration; this would let you save on paper, and--with the 3130cn's power--you would barely notice the speed hit. Dell sells an optional duplexer for $199, but a duplexer comes standard on two laser printers that cost far less than the 3130cn: Lexmark's C543dn and Konica Minolta's magicolor 2530DL.

The 3130cn's otherwise generous configuration starts with 250-sheet input and output trays and a roomy, 150-sheet multipurpose tray. An optional, 550-sheet second input tray ($229) expands capacity significantly. Strategically placed decals and colored markings make it easy to figure out common tasks such as loading paper and changing toner on the fly. A two-line, monochrome LCD with navigational buttons adjacent makes the menus easily accessible.

My only real peeve is with the front panel. Well, actually there are two peeves in this area of the design: On the harmless side, anyone who wants to open that panel could easily unfold the multipurpose tray by mistake, because its pull-down handle is right on the front. The harder-to-find side button, which opens the entire front panel of the printer to reveal the toner cartridges, also exposes the transfer belt; I'm just waiting for some butterfingers (like me) to drop a toner cartridge right on this delicate piece.

The 3130cn's toner costs reflect the greater savings you get with higher-capacity toner cartridges. The machine ships with standard-size supplies: a 4000-page black (K) cartridge, and 3000-page cyan (C), magenta (M), and yellow (Y) cartridges. At these capacities, you'll pay just 2 cents per plain-text page, about 12 cents for a page with all four colors. The high-yield versions (all 9000 pages) offer true savings: black costs $132 or 1.5 cents per page, while each color costs $241 (2.7 cents per color), resulting in a four-color page cost of less than 10 cents.

The Dell 3130cn would be a welcome workhorse for any small office or workgroup. It has the speed and print quality you'd expect from a color laser, and it can expand with your business.

--Melissa Riofrio

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Spoil your small workgroup with this printer's speed, great output quality, and cheap toner.

    Pros

    • Very fast; very good print quality
    • Economical consumables

    Cons

    • Duplexer costs extra
    • Design leaves transfer belt vulnerable
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