Dell 1350cnw Delivers Wi-Fi and Sky-High Toner Pricing
At a Glance
The Dell 1350cnw color printer is distinctive for using LED technology instead of the more-common laser to create crisp results, as well as for including wireless connectivity (a still somewhat unusual feature among office printers). Priced at just $330 (as of September 29, 2010), it makes color output seem attainable even for a budget-strapped small office or workgroup. Unfortunately, exorbitant toner costs make this printer a bad long-term investment.
It's not unusual for printer vendors to charge lower-volume users less for the printer and more for the toner, but Dell has taken the approach to a new extreme with this model. The printer ships with standard-size, 700-page supplies. The black toner costs $50 (7.1 cents per page), while each color costs $55 (7.9 cents per color, per page). A page with all four colors would cost almost 31 cents. Those prices would be expensive even compared with the costs of a color inkjet printer. The higher-yield supplies, at $70 each, merely lessen the pain: The black lasts 2000 pages (3.5 cents per page), and each color lasts 1400 pages (5 cents per page). A four-color page would cost 18.5 cents.
Another characteristic common to lower-cost lasers is mediocre speed. In our tests, the 1350cnw followed suit, managing just 8.5 pages per minute when printing monochrome documents consisting primarily of black text and simple, grayscale images. It generated 1.8 ppm when printing snapshot-size color photos on letter-size paper. On the Mac, the trend persisted: 8.4 ppm for text, 4.6 ppm on a four-page color PDF, and 0.5 ppm for a large, high-resolution color image.
The image quality exceeded my expectations for a model in this price range. Our text samples looked dark gray rather than truly black, but they were crisp and precise otherwise. Color images seemed vivid and realistic, though a little grainy-looking.
The 1350cnw's design is compact, and features suffer a bit as a result. Connectivity is its strongest suit: In addition to Wi-Fi, it has USB and ethernet. Augmenting the adequate, 150-page main input tray is a 10-sheet "priority feeder" for letterhead or other occasional media types. Pages exit onto the top output tray. The tray parts are somewhat flimsy, as is typical for this price range. Duplexing is manual only and PC-only, an inconvenience that also promotes paper waste. At least the on-screen prompt is clear. A rear door opens to provide access to the paper path. A side door reveals the toner supplies, which insert easily and are keyed to prevent mixups.
The help you'll get for this printer is mostly good. The 1350cnw comes with a standard one-year warranty; extensions up to five years total cost an additional $70 to $240. The HTML-based user guide that comes with the printer is thorough and clear, but in a few instances we ran into dead ends because of clumsy navigation, namely links that led us to mostly blank title pages with no guidance in the right direction.
Dell's 1350cnw could be attractive to small offices or workgroups because of its connectivity and its impressive print quality for the price. But overpriced toner and the lack of automatic duplexing make it penny-wise and pound-foolish.