- Excellent documentation; easy setup
- Good software bundle
- Slow; confusing control-panel buttons,
- Stiff paper guides; ruddy color quality
Useful software and manuals can’t compensate for shortcomings in speed, design, and print quality.
The Dell 2145cn color laser multifunction printer (MFP) offers some useful features for a midrange price ($749 at this writing), and the quality of its installation and documentation show how much Dell cares about the user experience. The machine’s design makes it difficult to use, however, and it performed very slowly.
Dell deserves credit for a painless setup and excellent documentation. The installation wizard worked seamlessly. The PDF-based user guide covers all aspects of the MFP’s operation in detail, from instructions for using the bundled applications and embedded Web monitor to how to use the MFP in Linux. Unfortunately we needed the documentation a bit more than usual because the 2145cn’s design can be confusing. On the control panel, the buttons for major functions (such as copy and fax) have icons rather than word labels; text labels and icons are hard to read because they are gray on a black background; and the menu-navigation buttons have black-on-black stamped icons that are almost invisible. A large front handhold opens the 100-sheet multipurpose tray if you pull down; if you pull up, you open the entire front panel to expose the toner cartridges and the transfer belt. A label indicating the difference would have been nice.
Paper handing is pretty good. The standard, 250-sheet paper drawer is maybe too sturdy: On our unit, the paper guides were very stiff and difficult to move. An additional 500-sheet internal tray costs $230. The output area is a small cave underneath the control panel and holds a somewhat skimpy 170 sheets. The 50-sheet automatic document feeder is generous, as is the standard automatic duplexing.
The Dell 2145cn performed disappointingly in our tests. Dell designated PostScript as the unit’s primary printer language; using that driver, it printed plain text at a rate of just 14.3 pages per minute (ppm), well below Dell’s promise of 21 ppm. Its graphics speed was the slowest we’ve tested to date: 1.7 ppm. Scan and copy speeds also lagged behind the pack. Print quality suffered from an overall ruddiness, with blotchy skin tones and a pinkish cast to grayscale images. Scanned images looked slightly dark and blurry.
The 2145cn’s toner costs are average compared with those of other color laser MFPs. High-capacity black cartridges have 5500-page yields and cost $150 for black (2.7 cents per page); high-capacity color replacements each last 5000 pages and cost $170 (3.4 cents per color, per page. A four-color page costs 12.9 cents. The 2145cn ships with standard 2500-page black and 2000-page color cartridges, whose costs are a bit above-average.
Dell’s 2145cn Multifunction Color Laser Printer is designed for a busy workgroup, but there are several choices available that are faster and easier to operate; and some may have a lower price tag. Ricoh’s Aficio SP C232SF costs a little more and isn’t much faster, but it uses cheaper toner and has a nicer design. Dell’s 3115cn is costlier and is meant for bigger offices, but it did much better in our tests.