Expensive in the long run.
- Cheap price tag, simple to use, USB and Web-based administration, decent scan quality
- High running cost, slow print speeds, poor print quality
The speed and quality of Dell's 2135cn are nothing to shout about. Though its price is a big incentive, we would prefer to spend a little extra on getting a more capable unit.
Price$ 699.00 (AUD)
The Dell 2135cn's main selling point is its initial price point. Beyond this, unfortunately, there isn't much to get excited about. While the unit offers reasonable functionality and good scan quality, numerous shortcomings make it an average multifunction at best.
The multifunction's features are standard fare. The unit has a maximum paper input capacity of 250 sheets, with a fairly resilient monthly duty cycle of 40,000 pages. Unfortunately, it lacks an automatic duplex function, instead offering two different manual duplex options.
The 2135cn's design is ugly but functional: the scanner with automatic document feeder is elevated above the rest of the unit, the printer's toners are easily replaceable from a side door and the imaging unit sits at the front for easy maintenance. There are some design choices we disliked — the control panel sits higher than usual on the printer, and because the paper output tray faces backwards retrieving printouts is a hassle.
The controls and user interface are basic. Dell has opted for a simple layout involving a five-way navigation pad, four quick access buttons, a numeric keypad for use with the 2135cn's fax function and a basic three-line monochrome display. Users can control basic copy, scan and fax functions, as well as retrieve essential status and network information.
One pleasant surprise is the comprehensive administration options available when the printer is connected via USB. Many manufacturers rely on a Web-based interface for remote administration, but Dell's Toolbox software provides users with the same kinds of options over USB. The unit still has a Web-based interface, which includes an e-mail alert function.
Print speed is average for a laser printer, with the 2135cn managing to print a mono document at 16 pages per minute and a colour one at 12ppm. Though HP's Colour LaserJet CM1312nfi is a slower and more expensive printer, its 1200x600dpi hardware resolution at least compensates for its lack of speed; the 2135cn is limited to a comparatively paltry 600x600dpi.
Print quality is somewhat disappointing. Text is readable but slightly inaccurate due to the hardware print resolution and the printer's inability to print in half-tone gradients. As a result, text is darker and characters aren't well-defined. Colour also suffers from accuracy issues, resulting in under-saturated colours that lack vibrancy. The quality of colour printing will suffice for many uses, but it is not up to a professional standard.
One redeeming aspect of the 2135cn is its scan quality. Scans are crisp and detailed at 600dpi, though they are slightly brighter than the source image. The unit performs well with both text and pictures, showing none of the flaws common to low-end multifunctions.
One of the major deterrents with Dell printers is their running costs, and the 2135cn is unfortunately no exception. The multifunction attracts a running cost of 23.85c per page, which rivals the consumable costs of inkjets. Though Dell's 2135cn is one of the cheapest units on the market, the running costs are sure to outweigh the initial cost savings.
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