Dell 948 All-In-One Wireless Printer
- Built-in wireless adapter, automatic document feeder, automatic two-sided printing
- Poor photo quality, had trouble printing borderless photos, muddy text output, photo cartridge made the printer 'crash'
Overall, the 948 All-In-One Wireless Printer is a decent choice for a small office where the convenient printing and scanning of text documents is sought; however, it's not a good choice if photo printing is the main goal.
Price$ 279.00 (AUD)
Featuring print, scan, copy, fax and memory card-reading functions, this multi-function device is ideal for a small office environment. It's fairly easy to install and use, but it's not perfect. Some of its print functions didn't work as well as we'd hoped and its initial wireless network setup was a little cumbersome.
By far, the most useful aspect of the 948 is its built-in wireless adapter, which can connect to an existing wireless network. It makes it easy for notebook users to print and scan documents, and it's especially useful if the unit is to reside a short distance away from a PC. However, there is a caveat: in order for the wireless settings to be configured, the printer must initially be connected to a notebook or PC via USB. Once the printer is on the network, other wireless computers will be able to find it and connect to it without going through this same process. WEP and WPA encryption is supported, so it should be able to slot in to most existing networks without any trouble.
Mobile phone users will appreciate the provision for an optional Bluetooth adapter, which can be installed via the 948's USB port, and will allow photos to be printed directly from a Bluetooth-capable phone.
But, the 948 is not an ideal choice for users who want to print photos. Apart from its photo quality suffering from banding issues and poor colour tones, the driver also refused to print borderless photos using Windows Vista's photo viewer. This negates one of the 948's coolest and most intuitive features -- printing digital photos directly from memory cards. Using printed proof sheets, photos can easily be selected for printing (even the preferred paper type can be selected), simply by colouring in the appropriate circles on the proof sheet and scanning it on the unit's flatbed. The scanner will recognise the selections, send the appropriate commands to the printer, and all your photos will be printed.
While the quality during our photo tests was poor, the text results didn't fare much better, and the print speed was a little on the slow side. The 948 will print a full page of text in 15sec using the 'normal' print mode in the driver. In 'draft' mode, it will produce a full page in only 9sec. These are slightly sluggish results for this test and the quality of the text isn't stellar; the black colour looks muddy, the letters are feathered around the edges, and the paper-feed mechanism also seemed to leave some trails in the text at certain points on the page. Reverse text (white text on a black background) looked particularly muddy in our tests, as did small, bolded text.
As for its colour output, the 948 has a two-cartridge ink system -- one black and one tri-colour cartridge -- so its black is very black indeed, but its primary colours look a little pale. This showed in our glossy paper photo prints, which weren't vibrant. A photo cartridge is also available when printing out photos, but we didn't have much luck with it; with the photo cartridge and the colour cartridge installed, the printer refused to complete any of our print jobs.
Office users will appreciate the unit's scanner, which allows photocopies to be made quickly and easily, and the automatic document feeder that sits atop the flatbed is very useful for scanning multi-page documents. Its scanning capability is adequate and quick for common jobs such as scanning in leaflets and magazine articles, but it did miss some fine greyscale details when scanning cartoon artwork. Conveniently, scans can be initiated from the unit and sent to any computer on the network, or to a memory card.
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I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.
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