Dell Photo All-In-One 966

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Dell Photo All-In-One 966

Pros

  • Built-in Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and fax; includes automatic document feeder

Cons

  • Slow printing, must swap cartridges for photos

Bottom Line

Despite combining plenty of functions in a single unit, the Dell Photo All-In-One 966 isn't a good value for the money due to its modest quality and performance. It's nice that you can configure the unit with several options, but you're looking at quite an investment (about $576) if you choose them all.

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This multi-function device (MFD) offers a fax, an automated document feeder, wireless networking, and many upgrade options, but print quality isn't tops.

The Dell Photo All-In-One 966 comes at a base price of $299, or $379 that adds wireless networking. The user-installed network card supports both 802.11b and g standards, and has a wired Ethernet port as well. A host of other features and options make the 966 a powerful tool for a home office or small business.

The unit includes a 33.6Kbps colour fax machine and an automatic document feeder that can handle up to 50 sheets at a time. The flatbed scanner accepts documents as large as letter size, though you can feed legal-size documents through the ADF. The main paper cassette can hold up to 150 sheets. The output tray sits on top of the cassette and includes a bypass slot that lets you manually feed a single envelope or a sheet of 4x6-inch photo paper. (You can print several at a time by loading a stack of either type into the main cassette.) For $89.10 you can add a second 150-sheet paper tray. An optional duplexer for making two-sided prints costs $89.10.

The 2.4-inch colour LCD pivots to your preferred viewing angle. A logically arranged set of buttons to the right of the screen lets you navigate the menus and preview images, and a numeric pad lets you dial fax numbers. The four media slots can read all of the popular digital memory card formats. Built-in editing functions let you fix red-eye and crop images, but the 966 lacks options for automatic photo enhancement, colour effects, and creative borders. You can print proof sheets of the images on your memory card, but these lack the optical reader markings that rival MFPs use to let you select which images to print.

A PictBridge port lets you print directly from your digital camera, as well as print images from a USB flash drive. For printing wirelessly from a suitably equipped camera phone or PDA, you can also attach a third-party Bluetooth adapter to the PictBridge port--Dell recommends purchasing the Internal Wireless and Ethernet Adapter for $99.

Two ink cartridges come in the box: The first contains three dye-based colour inks, and the other uses a pigment-based black ink designed for printing strong text on plain paper. However, our panel of judges was unimpressed with the unit's printing on plain paper. The text was dark, but edges looked fuzzy and we noticed significant banding. Our line-art sample was a mess due to major horizontal banding. Photos printed on plain paper looked grainy, with spotty textures, faded colours, and yet more banding. For our photo-paper tests, we replaced the black cartridge with an optional photo colour cartridge that adds lighter cyan and magenta inks for printing with six inks in total. We were more pleased with the results, but the quality didn't quite match that of the best MFDs we reviewed at the same time. Though the 966 turned out decent-looking photos, the colours seemed a little faded, faces lacked some detail, and the darkest areas had a reddish tint. In our scanner and copier tests, the Dell stood up well to the competition, producing good quality results for each.

The 966 didn't set any speed records. On plain paper it turned out text slightly below the average, at 7.7 pages per minute (ppm), and graphics at a measly 1.9ppm. Our image printed on glossy photo paper in 84 seconds, just under twice as long as the 45-second average of the eight MFDs we tested this month. Scanning our 4x5-inch photo composite at 100dpi took 10 seconds -- not bad compared to models we tested over a year ago, but now rather run-of-the-mill. Text pages copied at the test-group average of 3.1ppm.

Dell supplies a good software bundle, including Corel Photo Album 6 for organising and printing your image collection, Corel Paint Shop Pro X for editing images, and ABBYY FineReader 6.0 Sprint for OCR.

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