Priced at just £245, the Dell 1350cnw makes colour 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 the Dell 1350cnw. The printer ships with standard size, 700-page supplies. The black toner costs £41 (5.8p per page), while each colour costs £50 (7.1p per colour, per page). A page with all four colours would cost almost 30p. Those prices would be expensive even compared with the costs of a colour inkjet printer. The higher yield supplies, at £55 each (£52 for black), merely lessen the pain: the black lasts 2000 pages and each colour lasts 1400 pages.
Another characteristic common to lower cost lasers is mediocre speed. In our tests, the Dell 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 colour photos on letter-size paper. On the Mac, the trend persisted: 8.4 ppm for text, 4.6 ppm on a four-page colour PDF, and 0.5 ppm for a large, high resolution colour image.
The image quality exceeded our 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. Colour images seemed vivid and realistic, though a little grainy-looking.
The Dell 1350cnw's design is compact, and features suffer a bit as a result. Connectivity is its strongest suit: In addition to WiFi, 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 onscreen 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. 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.
The Dell 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.