Speed and expandability are the Dell 3115cn multifunction colour laser printer's forte, making up for its subpar photos and design quirks.

The Dell 3115cn is a little less expensive than the Xerox Phaser 6180MFP that it closely resembles. But while the Dell delivers on speed and features, its design and print quality fall a bit short.

The Dell was the fastest unit we've tested recently. It churned out text at a rate of 24.2 pages per minute (ppm) - only its near-twin, the Xerox Phaser 6180MFP, was faster at text - and the Dell 3115cn produced finely drawn letterforms.

The 3115cn's speed of 5.4ppm in printing graphics was the best of the models we tested in the current group. Unfortunately we can't say the same for the Dell 3115cn graphics quality, because its photos looked oversaturated and dark. Copy and scan quality were quite good overall.

Tall (nearly 737mm with the scanner closed) and bulky, the Dell 3115cn has a generous standard feature set and room to grow. Complementing the 250-sheet input tray and 150-sheet multipurpose tray is a 250-sheet output tray. Even the 50-sheet automatic document feeder is roomy.

The plain control panel (typical for Dell) is not always easy to use. Navigation buttons move through menus displayed on the Dell 3115cn's four-line monochrome LCD. The main menu list doesn't scroll through to the beginning; rather, you must back out the way you came in.

The messages displayed on the Dell 3115cn's LCD often lack helpful prompts or read more like machine code than natural English. The documentation can be vague on how to adjust menu settings, too.

The front of the printer is complex. You open one large panel to reveal the multipurpose tray, and another, even larger, panel behind it to reach the machine's innards. Strong, geared arms control the inner panel's descent to protect the transfer belt attached to it. Mucking around inside the printer with this key part exposed made us nervous, but that's the only way to reach the toner cartridges arrayed within. They are easy to insert and remove. And toner costs are quite low for the category.

NEXT PAGE: test results > >