The Dell 1130n delivers the basic features we'd expect from a budget monochrome laser printer; it includes wired networking through the Ethernet port on the back, an ample 250-sheet paper tray, and a separate one-sheet manual feed tray for irregular media. We wouldn't think twice about recommending getting the 1130n if you see it on sale, but its simple design and modest functionality don't justify its $180 retail value. If you're on the hunt for a new laser printer, we'd instead point to the Samsung ML-2525W, an aesthetically similar device with the added benefit of Wi-Fi access.
Design and features
The 1130n measures only 14.2 inches wide, 15.3 inches deep, and 7.8 inches tall, and its slim dimensions make it easy to camouflage in a busy work space. As with many laser printers, Dell uses a conservative black for the same reason, with a curved paper path that places the output tray on top of the small, rectangular unit. Conversely, the input tray pulls out of the lower half of the front and can hold up to 250 sheets of standard 8.5x11-inch paper. Dell also tells us the printer can handle approximately 12,000 pages per month (also called the duty cycle), which should be more than enough for up to a medium-size business. You can also load thicker media like cardstock and envelopes into the single-sheet manual feed slot that sits just above the main paper drawer.
We hesitate to call the top portion of the printer the "control panel," since you only get two buttons (power and cancel print job) and two error notification lights to work with. Considering the simplicity of a monolaser, you aren't likely to need more. On the other hand, the fixed 90-degree angle of the button layout means that depending on how high you have the printer on your desk, you may need to stand up to see them. Overall the controls are intuitive to navigate, and with no wireless networking installed in the 1130n, the printer is simple for even the most amateur technophobe to operate.
The setup is also painless thanks to the driver installation disc that comes with the printer. According to Dell, the 1130n is compatible with a variety of Windows versions including 32- and 64-bit Vista and 7, 2000, XP, and Server, as well as Linux and Mac OS 10.3 through 10.6. The onscreen instructions guide you through the 2-minute unboxing, physical setup, and software installation process using a USB cable, which you'll need to purchase separately since it doesn't come with one.
Folding down the front panel drawer uncovers two separate paper bays: one to hold 150 sheets of plain white paper, and a plastic lip on top that corrals outgoing sheets. The tray also features slides on either side that adjust to fit standard legal paper as well as alternative media sources like coated paper, envelopes, and labels. Unlike other business-oriented laser printers, however, there's no manual bypass feeder of the kind some find useful for loading transparencies or labels.
The monochrome toner cartridge is easy to pull out after you disengage the plastic front panel, and Dell includes a standard-capacity toner cartridge with the unit. You can pick up a refill for $63 on the Dell Web site that will supposedly print up to 1,500 sheets. That comes out to about 4.2 cents per page, which is just higher than the average cost for a plain sheet of black ink on both laser and inkjet printers. Alternatively, if you find yourself printing more than average, we recommend investing in the $88 extra-large-capacity toner with a 2,500-page yield that comes out to 3.5 cents per page.
Dell keeps the retail cost of the 1130n low by leaving out two features: autoduplexing (double-sided printing) and the ability to print over a Wi-Fi network. Employees in an office can still link multiple stations to the 1130n using the Ethernet networking port on the back, but we're troubled by the choice to omit Wi-Fi at this price, when the Samsung ML-2525W and the Brother HL-2270DW both include wireless connectivity for $150.