Dell Photo 926
At $100, the Dell Photo 926 is a very inexpensive inkjet multifunction that offers print, copy, scan, and e-fax features. As such, we weren't expecting much from it by way of print speed and print quality. In the end, it failed to meet our meager expectations. Surprisingly, its output was particularly poor using Dell's own photo paper and photo ink tanks. By comparison, the Canon Pixma MP180 shows that you can get decent print quality from a $100 multifunction. And if you're willing to spend just a bit more, the $130 Canon Pixma MP460 will make you even happier.
The Dell Photo 926's sleek white-and-light-gray body is reasonably compact for a multifunction printer: it measures 17.4 inches wide, 11.5 inches deep (without the output tray; closer to 21 inches with the output tray fully extended), and 7.2 inches tall. The scanner lid conceals an A4 size flatbed scanner and, since the Photo 926 lacks an automatic document feeder, A4 is the largest scannable size.
The output tray pulls out from the front of the printer, and the input tray and paper support reside along the printer's back edge--the standard setup for inkjets. A low, plastic guard sits in front of the input area, deflecting wayward objects such as paper clips and pens from falling into the input slot (we recently noted this feature on the Lexmark Z1420, too). The input tray can hold up to 100 sheets of plain paper.
The Photo 926's basic control panel features a two-line text LCD, menu navigation buttons, and Start and Stop buttons--providing enough control to manage its various tasks. The Canon Pixma MP180 also offers just a text LCD, but the slightly more expensive Pixma MP460 has a 1.9-inch color graphics LCD. The printer includes two built-in memory card readers that accept most major types of memory cards, though some will require an adapter. The printer also offers a USB port on the front.
This printer uses a two-tank ink system. For regular printing, use the black cartridge and tricolor cartridge. Dell also offers an optional photo cartridge (to replace the black) for six-color prints, but our advice is to stick with the black and tricolor--even for photo prints (see the Performance section for more details). The standard-capacity black cartridge costs $14 and prints about 125 pages. The high-capacity version costs $19 and is good for about 210 pages. The regular color cartridge costs $18 and the high-capacity version costs $24, and they print approximately 125 and 190 pages, respectively. The photo cartridge costs $26. Using the high-capacity cartridges for best value, we estimate that a black print costs about 9 cents, while a full-color print costs about 21.6 cents. The color cost is high, even for an inexpensive inkjet printer.
The Dell Photo 926 prints, scans, and copies, and while fax isn't a listed task, you can make e-faxes using the bundled Dell Fax Solutions Software. When copying, your options are fairly simple: you can make up to 99 copies at once and scale between 25 and 400 percent. When scanning a photo or document, you can save the scan as a file on your PC, scan to e-mail or fax, or scan the document into a number of programs such as Word, Excel, or any of the bundled software, including Corel Paint Shop Pro. If you save the scan as a file, you can choose from a variety of file types, including JPEG, PDF, and TIFF. You can even scan a document across a network if you've networked it using Dell's optional wireless network adapter. Despite the fact that the Dell Photo 926 has a USB port for flash storage drives, you can't save a scan to such a device. Both of the Canon Pixma models mentioned above have a front-mounted USB port for printing from PictBridge cameras, but you can't use USB flash drives with either of them.
When you plug a flash drive into the USB port, the control panel automatically switches into photo mode. Here, you can apply improvement features such as red-eye removal or auto-enhance, but keep in mind that you can't preview photos on the control panel's basic, two-line LCD. Nor can you select individual photos to print through the control panel. The Photo 926 does have a photo index sheet option, however, that lets you print a scannable index sheet that includes all photos, just the last 25, or those taken in a particular date range. You can then use the index sheet to print just those photos that you choose. If you don't want to print at all, you can simply transfer photos from the flash drive to your PC. Printing photos from a memory card works in the same way. The printer also gives you the option to print Microsoft Office files directly from a memory card or thumbdrive: just use the menu navigation buttons to back out of Photo mode to choose the Office File mode. If you have a PictBridge camera, you can print directly off the camera using the same USB port.