Two years ago Lexmark extended its relationship with Dell to collaborate on a line of inkjet printers that includes this Dell V515w. While Lexmark has a history of satisfactory imaging products, this multifunction all-in-one leaves a lot to be desired. Straight out of the box, the V515w is marred by physical flaws and a bulky design, not to mention a cheap two-line "color" LCD display that looks like it belongs on a low-end graphing calculator instead of a $130 machine. With additional frustrations including frequent paper jams, unreliable wireless connectivity, and expensive ink cartridges, the V515 doesn't have many redeeming factors. You'd be wiser to spend your money on a more capable machine. We recommend the less expensive Epson WorkForce 310 or the slightly pricier Canon Pixma MX870.
Design and features
The Dell V515w's measurements (13.4 inches wide, 19.2 inches long, and 8 inches deep) are about average compared with other multifunction printers we've tested, although it weighs slightly more than average at 17.5 pounds. The top of the printer features a bucket design with a 35-page auto-document feeder that's useful for scanning, copying, and faxing multiple pages. This feature is also convenient for amateur snapshot photographers who can save time with a hands-free way to scan multiple prints in one sitting.
The flatbed scanner lives just underneath the auto-document feeder and can handle up to 1,200x2,400dpi resolution, another standard feature we normally see on multifunction devices. However, Dell deserves recognition for including a copy of the ABBYY FineReader Sprint software on the included driver installation disc that provides basic optical character recognition (OCR) functionality and will do its best to "read" a scanned document and import the text into a word processor of your choosing, typically Microsoft Word. In our testing experience, the software is fairly accurate, although we definitely suggest you check for inaccuracies after the scan completes. Additionally, be sure to hold onto the driver installation disc, as ABBY FineReader Sprint isn't available for download on Dell.com.
The first problem we have with the design of the Dell V515 isn't the oversized design or the scanner bay, but rather the control panel that folds out of the middle of the unit. During installation, we were instructed to install a clear strip of plastic on top of the panel that adds text labels to the Copy, Scan, Fax, and Photo buttons. We're unsure why those labels weren't already printed there, but the extra layer and the mirrored finish take away from the rest of the streamlined design.
Next, the paper path of the V515w starts at the standard 100-sheet paper input tray that folds out of the rear and guides through the printer until it's eventually spit out underneath the control panel where a plastic arm can only corral up to 25 sheets of plain 20 lb. paper. The printer has no problem stacking individual print jobs in the output tray at a time, but we experienced multiple paper jams down there once the number started approaching the 25-sheet limit, whereas the Epson WorkForce 310 can hold double the amount for the same price.
Regardless, we actually prefer the paper handling on the $200 HP Photosmart c6380 that employs two output trays to keep 4x6-inch photos separate from 8.5x11-inch documents.
Like many modern all-in-one printers, the Dell V515w includes an 802.11b/g wireless card that's supposed to help you cut the cord and free up USB ports that would otherwise be used for an inelegant connection to the host computer. The wireless installation disc that comes in the bundle does an adequate job of walking you through the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) using your wireless router's SSID and WPA password, but our connection kept giving us an error message that said "Cannot Print over a Wireless Network" despite the green notification light that supposedly indicates a solid connection.
The message goes away after power-cycling the printer and the computer on and off again, but the message kept appearing intermittently, to our confusion. We went online and found that other V515w users reported similar errors on the Amazon.com customer reviews site, and Dell.com support didn't have an answer either. We always default to a hardwired USB connection for our speed tests so the printer doesn't waste time pinging the router before sending a job through to the printer, but we can't imagine the average consumer having an easier time establishing a network connection.