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Dell 3110cn review: Dell 3110cn

The Dell 3110cn is a midpriced, middle-performing color laser printer for small or home offices. For $500, you get a fairly basic feature set; add-ons, such as a duplexer, will jack up the price. For that money, we far prefer the Lexmark C530dn, which comes with a built-in duplexer, enhancements that make it environmentally friendly, better print quality, and faster color prints. Its mono prints do lag behind those of the Dell, however. Also, this particular Lexmark model doesn't offer expanded paper options, but the built-in paper handling should be sufficient for home users.

7.1

Dell 3110cn

The Good

Lightning-fast mono prints; low per-page costs; built-in networking; 24/7 tech support.

The Bad

Print quality needs to be improved across the board; duplex costs extra; slow color prints.

The Bottom Line

The Dell 3110cn is a decent color laser that should satisfy casual home office users, but we think the Lexmark C530dn is an overall better product.

The Dell 3110cn is a honkin' big printer, owing to the fact that it's a color laser (the four individual toner cartridges take up a lot of space). The black-and-silver unit stands 15.8 inches wide, 19.1 inches deep, and 18.5 inches tall and weighs a hefty 53 pounds. It has two input sources: the 250-sheet tray and a 150-sheet multipurpose tray. The multipurpose tray engages when you pull down the front panel of the printer, with the panel serving as the paper support, so the printer takes up even more room in this setup. You can purchase an optional 550-sheet drawer ($230) for a total input of 950 sheets. The output tray sits atop the printer and holds 250 sheets. This model also offers an optional duplexer, but that adds an additional $200 to the price. The top-mounted control panel is basic, comprising a two-line, backlit text LCD; a Menu button; menu navigation buttons; and a Cancel button.

The Dell 3110cn ships with a 400MHz processor and 128MB of RAM, upgradable to up to 1,152MB. It comes standard with a 10/100 Ethernet port (for network printing), a USB port, and a parallel port. If you need to print wirelessly, the optional wireless adapter will set you back $150.

Print costs for the Dell 3110cn are reasonable. It ships with a 5,000-page black cartridge and 4,000-page color cartridges. Replacement cartridges come in regular and high-yield options; the high-yield options are generally more cost effective. The 5,000-page black cartridge costs $76, and the 8,000-page version costs $110. Each 4,000-page color cartridge (cyan, magenta, and yellow) costs $120, while the 8,000-page versions cost $215 each. Using the high-yield cartridges, per-page costs are roughly 1.4 cents for black prints and 9.4 cents for color prints. Both numbers are at the low end for color lasers in this range. Because Dell sells its products only through its own site and stores, you'll have to order replacement supplies directly--less convenient than a quick trip down to your local Staples. If you've set up your printer on the network, it can keep you updated on the levels of toner left and remind you to order replacement toner or even do it automatically for you.

The Dell 3110cn was one of the fastest color laser printers we've seen when handling mono prints, but it didn't impress us with the speed of its color prints. It churned out black text at a speedy 23.36ppm and mono graphics at an impressive 22.58ppm. The next fastest performer we've seen in this category is the Oki C5500n, which posted 17.92ppm for black text and 18.41ppm for mono graphics. With color prints, the Dell fell behind the Lexmark C530dn, with a score of 12.41ppm for color text and 13.30ppm for color graphics. The Lexmark posted times of 15.94ppm and 13.56ppm respectively. The combination of fast mono prints and slow color prints would be fine if you mainly print in mono and want to have the option of the occasional color print.

CNET Labs' color laser speed tests (pages per minute)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Color graphics  
Color text  
Black graphics  
Black text  
Dell 3110cn
13.3 
12.41 
22.58 
23.36 
Oki C5500n
14.85 
11.37 
18.41 
17.92 
Lexmark C530dn
13.56 
15.94 
16.36 
17.02 
Oki C3400n
11.92 
8.38 
16.01 
15.55 
HP 2605dn
6 
6.75 
9.04 
9 

As for print quality, we were slightly underwhelmed. Black text is sharp and clean, but not as dark as we like. Additionally, the text becomes hard to read at very small point sizes. The black graphics print suffered from the same problem: the areas that should have been jet black were merely very dark, and the print had an overall faded look to it. The color text was only mediocre: at larger point sizes, the text is sharp, but at smaller sizes and with more difficult colors, we saw some blurriness and fuzzy edges. The same problems crop up in the color graphics print. Edges that should be sharply defined are blurry, it showed problems with handling bar-code graphics, and the color gradients showed banding. Additionally, the photo elements on the page were overly red, resulting in ruddy skin tones. We preferred the print quality of the Lexmark C530dn to that of the Dell 3110cn.

CNET Labs' color laser quality
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Color graphics  
Color text  
Black graphics  
Black text  
Lexmark C530dn
good 
excellent 
excellent 
excellent 
Oki C5500n
good 
excellent 
excellent 
excellent 
HP 2605dn
good 
excellent 
good 
excellent 
Oki C3400n
fair 
good 
good 
excellent 
Dell 3110cn
fair 
fair 
good 
good 

The standard warranty for the Dell 3110cn lasts one year, but you can upgrade it to up to four years. Dell provides free, toll-free phone support 24/7, but it recommends trying the live online chat option first. For less urgent inquiries, you can e-mail Dell's support team or check out its user forums. Dell's Web site also has product-specific support in the form of online user guides, drivers and software downloads, and a troubleshooting tool. You can find basic tips on common how-tos, as well, such as how to change the toner cartridge.

7.1

Dell 3110cn

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 6Performance 7Support 8