Dell's new 35-page-per-minute workgroup laser printer, the M5200n, is competing for small businesses' printing needs against industry stalwarts, such as Hewlett-Packard's--and in most ways, it holds its own. The base-model M5200n that we tested costs less than $1,000--quite a bargain for a workgroup printer. For the price, you get a speedy, expandable, network-ready laser that costs considerably less than a similarly equipped model from HP. We have two reservations: Some parts feel flimsy, and Dell offers slightly less-comprehensive IT-support resources than HP does.
The Dell M5200n is about the standard size for a workgroup laser printer, measuring 17.2 inches wide by 20.2 inches deep by 16 inches high and weighing 45 pounds. It sports a curved belly that breaks up the monotony of its otherwise cubic shape; its black and gunmetal-gray plastics match Dell's PC color scheme. One USB and one Ethernet port are built into the back of the printer (cables are not included). A single-line LCD command center built into the front of the printer lets you manage the resolution and the toner levels, select the printer language, and access the network menu.
The front panel opens for easy access to the toner cartridge.
The M5200n's paper handling is functional, but the parts feel a bit flimsy. A 500-sheet input tray rests in the the printer's base, while the output rests on top. A front panel opens to reveal a multipurpose tray for letterhead, envelopes, and thicker media. Its extendable plastic guide feels thin enough to break easily. For heavier papers, a rear door opens to create a straight-through paper path.
Installing the printer via CD on our test system running Windows XP proved seamless. We recommend consulting the user guide, which walks you through the slightly more complex network installation. The M5200n is compatible with several iterations of Novell and Linux, as well as with Windows 98, 2000, NT, and XP. The M5200n supports PostScript 3 and also emulates the PCL6e and PCL5 print languages.
The base model of the Dell M5200n comes with an ample, 500-sheet paper tray and a generous 64MB of RAM--but this is only the beginning. Via Dell's Web site, you can upgrade the RAM to as high as 320MB. You can also order add-ons, such as a $229 dedicated envelope feeder (capacity 85), a $249 duplexing unit that clips on to the back of the printer, extra 250- and 500-sheet paper trays ($75 and $89), or 250- and 500-sheet paper drawers ($179 and $229). When fully tricked out, the printer has an incredible 2,600-sheet input capacity.