The $150 Dell P513w's Eco Mode earns points for its environmental friendliness, and we're fans of the general design, but missteps like a missing auto document feeder, spotty wireless coverage, and frequent paper jams push the overall rating down. Throw in a few overpriced ink cartridges and you'll see why we recommend the equally priced Epson WorkForce 520 instead.
Design and features
The Dell P513w's measurements (18.8 inches wide, 13.3 inches deep, and 9 inches tall) place it about average in terms of sizing compared with other multifunction printers we've tested, although at 15.3 pounds it weighs slightly above the baseline. The top of the printer features a flatbed scanner and can handle up to 1,200x2,400 dpi resolution, a standard feature we expect to see on multifunction devices.
However, Dell omits an auto document feeder (ADF) from the feature set that would normally prove useful for businesses and anyone else who doesn't care to feed individual documents into the scanner and copier. We're especially confused by the absence of an ADF in the P513w, since Dell offers one with the V515w that costs $30 less.
On the other hand, Dell deserves recognition for including a copy of the ABBYY FineReader Sprint software on the driver installation disc in the box. It provides you with basic optical character recognition functionality that 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 still suggest you check for inaccuracies after the scan completes. Additionally, be sure to hold onto the driver installation disc, as the ABBY FineReader Sprint software isn't available for download on Dell's Web site.
The paper path of the P513w starts at the standard 100-sheet paper input tray that folds out of the rear and guides the paper through the printer until it eventually spits out underneath the control panel. There, a plastic arm can only corral up to 25 sheets of plain 20-pound 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 we approached the 25-sheet limit. In comparison, the Epson WorkForce 310 can hold double the amount and it costs the same as the Dell.
Regardless, we actually prefer the paper handling on the $200 HP Photosmart c6380, which employs two output trays to keep photos 4-inch-by-6-inch photos separate from 8.5-inch-by-11-inch documents.
Like many modern all-in-one printers, the Dell P513w includes 802.11b/g wireless networking, freeing up the USB ports that would otherwise be used for a hardwired connection to the host computer. The 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 error message seemed to resolve itself after we cycled the power on both the printer and the computer, but it still came back intermittently. We saw on the Amazon product page that users reported similar errors, but Dell's support page doesn't have an answer yet. 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, but we can't imagine the average consumer having an easier time establishing a network connection.
The P513w uses two separate cartridges for tricolor and black/white inks and ships with standard-capacity cartridges in the box. Alternatively, Dell also sells high-capacity ink cartridges on the company's Web site, but the page yield numbers are no longer listed on the site so we can't accurately calculate the cost per page. We can report, however, that the standard cartridge didn't even last long enough for us to finish our quality and speed test, and the customer complains on Amazon and the Dell purchase pages echo our experience.
The Dell P513w made quick work of all four speed document tests compared with the competition, producing text pages at 7.67 pages per minute to best HP, Kodak, and Canon units. The presentation and color graphics page tests yielded average results at 3.6 ppm and 3.5 ppm, respectively, but the printer lagged while printing single 4-inch-by-6-inch snapshot photos because of a significant pause between prints to allow for the ink to dry on the page before picking up the next sheet.
|Presentation speed||Photo speed (one sheet)||Color graphics speed||Text speed|
We weren't quite as impressed with the image quality put out by the Dell. While our full sheet of plain black text looked presentable at first, a closer inspection showed several jagged lines at the corners of text in small fonts, specifically in italicized text; white text on a colored background was unreadable at less than a 5-point font.
Even at the high-quality setting, we wouldn't recommend using this printer for printing PowerPoint presentations or any other professional documents. Furthermore, the color graphics page is marred with an overall faded look and a slightly yellow overcast that significantly departs from the color palette of the original image.
We can't find any positive things to say about the image quality here, and despite several ink head cleanings and calibrations, the image just doesn't come out as sharp, or as accurate, as we'd expect from a $150 printer.
Service and support
Dell backs the P513w with a one-year warranty, though you can pay to upgrade to two or three years of coverage. Toll-free phone support is available 24-7, and Dell's site offers e-mail support and 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.
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