The Dell Photo All-in-One Printer 966 suffers from an identity crisis: Its name pegs it as a photo-oriented printer, but features such as fax and an automatic document feeder mark it as an office-oriented all-in-one. And its subpar photo print quality and lack of photo-oriented features don't help its case, either. We prefer to think of this $200 multifunction printer as an office machine that serves up a few bonus photo features. Add-ons, such as a duplexer and wireless/Ethernet card, make it even more compelling as an office multifunction, though its so-so task speeds and print quality are discouraging. In the end, we recommend you pass on the Dell Photo All-in-One Printer 966: There are better machines out there for your money. For an excellent photo all-in-one, check out the $200 Canon Pixma MP600--you lose the fax and the ADF but come away with fast, high-quality prints and loads of features. If what you really need is a office-oriented all-in-one and you don't need the photo features (including media card slots), the same $200 will get you the excellent Canon Pixma MP530. If you really want it all, be prepared to spend more for something such as the HP Photosmart 3310.
The design of the Dell Photo All-in-One Printer 966 makes it look more like an office-oriented multifunction than a personal printer or a photo all-in-one. Its boxy body sits 18 inches wide, 20 inches deep, and 10.6 inches tall, and weighs about 22 pounds. A 50-page automatic document feeder (ADF) sits atop the scanner lid and makes quick work of multipage copy, scan, or fax jobs. It also allows you to photocopy or scan legal-size originals, despite the fact that the flatbed scanner can hold up to only A4-size pages.
Four memory card slots and a single PictBridge port adorn the front, allowing for PC-free photo printing. The memory card slots accept most common types of cards, though you'll need to use an adapter for some of them. The PictBridge port also accepts USB flash drives, so you can print photos from a thumbdrive, as well, though you can't insert both a USB drive and a memory card simultaneously to transfer files between them. If you want to print from a Bluetooth device, such as a PDA, Dell offers an optional Bluetooth adapter that plugs into the PictBridge port.
A single cassette in the front of the printer serves as both input and output trays. The input drawer holds up to 150 pages of plain paper, though for $69, you can add a second 150-page drawer for increased capacity. The output tray is simply the lid of the input tray and can hold up to 100 printed sheets. Recessed deep in the output tray is a small media feeder designed for smaller-size papers, such as 4x6 photo paper or envelopes. If you're using the small media feeder, you'll have to insert the pages manually one at a time; for batch printing of photos or envelopes, you can use the main input. The small media feeder is very handy for one-off prints, as you don't have to swap out the contents of your input drawer for just one print.
The control panel is basic, but it gets the job done. It comprises an alphanumeric keypad, the normal set of menu-navigation buttons, and a 2.5-inch LCD for previewing photos and navigating the menus. The LCD is mounted on a panel that swivels up to let you optimize the viewing angle.
The Dell Photo All-in-One Printer 966 employs a two-tank system: one black and one tricolor, with cyan, magenta, and yellow. This system is not optimal for photo printing, which again, leads us to think of this printer as an office-oriented machine rather than a photo-centric one. You can switch the black tank for a photo ink tank to improve the color in photos, though we prefer the six-ink systems with individual tanks--less waste, better quality. Dell sells the regular-capacity black-ink tank for $21 and the regular color tank for $24. The high-capacity versions (almost always a better value) cost $26 and $32, respectively. The photo-ink tank costs $26. Dell estimates cost per page at about 5.2 cents for a page of black text and 6.4 cents for a color page; both numbers are based on high-capacity cartridges. Canon's per-page costs are a bit lower, but the numbers estimated by Dell aren't prohibitively high, either.
Like most of the office-oriented printers, the Dell Photo All-in-One Printer 966 offers fax functionality and an ADF for batch jobs. You also have the option of purchasing a duplexing unit ($79) for automatic double-sided prints, as well as a wireless and Ethernet print adapter ($80) for networking your Photo 966. Again, both of these options are more commonly found on office-oriented machines. Unfortunately, the Dell Photo 966 is not Mac compatible, so if your home or office network includes Mac users, they'll be left out.
The Dell Photo 966 offers the usual array of features for each function. When scanning, copying, or faxing, you can use either the ADF or the flatbed scanner. Dell recommends using the flatbed scanner for scanning photos, even if you have multiples, so it offers a "scan multiple items before output" option that lets you scan a whole pile of documents before they're printed en masse. You can scan documents using optical character recognition (for text editing), save the scan to your PC, attach the scan to an e-mail, or scan into a number of programs, including Microsoft Word and CorelPSProX. You can even scan a document to another computer on your network; you'll have to set up a computer name and PIN for each PC you intend to scan to.
When copying, you have a number of layout options: reducing and enlarging from 25 to 400 percent; 2-up and 4-up prints; and printing 4, 9, or 16 copies of the original (the resultant prints are shrunken accordingly). You can also do a collate copy, which is, again, a feature found more commonly on office printers.
For fax setup, the included user manual walks you through the various setup options. Once you're up and running, the options are fairly standard. You can program in speed-dial numbers for up to 89 individuals and 10 groups (with 30 numbers each). This feature is convenient if you regularly send broadcast faxes, though you can also send a fax blast by keying in each number individually. You can delay a fax, if you want it sent later, too. On the receiving side, you can block faxes by keying in numbers to be blocked or tell the machine to block faxes coming from a machine that doesn't broadcast its caller ID.