The Dell V305W is an inexpensive all-in-one (AIO) printer that also connects wirelessly to your home network. The $129 multifunctional solution does triple duty as a 1,200x2,400 dpi scanner and full range copier. Dell manages to keep the cost of the V305W low by omitting an autodocument feeder and fax machine (scan to e-mail, anyone?), but buyers beware: the printer eats up ink and replacement cartridges are exorbitantly pricey. In addition to the high cost of consumables, the V305W can't keep up with the competition in print speed or quality. We recommend looking elsewhere for a printer that might be more expensive, but will save you time and money in the long term.
Design and features
At first look, the Dell V305W might appear overly simplistic, but we actually prefer the universal stripped-down look over something extravagant and seasonally fashionable like the Samsung SCX-4500. The V305W is characterized by subtle, curvy lines and an elegant combination of glossy white and matte black panels, as if the designers drew inspiration from the portraits of the American artist Patrick Nagel. The whole unit looks like it was carved from a single block of plastic.
The control panel is very basic as well: seven recessed buttons sit beneath the two-line LCD display and let you navigate menus and operate various features on the device. Directly underneath the two-ink cartridge bay, you'll find two ports for memory cards (SD, MS, xD, MMC, CF, MD) and a PictBridge USB port for printing direct from a compatible digital camera. The printer is missing an Ethernet port, so you can't use it as a print server. Instead, you must connect to a wireless network using the internal network adapter installed into the back of the printer. Two other ports on the rear support the power brick and a USB cable to connect directly to your computer.
The 100-sheet front-loading tray is the only option for media input since the printer lacks an autodocument feeder. A small arm inside the feeder can adjust to fit a variety of paper sizes all the way down to postcard size (3.5 inches by 5 inches), but we hate swapping out media just to print photos. It's unfortunate Dell doesn't have a separate tray for photo paper like HP's Photosmart C8180.
Setting up the printer to communicate wirelessly is painless thanks to Dell's step-by-step setup. As always, we recommend you establish a USB connection first--this will prompt the driver to set up an ad-hoc wireless connection between the printer and your computer and you'll be up and printing faster. The CD that comes with the V305W has preinstalled drivers that help you configure your network settings, but the printer itself does the rest of the work pairing the two devices together. The entire process took less than 10 minutes from start to finish.
The V305 uses two separate cartridges for tricolor and black/white inks, and it ships with standard-capacity cartridges in the box. Alternatively, Dell also sells high-capacity ink cartridges on the company's Web site, but the cost per page is astronomical for both the "standard" and "high yield" options. According to Dell, the $25 high-capacity color cartridge will only print 230 pages, so the cost to print a single page of color is 9.2 cents. To put it into perspective, the cost per page for Canon's Pixma MX700 printer is only 3 cents for a black-and-white page and 6 cents for full-color photos. The standard cartridge that ships with the V305W didn't even last long enough for us to finish our quality and speed tests. The initial retail cost of the V305W hardware looks tempting, but you should be prepared to steadily make up for it with constant ink refills.
Compared with other printers within the same category and price range, the Dell V305w represents the best and worst of the pack. It prints black text at an impressive rate of 7.82 pages per minute (PPM), almost double the speed of the pricier Kodak ESP5. The Dell can also scan a full page of black-and-white graphics faster than the competitors, but we're disappointed by the time it takes to print color documents, specifically presentation and 4-inch-by-6-inch photos. The Photosmart C8180 is the slowest photo printer in the bunch at 0.66 PPM, but the Dell isn't much faster at 0.88 PPM, and the same story can be told for our color Powerpoint presentation test; the V305w's 1.24PPM benchmark puts it in dead last.
|B/W Scanning||Presentation Speed||Photo Speed||Black Text Speed|
The Dell V305w can use improvement in output quality as well. The driver gives you the option of printing in either 1,200 or 4,800 dpi resolution and will automatically choose the latter if you load photo paper into the feeder. However, even at 4,800 dpi, black-and-white text still looks blotchy and unevenly spread across the paper. In addition, decreasing text font to size 6 causes letters to bleed into one another with severely jagged lines and uneven edges. In our stock 4-inch-by-6-inch photo quality test, we noticed a dark hue overshadowing a majority of the picture resulting in muted tones and imbalanced color saturation throughout the page. Individual portrait shots suffer from the same problem; large individual pixels show up in places like light skin tones, where the color gradation is too subtle for the print head to handle.
Service and support
Dell covers the V305w with a standard one-year warranty, although specific information is difficult to find in the documentation and the Web site. Dell's support page offers FAQs, hot topics of conversation, in-depth popular topics, and 24-7 on-call technical support. There's also an option on the site to extend the standard warranty, but you're required to register for a service tag in order to get any information on pricing.
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