The Dell W5300n is a lightning-fast, monochrome workgroup laser printer suitable for most small to medium-size businesses. Designed with expandability in mind, the W5300 is capable of providing networked laser printing for workgroups of more than 100 people. While its fast print speeds will impress everyone, its light plastic housing, loud processing noises, and so-so print quality will not. Also, the W5300n may be too complex to operate in small offices without a dedicated IT staff on hand. For a similar, less expensive model, the has many of the same features but is not as fast. In the other direction, the slightly more expensive HP LaserJet 4200n offers a similar text-printing speed but is much slower than the W5300n at printing graphics. If fast printing and the capacity to connect a good-size workgroup are priorities for you, the Dell W5300n will do the job.
In appearance, the Dell W5300n closely resembles its less powerful sibling, the , with its potbellied cube of stylishly mottled, charcoal-and-silver, matte-finished plastic. At 17.2 inches by 20.2 inches by 16 inches, (W, D, H) and weighing more than 40 pounds, the W5300n is average size for a workgroup laser.
The W5300n's 250-sheet-maximum paper-output tray dominates the top of the printer. A thin wire and a built-in, plastic paper support keep the paper from sliding out. Protruding from underneath the paper support is the printer's control panel--a simple array of five buttons below a one-line LCD panel. The first button scrolls through menu options. The other buttons control menu selections and halt print jobs.
The W5300n's toner cartridge sits behind its front panel. Right under the cartridge, there's a multipurpose feeder tray for hand-feeding envelopes, transparencies, and other alternate types of media. Opening a panel in the rear of the printer creates a straight paper path for heavyweight media. A single, 500-sheet capacity input tray resides at the base of the unit. You can add as many as four additional paper trays to the stack, including 250-sheet trays for $179 each and 500-sheet trays for $229 each, bumping up the maximum input paper supply to much more than 2,000 sheets, making this a good value. An envelope feeder that holds 85 envelopes is also available from Dell for $229.
With the add-ons, the W5300n perfectly fulfills the role of high-capacity, heavy-duty laser printer. However, like its predecessor, the M5200n, the plastic parts on the W5300n, especially its panels, hinges, and internal paper guide, seem too thin and flimsy to survive a long tenure in the workplace without some breakage.
The W5300n is a versatile printer, supporting USB and Ethernet connections and being compatible with many corporate operating systems. To handle an office workload, the W5300n comes with 80MB of installed RAM. Two SDRAM DIMM slots and one INA (integrated network architecture) slot provide space for an additional 256MB of memory.
You can connect the W5300n in several different ways. On the back of the printer, a USB 2.0 port (cable sold separately) connects the printer directly to a print server or a PC. A built-in 10/100BaseT Ethernet port (for network printing) is located beneath the USB port. The Dell owner's manual provides step-by-step installation instructions for connecting the printer locally to a print server, for attaching it directly to a network using a remote print server, or for using it in a small workgroup without a print server. We found installation of the W5300n on a single PC to be extremely fast and easy, and installing the printer on a network and the software on a client PC was equally smooth and only slightly more time-consuming. Unfortunately, should problems arise, neither the owner's manual nor the user guide provides more than cursory setup troubleshooting assistance. And hopefully, workgroups will locate this printer in a faraway corner, because when it receives a print job, it makes noises like a Boeing 757 during takeoff.
Once installed, the W5300n's drivers provide an easy-to-use file tab design that makes it simple and quick to select print options such as orientation, paper size, and print quality. Behind the scenes, the W5300n supports PostScript Level 3, PCL 5e, PCL 6 Emulation, 89 PCL, and 158 PostScript scalable fonts. If you are interested in conserving paper, you can add a duplex printing unit for $249.
The W5300n is compatible with a generous number of operating systems. The minimum system requirements for installation are Windows 98 or later; Novell 3.x, or later: Linux Caldera 2.4, Red Hat Linux 7.2 or later, SuSE Linux 7.2 or later, TurboLinux 6.0 or later, and AS 2.1. The W5300n is not Mac compatible, however.
In CNET Labs tests, the Dell W5300n was easily the fastest workgroup laser printer we've tested for text and graphics speed. While not close to Dell's idealized 45 pages per minute (ppm), the W5300n still produced some remarkable performance numbers. Tested in default mode at 600 dots per inch (dpi), the W5300n rolled out text at 27.4ppm, easily beating the 24.2ppm former speed champion, the HP LaserJet 4200. On a mixed text/graphics document, the W5300n slowed down only a mite to 24.7ppm, and only the HP LaserJet 2300dtn, with its 13.9ppm speed, comes within spitting distance of that score.
Moving as quickly as it does, the W5300n doesn't linger over print-quality details. Instead, it produces legible, dark-looking, good-but-not-perfect monochrome text. The W5300n's monochrome graphics were decent but not stellar. The graphical elements in CNET Labs' mixed graphics/text test document came out looking less dark and dense than they should have, and the shading in the gradients was neither smooth nor even.
For somewhat better-looking text and graphics, users can set the W5300n to print at its maximum coverage of 1,200x1,200dpi; however, this will reduce the print speeds.
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The Dell W5300n laser printer is supported by an industry-standard one-year limited warranty that is generally on a par with HP's workgroup printer support. Dell includes onsite, next-business-day tech support and toll-free, 24/7 telephone help. If the W5300n requires parts or onsite service during the year, Dell will provide this within one business day. A three-year limited warranty, recommended by Dell for most businesses, costs $199 extra. This can be upgraded to Gold Technical Support for an additional $89. At the Gold level, Dell promises callers reduced hold times, quick access to senior-level technicians, and faster problem-resolution times. A four-year limited warranty is also available for $349.
What you don't get from Dell, however, is thorough technical support through either the printer manual or the software. The printed owner's manual for the W5300n, for example, provides installation instructions but does not include a troubleshooting guide. There is a troubleshooting section in the user guide on the CD-ROM, but this covers basic printing problems and print-quality issues, and it doesn't offer any real solutions for networking difficulties or other potentially complex problems. With the W5300n, small offices will require a technical-support staff.
Dell's online support site provides drivers, downloads, FAQs, user manuals, a searchable knowledge base, and a community forum containing many product-specific message boards.