So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
- Colour, high paper capacity, economical to run, fast printing, easy to network
- Problems with image quality
The Dell Laser Printer 5100cn is fast and should be an economical choice for a workgroup that plows through paper, but its image quality could have been better.
Price$ 999.00 (AUD)
The big and boxy Dell Laser Printer 5100cn is a powerhouse that you can load up for high-speed, double-sided colour printing.
This printer allows you to add enough paper drawers at once to achieve a sizeable input capacity. The default paper drawer holds up to 500 sheets, while the fold-down multipurpose tray feeds up to 150 sheets. Only the multipurpose tray supports printing on thicker media, such as envelopes and labels. You can stack an optional 500-sheet paper drawer under the printer; you can also get an extra 1000-sheet drawer, and you can combine both of these with the default trays to get a massive total paper capacity of 2150 sheets. A built-in duplexer lets you print double-sided pages, and your completed printouts drop into a 250-sheet output bin atop the printer.
The 5100cn should be reasonably economical to run. Black toner cartridges, capable of printing up to 9000 pages according to Dell's page-yield estimates, are quite inexpensive. Each colour cartridge is rated for 8000 pages.
We also clocked the 5100cn as one of the fastest colour lasers in our performance tests. In monochrome this model spat out 21.1 pages per minute; in colour it produced 6.1ppm. We wish it had fared better in our quality tests, however. Though its text printing wasn't too bad, we did see some jagged and fuzzy edges in lettering. Our line-art sample displayed some banding and bleeding between closely spaced lines. The greyscale image had a significant amount of narrow horizontal banding and showed noticeable moire patterns on clothing. However, the greyscale photo also exhibited smooth tonal changes and plenty of detail in the darker areas. On colour photos, we saw good detail in shadows, but dot patterns were too visible in light areas, contributing to the photo's general softness.
Installing the printer on our network via its built-in Ethernet port was straightforward. Once we used the control panel (which features a backlit, two-line LCD screen) to assign a unique IP address and loaded the driver on our server, we were able to print from our PC without loading more software. The printer also has parallel and USB 2.0 ports. Unlike its small-office cousin, the Dell Laser Printer 3000cn, the 5100cn supports PostScript printing.
The Web-based administration software would be sufficient for a small office with few printers. The printed documentation consists of a setup poster, a quick reference sheet, an owner's manual and a user guide. The latter two have some overlap, with the user guide focusing on installation issues and the owner manual concentrating on printer maintenance (including information on using the printer with a Mac). The user guide is supplied only as a Windows Help file on the software CD-ROM.
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