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Dell 3330dn review

Verdict

The 3330dn boats low printing costs plus good access and print security options, but print quality is below par

Review Date: 14 Jan 2010

Reviewed By: Dave Mitchell

Price when reviewed: £365 (£429 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £75
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
3 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
3 stars out of 6

Performance
3 stars out of 6

Dell's latest workgroup laser may look a nondescript black cube, and yet it's anything but. This compact desktop box claims a high print speed of 38ppm, has a true top resolution of 1,200 x 1,200dpi and manages to squeeze in an integral duplex unit as well.

For such a high-speed laser the single 250-sheet standard tray is a bit miserly, but those with a big appetite for forests can cough up £89 for the extra 550-sheet lower tray. The printer only comes with 64MB of memory, but if you want more Dell charges a modest £18 for 256MB.

Printing costs are reasonable. Adding the cost of the imaging drum to the standard toner cartridge delivers a page for 1.5p. The high capacity cartridge drops this to just over a penny and you can lower these further by going for Dell's buy-and-return recycling option.

Dell 3330dn

The lowest price drops to only 0.9p and to achieve this you'll need to send the cartridge back to Dell. We also noted that Dell doesn't engage in the dubious practice of shipping printers with half-full cartridges as you get a standard 7,000 page version included.

The printer's web console provides plenty of information about consumables but nothing about what jobs have been printed and who sent them. Print security is good though, as the driver allows you to assign a PIN to a job that must be entered at the printer's keypad to release it. You can also reserve jobs in the printer's memory for later printing and verify the first copy of multi-copy jobs before releasing the rest.

Access security to printer settings is tight as the 3330dn supports its own internal accounts, LDAP, Kerberos, passwords and PINs and you can decide which settings each user or group is allowed to view and change. A pity the manual doesn't bother to explain how to use any of them and even Lexmark's equivalent E360DN manual is equally blank on these valuable features.

In our real world tests the top print speed was only achievable using the 600dpi or 1,200IQ driver settings. A basic 38-page Word document was delivered in 59 seconds, and moving up to 1,200dpi dropped its speed to 19ppm. Duplexing the same document at 1,200IQ was a swift affair with it taking a shade over two minutes. Our heavy duty 24-page DTP document faired similarly, taking 75 seconds to complete at a true 1,200dpi.

We were hard pushed to see any differences between all three resolutions and although text was clean and sharp, print quality for photos, graphics and charts was unimpressive. Excessive banding was a problem and detail in darker areas of photos was non-existent. We fiddled with the driver's toner darkness setting but as more detail was revealed in these areas, the rest of the picture rapidly became washed out.

Despite its high print speed and comparatively low price, the 3330dn fails to shine in other key areas. If you want the best mono laser in this sector then check out the networked version of Kyocera's A-Listed FS-2020D as it's similarly priced, has even lower printing costs and better output quality.

Author: Dave Mitchell

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