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Dell 3330dn Printer Product

High Technology Product Reviews | Dell 3330dn Printer Product
The Dell 3330dn Laser Printer ($599.99 direct) is the kind of workhorse mono laser that's easy to like. It offers fast speed, a low running cost, and reasonably good paper handling. Its text quality is a touch subpar for a mono laser, but perfectly acceptable for the vast majority of small offices and workgroups. Most important, it delivers a more than reasonable balance of features for the price.

Specifications
Printer Category
Laser
Type
Printer Only
Color or Monochrome
Monochrome
Technology (for laser category only)
Laser
Connection Type
USB, Parallel, Ethernet
Maximum Standard Paper Size
Legal
Direct Printing from Cameras
No
Rated speed at Default Resolution (Mono)
40 ppm
Duplexing
Yes
Like the Editor's Choice Lexmark E462dtn ($749 direct, 4 stars) that I reviewed a few months ago, the 3330dn is aimed primarily at micro and small offices. The default paper handling features include an automatic duplexer for printing on both sides of a page and a 300-sheet paper capacity divided into a 250-sheet tray and 50-sheet multipurpose tray. If you need more capacity, you can add a 550-sheet optional tray ($99.99 direct) for a total of 850 sheets, which should be ample for most small offices and workgroups.

Setup and Speed
Physical setup is absolutely standard. Set the 10.2- by 16.6- by 14.5-inch printer in place, remove the packing materials, and load paper. Installing the printer on a network is also reasonably typical: Plug in an Ethernet cable and run the automated installation routine. However, there's one potentially confusing step.

After the installation program finds the printer on the network, it shows a list of printers along with the message to choose at least one printer from the list. If you're knowledgeable enough about printers, and take a close look at the list, you'll probably guess correctly that it's actually a list of different drivers for the one printer. Unfortunately, less sophisticated users may have trouble getting past this step without calling Dell's support line for help.

I installed the 3330dn on a Windows Vista system. According to Dell, it also comes with drivers for Vista x64 and both 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 and XP as well as drivers for Windows Server 2003 and 2008, Windows 2000 and Server 2000, and Mac OS 9.2 and OS X 10.2 and higher. In addition, you can download drivers for various flavors of Unix and Linux from the Dell Web site, and get SAP drivers from SAP.

The 3330dn delivers suitable speed for its 40 page per minute (ppm) engine. I timed it on our Business Applications suite (using QualityLogic's hardware and software) at a total of 5 minutes and 40 seconds. That's significantly slower in a statistical sense than either the Editors' Choice Lexmark E462dtn, at 4:39, or the Editors' Choice Lexmark T650n ($749 direct, 4 stars), at 5:07, but it's not much slower than either in a practical sense, particularly for any one print job. Keep in mind too that both of the Lexmark printers are more expensive. The 3330dn is impressively fast for its price.

Output Quality
The 3330dn isn't as strong for output quality as it is for speed, but the quality overall is reasonably good for a mono laser, despite slightly subpar text.

The good news is that subpar text for a mono laser is still relatively high quality for printers in general. On our tests, more than half of the fonts qualified as both highly readable and well formed at 8 points, and some passed both thresholds at sizes as small as 4 points. Unless you have an unusual need for small fonts, or need the best possible text quality for desktop publishing applications, you shouldn't have any complaints about the text.

Graphics quality was a match for the vast majority of mono lasers. I saw a number of relatively minor issues, including slight visible dithering in the form of mild patterns and uneven pile height, which shows as a speckled effect in solid areas, but only from certain angles. On the plus side, thin lines held much better than with most printers.

The graphics output is certainly good enough for any internal business need and, depending on how much of a perfectionist you are, potentially good enough for PowerPoint handouts going to customers or clients. Photo quality is easily good enough for printing recognizable photos on Web pages, which is about as much as you can expect from a mono laser.

Other Issues
The 3330dn earns points for its low running cost, at a claimed 1.7 cents per page with the printer's highest capacity cartridges. The standard one-year warranty also counts as a plus, with Dell shipping the replacement printer immediately, without waiting for you to send in the non-working printer, and Dell picking up the shipping cost in both directions.

Although the 3330dn isn't a match for the E462dtn or T650n in speed or output quality, it offers one clear advantage over either of those Editors' Choice printers: a lower price. More important, the lower price is paired with essentially the same claimed running cost, which gives the Dell printers a lower total cost of ownership as well. The Dell 3330dn is certainly a reasonable choice in any case, and if you'd rather sacrifice a little speed and output quality for the sake of saving a little money, it will likely be the better fit.

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