Over the past couple of months, I've had a colour laser in the office, the Dell 2130cn. This is a great piece of kit that does everything it promises, and then some, but at the cost of pricey consumables and accessories.
Setting up the 19kg, black and boxy 2130cn is very easy even for moderately tech-savvy users. The design of the printer is well thought through, and assembling all the bits and pieces didn't take long. My review printer came with all the additional extras - Wifi dongle, an additional 250-sheet feeder, and a duplex unit - that too were easy to plug in and get working.
Dell's software for the printer is of high quality, and walk you through the basics of getting the 2130cn up and running. Once you get better acquainted with the printer, it's worth delving through the large number of options in the printer software and driver, to get the best out of the 2130cn. Playing around with the image quality settings for instance makes a big difference and you get lots of diagnostic info and usage stats out of the software.
Full marks to Dell for the good design of the printer, and the included software. What's missing is native Mac OS X support, which is a real shame. However, the printer is networkable with Ethernet and WiFi, and with a bit of tweaking, you should be able to get Macs talking to the 2130cn that way.
Speaking of networking, that's a particularly strong suit of the 2130cn: you get full IP printing support with a server onboard the machine. This runs over 10/100Mbit/s Ethernet or Wifi. Plus, you get a USB 2.0 port too.
The promised output speed from the 400MHz print engine with 256MB RAM (upgradeable to 1,280MB) is 16ppm for colour, and 20ppm for black text. Actual speeds depend of course on the complexity of the material printed out; I've churned through about 750 pages worth of A4 sheets so far and informal timing tests show you get close to rated speed for black text - 16 to 18ppm depending on the composition of the page.
Colour documents are another matter though: simple graphs and coloured text zoom out of the printer at over 10ppm, but adding images to the mix can halve that result, depending on how big they are and how much work the printer has to do processing the pictures.
Either way, the 2130cn is quick to start working after waking up and calibrating and for the price, provides more than adequate print speed for workgroups and small offices, ditto the 40,000 pages per month duty cycle. What's more, the printer is quiet going from completely silent in standby mode to a non-obtrusive hum when printing.
Even though 600 by 600 dots per inch sounds quite average, the print quality from the PCL6 and PCL5 capable 2130cn is sterling. Documents come out with clean, crisp type and I was pretty happy with the image quality too. You'll get better quality for photos with a high-end inkjet, but at the cost of slower performance and potentially, higher consumables cost.
If keeping power costs down is important, you should know that the Dell 2130cn is rated 240V/0.5A while operating. That's a fair bit of electricity being consumed while the 2130cn is printing. On standby however, the energy consumption drops to 28 Watts.
Swings and roundabouts pricing
Now, the cost: currently, Dell sells the 2130cn for $669 including GST, delivery within 7-10 working days and a one-year exchange warranty. I've seen the 2130cn advertised by Dell for as low as $449 in New Zealand, and in the US, it currently goes for US$269 which is close to the original price of $549 when the printer was sent to me a while ago.
While $669 isn't highway robbery for a colour laser as feature-rich as the 2130cn, the price should be closer to the $500 mark to be fair. And Dell: USB cable not included with the printer, but costs another $33?
Here's the offical pricelist for consumables and accessories, in NZ$:
From the above, it's apparent that you want to go with the high-capacity toner cartridges, as they more than halve the cost per page. Replacing them all however costs $921.36 in total, which is high. All in all, Dell's consumables seem costlier than those for competing brands. That kind of pricing will drive Dell customers to remanufactured toner cartridges, which is probably not the intention.
As for the accessories, ouch. If I add it all up, my review printer costs $2,211.01 incl. GST. I'm at loss to explain why the additional 250-sheet tray for instance costs almost as much as the printer itself. I was able to fit in a standard 256MB DDR-2 200-pin SODIMM into the 2130cn, so if you need memory expansion, go elsewhere than Dell and save a bundle.
There you have it: the printer itself is cheap, with great performance in terms of features, speed and and output quality - you won't be disappointed in those areas. However, the high cost of consumables and accessories detract from the overall good impression of the Dell 2130cn.
Dell 2130cn network colour laser printer Pros:
* Good performance
* Great print quality
* Excellent network support
* Good range of accessories
* High cost of consumables and accessories
* No native Mac OS X support