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With the vast array of different printers on the market these days, ranging from low budget monochrome lasers to high flying, photo quality inkjets and full colour laser printers, it can be difficult to know where to turn when considering buying a new printer. Clearly there is no point in paying more than you need to, likewise it would be false economy to buy something that doesn't really suit your needs. I was lucky in that I received this black and white laser printer from Dell as a free sample. Lucky also, in that the only other printer I have at home is a colour inkjet multifunction device, which proves costly to run, especially as much of my printing is in black and white. Laser printers generally work out much cheaper than inkjets to run as the cost of toner is relative to the shear number of pages that can be printed per cartridge. Laser printers are popular among businesses due to that difference in cost per page, and also a massive difference in the speed, resulting in higher productivity. This printer comes in two distinctly different models, the 1720, and the 1720dn. For the purposes of this review, I am reviewing the 1720dn. There are a few fundamental differences between the two models, but the main one being that the 1720dn is networkable, whereas the plain 1720 is not. There are also small differences in the amount of installed memory, although the duty cycle remains the same for both models. As a laser printer, this machine is obviously bigger than a standard inkjet printer and this would also need to be taken into account before committing to a purchase as you will need to ensure you have sufficient space, especially if you are planning on using an inkjet as well. Another reason I prefer laser printers is that you can walk away and leave them to print a big print job without having to constantly top up the paper supply. If you are printing a large document, say 50 pages or more, the laser will finish printing long before the inkjet has started on page 7! The speed difference, for some, will be a deciding factor in choosing to make a purchase, for businesses in particular where time is money, it is just common sense to purchase a printer that is fit for purpose, whilst increasing efficiency and productivity.
Design, Build and Dimensions
The 1720dn looks very stylish, it is build from sturdy plastic and comes in a classic black and silver colour. The printer itself would look good wherever it is positioned, either in an office or home environment. I particularly like it as it compliments the silver colour of my monitor and the black and silver design of my computer. The dimensions of the printer are fairly compact as workgroup laser printers go, with a width of 15.6 inches, depth of 13.6 inches, height of 10 inches and a weight coming in at an impressive 25.1lbs. The front of the printer is fairly rounded which I like. I hate laser printers that are square and blocky, the rounded edges add a touch of elegance and class to a printer which is already screaming personality.
Speed, Technology and Media Handling
As I touched on earlier, laser printers are incredibly fast when compared to inkjet printers, and this is largely down to the print method. Fusing toner onto paper is much quicker than forming an image from blobs of ink. When printing standard A4 pages, print speed is up to 28 pages per minute, although this of course depends on the nature of the print job. Jobs loaded with pictures will take longer to complete than plain text documents due to the nature of spooling the job to the printer. Printing on letter size paper gives a maximum print speed of 30 pages per minute, again content dependant. This is an impressive print speed and perfectly adequate for my requirements. I use this printer at home and so don't very often print large jobs, but I could see that this printer would be just as useful in my office where large print jobs are the norm. The 1720dn is also capable of duplexing (printing on both sides of the paper), without having to purchase an additional duplexing unit, unlike some other laser printers. This is perfect for saving paper, especially when only printing draft versions of documents or when double sided print is more appropriate. Double sided printing takes a little longer as the printer prints the first side of the page before sucking the paper back in and turning it over to print the reverse side. The maximum resolution of this printer is 1200 dpi x 1200 dpi, which is perfectly adequate for any print job, including images. Bear in mind though that because this printer is black and white, and colour images sent to print will of course appear black and white. This printer comes complete with an ARM9 366MHz processor which works well with the standard installed RAM of 32MB to give an impressive print speed and fast image spooling. Although the printer comes with 32MB RAM pre-installed, it is possible to increase this up to 160MB. This may be useful for companies who routinely send very large print jobs, perhaps several hundred pages at a time. The printer comes with one standard 800 sheet input tray and one manual input tray. The amount of media that the main tray is capable of holding depends on the type and weight of the paper you are using. For standard 80g/sqm paper you will achieve a maximum fill capacity of 800 pages. The output bin is capable of holding around 150 sheets, so for big print jobs it will be necessary to routinely empty this to enable printing to continue. Don't worry, if its not emptied, the printing wont simply continue spewing all over the floor, the printer will simply stop the job until the output bin is emptied. This printer is capable of handling cards, transparencies, envelopes, labels and plain paper. Just a small word of warning regarding labels. It is important to select labels that are appropriate for a laser printer, as the heat generated inside the machine can make some labels come unstuck, and then you end up with a mess of labels stuck round all the rollers! Not pretty, and not easy to sort out either!
Picture Quality and Colour Sensitivity
When using this printer to print pictures you need to bear in mind that it is only going to produce black and white images. In some cases black and white images are just what you need, but if you need to print something in colour, you are going to need to find a different printer on which to do this. As far as the picture quality goes, for a monochrome laser, the picture quality is very good. Bear in mind that because colours are being replaced with varying hews of black, grey and white that it may be difficult to see the image in any particular level of detail. As far as colour sensitivity goes, I am of course referring to the printers use of blacks and greys in combining these to print an understandable image. The 1720dn does this very well indeed and only certain complex images may be undecipherable.
Ease Of Use, Driver availability and Installation
Installation of the 1720dn is very easy, simply install the driver (easy to download from Dell's website), plug the printer in and let it pick itself up and install. Simple as that! I have this printer networked through my router so that the other half is also able to print to it through her laptop. Setting up the printer in this way is just as simple. Install the driver as usual on the main computer and share the printer. Connect the printer to your router using a standard Ethernet cable and allow it to obtain an IP address. Print a printer configuration sheet from the printer to obtain the IP address. On both computers on the network set the printer port to the IP address of the printer and Bob's your Uncle!The printer itself is very easy to use, in all ways from printing to changing the toner cartridge. There is a standard paper tray at the bottom which is very simple to open to top up with paper. The manual feeder is very simple to use, simply insert your media in the slot and the printer will automatically feed it in so you don't have to stand there and hold it. Changing the print cartridge is as easy as pressing a button on the front left of the printer to release the front cover. Then it is simply a case of pulling out the spent cartridge and inserting a new one! Easy.
Connectivity and Reliability
The 1720dn can be connected in any one of three ways to your computer or network. More commonly these days in a home environment, or as a standalone printer in an office environment, connection will be made using a standard USB 2.0 cable. For older computers you can still connect using a parallel IEEE-1284 cable, although it is very rare these days for a printer to be connected in this way! For a home or office network the standard method of connection is via CAT-5e 10/100 BaseT Ethernet cabling. As for reliability, well, I have had this printer for a year or so and it is still going strong, in fact I am still using the same toner cartridge that came with the printer, despite having printed a whole load of pages. I have only ever had one paper jam, and that is when the other half decided to try and print onto a mars bar wrapper - don't ask!
Value for Money
Well as I mentioned earlier, I didn't pay for this printer as it was a free sample from Dell, however it is still possible to buy this model on Ebay from around £90. This is well worth the money, considering at the time the printer was released it would have retailed at around the £600 mark. Toner cartridges last a long time and are available directly from Dell for £79.20, or from around £30 on Ebay. Overall I would say this printer offers fantastic value for money, considering the ease of use, stylish design and longevity.
Also posted on Ciao under my account name TheHairyGodmother