Dell 1100 review

Price when reviewed

You don’t have to be particularly keen-eyed to spot the similarity between the Samsung ML-1610 and Dell 1100 printers – they’re actually built around the same chassis and print engine. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing: they’re actually smaller than most inkjets, so sit tidily on a desk, and at £69 each they’re very well priced too.

Dell 1100 review

Surprisingly, in spite of sharing the same print engine and cartridges (we found the cartridges in our review units were actually interchangeable), the ML-1610 and 1100 don’t offer equivalent performance. The Samsung is quoted at 16ppm, while Dell claims just 14ppm for its unit. Samsung’s claims turned out to be slightly conservative in our tests, and our 5 per cent mono document printed in just two minutes, 57 seconds after processing the job for 15 seconds – a rate of 17ppm. The Dell took 32 seconds longer to print the same document, justifying Dell’s claims of 14ppm. Things improved still further for the ML-1610 with our 12-page Excel document, which pushed the speed up to 18ppm, while processing times dropped to 11 seconds. The Dell improved to 15ppm, and its processing time dropped to 14 seconds. Both printers have just 2MB of onboard RAM, although this didn’t have an impact on performance in our graphics test. A 24-page DTP document from Word processed in just 15 seconds and printed at 17.3ppm for the Samsung, and processed in 14 seconds and printed at 14ppm for the Dell. The Samsung achieved the same impressive speed in our four-page PDF, although the Dell slowed slightly to 12ppm. Both printers processed the job in 12 seconds.

It would be unfair to expect great image quality from such cheap printers, but both the Dell and Samsung returned poor photos, and struggled with even basic mono graphics. Photos were intelligible, but suffered both banding and unsubtle dithering artefacts. This led to some awful greyscale ramps – the print engine clearly has difficulty with subtle colour gradations – and we saw an ugly mix of stepping, banding and overly obvious dithering in our tricky image tests.

Business graphics suffered similar problems, with small print being difficult to read against a grey background. Both printer drivers include the options to darken text or print text as black, but this didn’t make text on grey backgrounds any more readable. Plain text quality was perfect, however, and that’s really what these units are designed for. Characters have crisp edges and, so long as you stay away from complex colour letterheads, the ML-1610 is ideal for letters, reports and memos.

Both units share the same sturdy build quality. The doors hiding the toner and fuser units have a reassuringly solid feel to them, and the paper tray doesn’t have a door enclosing it, simply a removable dust guard, further simplifying matters. Both our printers became rather hot during extended runs, which, combined with a compact paper path, meant that some pages were prone to furling.

One area where inkjets hold an edge over lasers is noise pollution, and it’s fair to say that neither the Samsung nor the Dell are quiet. High-pitched whining and the clunking of the paper-feed mechanism mean that home offices in particular may find printing a distraction. However, it’s nothing compared to the noise made by larger workgroup printers, and the extra noise is more than offset by the advantages in the speed and cost per page. A more serious disadvantage to having either of these printers on a desk is the unmistakeable whiff of ozone emitted during long print jobs – aside from being unpleasant, it’s also poisonous, so we’d recommend keeping such units at a reasonable distance. The cooling vents are on the sides of the unit, so in spite of the small footprint you’ll need to keep it in a relatively open area.

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