Dell Colour Printer 720 review

Price when reviewed

When we originally started testing these printers three months ago, Dell only offered one A4 inkjet printer that didn’t have a built-in scanner – the Colour 720. Since then, it’s replaced the 720 with the 725 (which is essentially the same as the Lexmark Z735), but we left the 720 in this group test as it’s still available on some online shops and because anyone who’s already bought the 720 should read our findings.

Dell Colour Printer 720 review

The 720 is one of only two inkjets on test that can’t officially print photos – Lexmark’s Z735 is the other. These two are intended for printing text documents and the occasional colour document, even if Dell’s documentation and driver mistakenly refers to the 720 as the ‘Photo Printer 720’.

Like the Canon iP2200 and Lexmark Z735, the 720 is a very basic inkjet. It weighs next to nothing and all you get in the box is a slot-in PSU (like the Lexmark’s), a power cable, driver CD and manual. Installing the two cartridges is easy and, not surprisingly, the driver is virtually identical to Lexmark’s, simply with a few Dell logos dotted around.

This is no bad thing, as it’s task driven; you select what kind of document you want to print and all the settings are made for you – paper type, size and layout. It was odd to see that ‘print a photo’ was one of the options, so naturally we had to try it out.

The 720 is the only printer that doesn’t support borderless printing, so 6 x 4in and A4 images emerged with 5mm white borders around them. And we can see why Dell didn’t want to advertise the 720 as a photo printer – the quality falls well short of the other budget printers. Even from a foot away, grain is easily visible and is enough on its own to ruin colour and mono prints. But another reason not to print photos is speed. It took a mind-numbing nine minutes simply to churn out a single 6 x 4in print at best quality and a foot-tapping 25 minutes, 24 seconds to print our A4 photo montage. That’s enough time to print seven A4 photos on the HP Deskjet 5940.

However, Dell intended users to print letters, web pages and other colour documents on the 720, and our Streetmap colour page on plain paper wasn’t noticeably worse than others. There was no colour bleeding and street names were about as readable as on other printers here. The same could be said for the 5 per cent text document. In normal mode, characters were well defined and only when looking close up was slight spidering noticeable. Still, the Canons’ mono text remained blacker and more laser-like.

Another surprise was that only the Canon iP2200 was faster at printing in normal mode – we saw the 720 churn out our ten-page mono text file at 5.6ppm. In draft mode, this only increased to 7.1ppm and led to blurred characters, so is best left unused.

Dell was quite right: this printer isn’t suited for photos. We certainly don’t recommend anyone seeks it out to buy, but if you own it already then it’s only worth keeping for mundane tasks that use plain paper. In fact, the most economical move you can make is probably to recycle it: remember, you’ll need to spend £52 to replace its two cartridges. When that first cartridge does run out, take a very close look a the budget alternatives from Canon, Epson and HP.

Running costs

T o be fair to Dell, we should immediately say that it never marketed the 720 as a photo printer. But with that minor caveat out of the way, we should also point out that – quite apart from all the mentions of photo printing in the driver – it’s also bundling the ink cartridges with 6 x 4in photo paper at a heavily discounted rate. As such, it clearly isn’t entirely discouraging people either.

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