It could be that some patents have run out, or just that several manufacturers have seen the advantages of going for a solid-state system in their page printers. Whatever the reason, both Brother and now Dell have decided to produce a range of printers based on LED illumination.
Rather than having a laser beam scan the photoconductor drum of their printers to create a page image, they have a page-width strip of high-intensity LEDs, which does the same job. As well as being a much simpler mechanism, it's also much more compact and Dell has made good use of this in its 1250c model, which it claims to be the smallest colour laser-like printer on the market.
It is indeed small - quite a bit smaller than some other manufacturers’ mono laser printers and very easy to include on a desktop as a personal printer. It takes on Dell's very square-cut, matt black lines and has a conventional layout. There's a single paper tray at the front, once you've folded down the front panel. Unusually, a cover for the paper stack slides out from within the machine, giving some protection against dust and spillage. Printed pages end up on the top surface of the printer, once you've folded out an extra paper support.
The control panel is simple, but effective, with buttons to start and stop a job and, appropriately, four LED indicators for toner level and two others for power and error conditions. At the back is a single USB socket, as the printer doesn't come with network support as standard.
A good bit of thought has gone into the design of the engine, apart from the use of LEDs. Pull down the right-hand side cover and the four, small toner cartridges can be seen sitting next to each other. Each of these unclips very simply and renewing a toner cartridge is about as simple as it could possibly be. There are no other consumables, as the drum and fuser are designed to be lifetime components.
Dell supports versions of Windows from 2000 onwards, as well as OS X from 10.3.9, but there's no mention of Linux support. If the machine proves as popular as we expect, however, it's unlikely to be long before the community creates a driver.