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Monolithic design is something we've come to expect from Dell and its new 2135cn colour laser multifunction is one of the monolithic-est. This is a multifunction colour laser with an unconventional design but a very conventional purpose. Colour printing, scanning, copying and fax are all within its remit.
Completely encased in Dell's frosted black, this machine has a design forced on it by a single change in the laser engine. The printer feeds paper from the front of its 250-sheet paper tray or single-sheet multipurpose slot, and deposits pages on the top of the printer unit, feeding from front to back. Since the scanner has to be mounted above, this could make it difficult to extract finished pages.
To get around this, Dell has mounted the scanner on a single pedestal on the left-hand side, leaving the right-hand side open, so you can take pages from the side. The control panel, an exercise in simplicity, sits on top of the feed mechanism, which delivers finished pages.
There's a simple, four-way ring of buttons, with a tick-mark confirmation button in the centre and four function keys in a diamond round the outside of the main controls. A number pad is fitted on the right, including facilities for typing e-mail addresses and, at the left-hand end, is a strangely simplistic, backlit, four-line LCD display, with none of the cosmetic niceties we've come to expect. This is a simple text display, whose messages will appeal more to the programmer than the marketing executive.
The flatbed scanner set on top of the 2135cn is a conventional 1,200ppi design, with a 35-page Automatic Documents Feeder (ADF), as well as the flatbed itself. At the back of the multifunction are sockets for USB and Ethernet, plus two for phone line and handset.
Pull down the front panel of the printer and you can see the four photoconductor drums and the transfer belt, but no toner cartridges. This is because, uniquely in our experience, these cartridges have been divorced from their drums and now load behind the right side panel of the printer.
We're not convinced this is an advantage as you have to leave plenty of space at front and side of the printer to open the necessary doors and covers for maintenance. It's much easier to pull combined drum and toner cartridges from slots at the front of the machine than to fiddle around at the side.
Software installation is surprisingly straightforward and comprises printer and scanner drivers. The user guide also claims a copy of PaperPort is included with the machine to handle OCR, but we could find no trace of this on the supplied CD. Without it you have to buy third-party software to extract text.