Consumer printers may have dropped to silly prices over the last couple of years, but business machines have fallen by similar percentages, so there are now several, fast, workgroup colour laser printers for under £400. Dell's latest offering is the 3130cn, with claimed speeds of up to 30ppm.
This is a big, black printer of the type future generations may gaze at, wondering how its bulk was tolerated on our desktops. Even Dell has contrived to make it look squatter on the desk, by foreshortening its height in its product shot - seen on the right of the picture below.
The main reason for its height is the vertically mounted, inline colour laser engine inside. Each of the four cartridges has its own, integral, photo-conductive drum and the transfer belt carries pages up from the 250-sheet paper tray, or the 150-sheet multipurpose tray set directly above. Pages feed to the top surface of the machine and its frosted black surface adds to the physical presence of the printer, as well as fitting with the Dell house style.
The control panel, set into its top surface, contains a two-line by 16-character LCD display and a simple set of controls, comprising a ring of four menu navigation buttons, with a large ‘tick' button in the centre, bordered by menu and cancel buttons.
At the back, indented into the printer's back plate are sockets for USB 2.0, Ethernet and parallel connections, with a Wi-Fi adapter as an option, if you need wireless connectivity. Other options include a 550-sheet paper tray, a duplex unit and more memory, useful if you regularly print complex documents.
The 3130cn is supplied with its cartridges preinstalled, but you need to remove each to pull off a protective tape and remove a paper shield for the drum, before slotting them back into place. The procedure is generally less fiddly than having to unpack each cartridge from separate packaging.
The Dell software includes drivers for both PCL and PostScript Level 3 and several monitoring applets, including one for helping you not to run out of consumables. You can also restrict use of the machine via up to 50 user accounts, so you can specify which people, for example, have access to colour print, or tie usage back to different cost centres.