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Dell 3130cn Colour Laser Workgroup Printer Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £351.32

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.

Dell claims a top speed for the 3130cn of 30ppm, printing black text and 25ppm, printing colour. Our five-page text print took 24 seconds, though there’s a 15 second warm-up to add to this, if the printer is sleeping. Without the warm-up time, this equates to 12.5ppm, less than half the listed speed. However, when you increase the page count to 20 pages, a print still completes in 52 seconds, giving a speed of 23ppm, not too far off the headline figure.

Our five-page, colour and black print took 24 seconds, giving a colour speed of 12.5ppm, so overall the printer doesn’t come that close to its claimed speeds. However the speed it does achieve is adequate for most uses, unless you’re running the machine in a very busy workgroup.

Text prints are clean and show little sign of spatter, or jagged edges to circular or diagonal strokes. Colour graphics are very smooth, with no banding and little in the way of dither patterns to distract you. However, some of the colour shades are darker than they should be and registration of black text with coloured backgrounds is not ideal, showing haloes on some characters.

Our test photo print reproduced well, again with very little sign of banding, reasonable levels of foreground detail and good shadow details. Edges are not quite as sharp as with some of the printer’s rivals, though.

At first sight, there appear to be quite a few consumables in this machine. When we checked with Dell, though, the fuser, belt unit and separator roller all have service lives of 100,000 pages, so can effectively be considered lifetime components. This leaves the combined drum and toner cartridges and these are available in two capacities, of 3,000 and 4,000 pages for colour and black at standard yield, or 9,000 for each in high yield. Guess which cartridges are supplied with the printer out of the box?

Actually, 3,000 and 4,000 page cartridges are not bad yields these days for a new printer. We used the high-yield cartridges to calculate page costs and came up with figures of 1.84p for black and 6.31p for colour. These figures are both pretty good, when compared with other machines in the same price bracket. Even though it’s hard to find Dell’s cartridges at many outlets other than Dell, the company hasn’t used its market position to the disadvantage of its customers.


This is a perfectly serviceable workgroup colour laser printer for general office use. Although it’s a bit on the big and bulky side, there are plenty of larger and more expensive machines offering similar duty cycles. It’s easy to service, is reasonably expandable, gives better than average print quality and is cheap to run.

Trusted Score

Score in detail

  • Print Speed 8
  • Features 7
  • Value 9
  • Print Quality 8

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