- Review Price: £505.00
Why would you pay over £500 for a mono laser printer, when you can get a decent machine for a fifth of the price? There are two main reasons: speed and running costs. If you must have your documents quickly and you want high yields from your consumables, the price of the printer itself rises quite steeply. Dell’s 3330dn is, we guess, designed for small, busy workgroups who need both of these features.
We can only guess this is the target market, because this fast, capable machine comes with a standard print tray of just 250 sheets – less than that if you use standard 80gsm office paper. This is really silly, as if you’re after a printer rated at just under 40ppm, it must be because you have a lot of documents to print in the course of a day. Even if those documents are short, you’re going to be refilling this machine far more often than you should, unless you invest in the optional 550-sheet second tray, of course.
This is a big, square-cut printer, Dell black and with a large desktop footprint. Even with its large size, it manages to cover its control panel with every page it prints. The control panel itself is well laid out, with a four-line, bitmapped and backlit LCD display, menu controls and a number pad for secure printing via PINs. While this is handy, it would be more useful if combined with a front panel USB port, for walk-up printing. Sadly, there’s no such port.
There is a USB port at the back, of course, along with a 10/100 Ethernet connection and a legacy parallel socket, so the 3330dn can be set up in many different environments.
Pull down the front panel and you have access to the combined drum and toner cartridge. The toner cartridge clips into position on the drum, as they each have different service lives. Cartridge replacement is a two minute job and, unlike paper replacement, won’t be needed often.
Dell supplies drivers for both PCL and PostScript and for Windows, Mac OS 9.2 and OS X, UNIX, NetWare and several Linux distributions. There’s also a copy of Bonjour, as well as Dell’s supplies monitoring applet.
As we’ve often said, you pay heavily for speed in a printer and the 3330dn is certainly a fast machine. It’s rated at 38ppm and while we didn’t see quite that speed, it did manage over 30ppm on our 20-page text print, 30.77ppm, in fact. Part of this excellent result is due to the very fast start-up time, where pages start to flow after about seven seconds.
Shorter documents aren’t quite as quick, but we still saw our five-page text print appear in 17 seconds (17.65ppm) and the five-page text and graphics job finish in 16 seconds (18.75ppm). Printing our 20-page document in duplex mode also saw a healthy result of 16.67 sides per minute, so for most work you could set this printer to duplex by default. A 15 x 10cm photo at the highest, 1,200dpi print quality, completed in 29 seconds, though it’s faster at the default 600dpi resolution.
Text print is virtually faultless, with almost letterpress quality characters looking crisp and very professional. There’s no sign of any spatter or jagged edges to curves and diagonals.
Greyscale tones are also very good, with minimal banding and a good range of different greys, so even quite subtle colour shades in an original can be differentiated from its mono output. Detail levels are also good in our photo test piece, though some darker shades are lost to black.
There are two main consumables for the 3330dn: drum and toner cartridges. The toner cartridge is available in two different yields: 7,000 and 14,000 ISO pages and in either return programme or non-return programme variants. The return programme cartridges are cheaper, as long as you are prepared to return them to source at the end of their life. Dell can provide assistance with this, in a similar way to Lexmark.
The imaging drum is rated at 30,000 pages and when you do the maths using the high yield, return programme toner cartridge, you come out with a cost per ISO page of 1.84p, including 0.7p paper. This is an extremely good figure, normally only equalled by laser printers costing considerably more.
There are two factors preventing the 3330dn receiving a recommendation. We think designing a 200 to 250-sheet paper tray into a fast, workgroup printer is a fairly cynical way of selling optional second paper trays and even with the machine’s excellent print quality and speed, £500 still seems a lot for this class of printer. It’s hard to see why there should be quite such a premium on print speed, among all the attributes required of a modern office printer.
Score in detail
Print Speed 10
Print Quality 9
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