The five-page, text and graphics test took 2:09 to complete, a paltry speed of 2.32ppm, while a single-page copy took 47 seconds. A 15 x 10cm print from a PC took 1:32, but longer from an SD card and 2:17 from a PictBridge camera.
The quality of black print is only reasonable, with considerable feathering of ink into the paper. It’s fine for home printing, but characters look very jaggy under a loupe, which gives them a general fussiness and imprecision when looked at with the naked eye. This is odd, as Dell claims to use a pigmented black ink, and the size of pigment particles normally restricts the amount of ink travel down the fibres of the paper.
Colour print is much better, with bright, vibrant graphics colours. Black text over coloured backgrounds is also well registered, giving a clean result. Photocopying of a page printed by the 968 also gives reasonable colour reproduction. Although there’s some fading, for many uses colour photocopies from this machine are adequate.
Four-colour photographic prints, on Dell glossy photo paper, aren’t wonderful. Colours come out too bright, giving an over-emphasised affect, and some shadow detail is lost. Scan quality is reasonable and the quoted resolution of 1200 x 4800dpi is certainly high enough for general use, including OCR.
If you’re printing four colours, there are just two consumables, a black and a tri-colour cartridge. These are only available from Dell and are priced rather higher than those for the Dell 928, which we tested some while ago. They also have a higher yield, though, giving lower costs per page than from that machine. The black page cost is around 4.3p, while a colour page comes out at around 8.7p. Both these figures are high, compared with the opposition.
These figures are based on tests conducted by QualityLogic for Dell, where the specification of the test pages isn’t revealed. However, we believe it to be similar to the ISO page yield test suite. Using our own ISO suite, we produced very similar figures to those quoted from QualityLogic, so used Dell’s figures in calculating page costs.
The Dell 968 is a neat, functional all-in-one printer, which should be fine for general use in the home or home office. Its speed is well below that quoted, but isn’t that different from other ink-jet all-in-ones from Dell’s main rivals. Print quality is good for colour graphics, though less good for photos and black text and running costs are reasonable in comparison with other machines costing around £100.
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