Dell 2350dn Laser Printer

Dell's 2350dn offers small and medium-size workgroups a well-rounded , with peppy performance, impressive print quality, and reasonable toner costs for a low price ($300 as of November 16, 2010).

A less-expensive sibling to two other well-regarded Dell monochrome lasers--the high-end and midrange --the 2350dn outperformed all competitors in its class. In our PC-platform tests, it achieved a swift 22.8 pages per minute while printing pages consisting mostly of plain text with a sprinkling of simple monochrome graphics. The same files on the Mac tumbled out at a somewhat slower pace of 19.2 ppm. Graphics performance, never a monochrome laser's strong suit, was above average. On the Mac, a complex PDF file containing text, finer graphics, and photos emerged at a middling speed of 4.2 ppm, while a page of snapshot-size photos and color bars printed on the PC popped out in the equivalent of a zippy 14.1 ppm. I observed some background roughness in the samples, but it was evenly distributed and thus less jarring. A limited range of middle grays flattened some images and created excessive shadows in another, but the output still looked better than the harsh images we see from most monochrome lasers.

Covering the basics well, the standard configuration includes a 250-sheet input tray and a 150-sheet top output tray. Duplexing is standard. A second, 550-sheet input tray is a $100 option. Pull open a front panel to use the 50-sheet multipurpose tray--not to be confused with the access door for the toner cartridges, which you can reach by pressing an easy-to-overlook right-side button to open the entire front of the printer. Inside, another discreet button (a little more signage would have been nice) separates the toner cartridge from the imaging drum. A single DIMM slot lets you augment the standard 32MB of memory with 128MB or 256MB of DDR1-DRAM ($60 or $80, respectively) from Dell, but the equivalent memory is probably cheaper from a third-party source.

Though the control panel has no word labels, its few buttons are easy to figure out. A two-line, 16-character monochrome LCD offers mostly plain-English messages.

The price of replacement toner is average overall, but it's lower than what you'd normally pay for refills for printers of similar size. Note that the returnable cartridges cost less than the non-returnable ones. A standard-size, 2000-page cartridge costs $59, which works out to 2.9 cents per page. The higher-yield, 6000-page cartridge costs $111, or 1.8 cents per page. The included imaging drum lasts for 30,000 pages. A replacement drum (priced at $35) would add a minuscule amount to far-future prints.

For an office that needs a no-nonsense monochrome laser, Dell's 2350dn fits the bill and then some, providing very good speed and decent print quality. Consumables costs are good for a laser printer of the s350dn's price and size class, too.