Dell 2230d monochrome laser printer

Saying that the Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) 2230d monochrome laser printer is the best $199 (as of Nov.12, 2009) unit we’ve tested isn’t saying much; none of the models we’ve seen at this price point (including the Samsung ML-1630 and the HP (Nasdaq: HPQ) LaserJet P1505) have made our Top 10 chart. Within its class, however, the 2230d offers better speed and paper handling. On the downside, its design can be unfriendly, and its toner costs are high.

The 2230d offers a few more features than its low-cost competitors do. It lacks ethernet, but Dell bundles a Wi-Fi adapter to supplement the built-in USB and parallel ports. It’s the only low-cost model we’ve tested that offers automatic duplexing (two-sided printing). The main paper tray holds 250 sheets of legal-size paper; a second 250-sheet tray costs $100. A flip-out tray lets you feed single envelopes or other irregular-size media, with a rear exit slot for thicker pieces like cardstock.

Dell is also refreshingly spot-on in its speed claims for the 2230d. Dell says that the unit can print at speeds up to 35 pages per minute–and in our tests it got very close, reaching 33.9 ppm, an above-average speed compared with that of other monochrome lasers in our rankings. Print quality was predictable for this type of printer: No quibbles on the text quality, but graphics were murky and sometimes showed banding.

The 2330d’s control panel leaves a lot to be desired. The controls consist of five small, rectangular LEDs and two stacked buttons. Each control is identified by a symbol rather than a text label. You will need to consult the user guide to identify the controls and to decipher the dizzying array of flashing and solid light combinations on the LEDs. That’s a chore, too, as the guide lists over 20 pages of sequences.

What you save on the Dell 2230d’s purchase price, you will quickly spend on replacement toner. Dell bundles a 1000-page starter cartridge with the printer. A 3500-page replacement-program cartridge costs $111, or 3.2 cents per page. You have no high-yield option. While that’s the cheapest toner cost among the $199 monochrome lasers we’ve reviewed to date, it’s still higher than average for this category of printer.

If you need to print in high volume, you’ll be better off paying a bit more up front for a model such as the Ricoh Aficio SP 3300DN; it cost $269 at review time and is nearly one cent cheaper per page to operate than the Dell 2230d.

The Dell 2330d succeeds in a modest way by providing good speed and paper handling for a low purchase price. Just be sure to keep the manual close by, and save up for the pricey toner replacements.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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