Dell V313w Inkjet MFP

Dell‘s (Nasdaq: DELL) V313w colour inkjet multifunction printer is priced at a mere $100 as of March 4, 2011, and it seems to receive regular discounting on Dell’s Web site. But while it looks like a good deal–especially in view of its integrated wireless functionality–it’s ultimately a mediocre product overall, with expensive inks.

The V313w’s few nice features are tacked onto an otherwise unremarkable machine. The Wi-Fi works fine, and the front of the unit includes both a USB port and a card reader for MMC, MS, SD, and xD media. Though the control panel is easy to use, the buttons are inexplicably small, given the vast amount of space available. The panel tilts upward for easier viewing, but you have to bend the underbody of the panel to retract it.

The rudimentary paper handling features on the V313w consist of a 100-sheet rear vertical feed and manual duplexing. An extra sheet prints out with a duplex job to guide the re-feeding process; you can disable this assistance if you don’t need it. The A4-size scanner lacks an automatic document feeder to expedite scanning multipage jobs, but the lid telescopes a good inch to accommodate thicker materials.

Performance is a mixed bag. Plain black text printed at a middling rate of 6.7 pages per minute on the PC and at 6.6 ppm on the Mac. On the PC, snapshot-size photos printed at three ppm at default settings and 0.8 ppm at finer settings. A full-page, high-resolution photo printed on the Mac at a rate of 0.8 ppm, too–faster than most other MFPs managed with the same image. On the other hand, copying and scanning speeds were slower than average. Text quality was nicely dark, but crisper in our Mac samples than in our PC samples. Whereas colour photos printed on plain paper looked overly bright and slightly washed out, but the same images looked smooth and natural on Dell’s own glossy paper.

We encountered an interesting quirk in the V313w’s printing process. Images printed with Photoshop CS4 appeared off vertical center on the page, with little to no margin at the top and excessive space at the bottom. Images printed from other programs didn’t suffer from this defect. Dell suggested that in Windows 7, setting the Paper Source to ‘Automatically Select’ may cause the margins to hike up, if the printer has only one paper tray–as is the case with the V313w. Whatever the reason, it’s a bothersome flaw.

Even if you can tolerate the V313w’s foibles, its ink costs may dissuade you from signing on: They’re among the highest we’ve seen. The standard-size black cartridge and the unified cyan, magenta, and yellow colour cartridge didn’t even last through our testing–that’s how low their page yields are. The $16 black cartridge was good for 180 pages, and the $20 colour cartridge delivered 170 pages, which works out to 8.9 cents per black page, and a 20.7 cents per four-colour page. The 360-page black ($30) and 340-page colour ($35) high-yield cartridges lower the MFP’s consumables costs only marginally, to 8.3 cents per black page and 18.6 cents per four-colour page.

Dell’s V313w looks like an inexpensive way to get a Wi-Fi-equipped multifunction printer. Unfortunately, its high ink costs more than offset your initial savings–and make its other quirks less tolerable.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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