The Dell 1250c colour LED printer's low purchase price is tempting, but its extremely high toner costs are off-putting.

The Dell 1250c colour printer uses LED technology instead of the more-common laser to create equally crisp results. Priced from just £175 inc VAT, it makes colour output seem attainable even for a home office. Unfortunately, Dell's exorbitant toner costs make this printer unbearably pricey in the long term.

Printer vendors often charge lower-volume users less for the printer and more for the toner, but Dell has set a new record with the 1250c colour LED printer. The printer ships with standard-size, 700-page supplies. The black toner costs £41 (5.9p per page), while each colour costs £50 (7.1p per page). Those prices would look expensive even compared with the costs of a colour inkjet printer. The higher-yield supplies, at £55 each for colour and £52 for black, are merely onerous: the black toner lasts 2,000 pages (2.6p per page), and each colour lasts 1,400 pages (3.9p per page).

Further disappointment lies in the skimpy design and features. The Dell 1250c colour LED printer's control panel consists of a couple of clearly labelled buttons and a lot of lights, the meanings of which can vary depending on the colour they show and the speed of their blinking - yes, you have to figure out whether it's a fast or slow blink. You need the documentation to interpret them.

The Dell 1250c colour LED printer has just a 150-page main input tray; pages exit on to the top output tray. The tray parts are somewhat flimsy, as is typical for this price range. Duplexing is manual only, which means that only committed users will use it to cut down on paper costs, but at least the onscreen prompt is clear. A rear door opens to provide access to the paper path. A side door reveals the toner supplies, which insert easily and are keyed to prevent mixups.

Lower-cost laser printers also tend to be mediocre performers. In our tests, the Dell 1250c colour LED printer posted a below-average (but typical for this price class) speed of 7.5 pages per minute (ppm) printing monochrome documents consisting primarily of black text and simple, greyscale images.

Graphics speed was just above average, reaching 2.3ppm when printing colour photos. To its credit, the image quality exceeded our expectations. Our text samples looked dark grey rather than truly black, but they were crisp and precise otherwise. Colour images appeared vivid and realistic, although a little grainy-looking.

The help you'll get for this printer is mostly good. The Dell 1250c comes with a standard one-year warranty and extended warranties are available from £29. The HTML-based user guide that accompanies the printer is thorough and clear, but in a few instances we ran into dead ends because of clumsy navigation, namely links that led to mostly blank title pages with no guidance in the right direction.

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Printing Advisor

Dell 1250c: Specs

  • Colour LED printer
  • 192MHz processor
  • 64MB RAM
  • 2MB ROM
  • max print resolution 1200dpi
  • 150-sheet input tray
  • 100-sheet output tray
  • USB 2.0
  • 394x300x225mm
  • 10.5kg
  • Colour LED printer
  • 192MHz processor
  • 64MB RAM
  • 2MB ROM
  • max print resolution 1200dpi
  • 150-sheet input tray
  • 100-sheet output tray
  • USB 2.0
  • 394x300x225mm
  • 10.5kg

OUR VERDICT

?The Dell 1250c colour LED printer puts quality colour printing within range of lower-budget users. Unless you plan not to print much, however, your budget will quickly be busted by this model's high toner costs.

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