Although the low-cost Dell 2230d mono-laser printer offers good speed, its control panel is hard to use.
Saying that the Dell 2230d is the best inexpensive monochrome laser printer we've tested isn't saying much; none of the models we've seen at this price point (including the Samsung ML-1630 (review) and the HP LaserJet P1505 (review)) have been up to much.
Within its class, however, the Dell 2230d offers better speed and paper handling. On the downside, its design can be unfriendly, and its toner costs are high.
The Dell 2230d offers a few more features than its low-cost competitors do. It lacks ethernet, but Dell bundles a Wi-Fi adaptor 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 more. 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 Dell 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 Dell 2230d'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. You have no high-yield option. So while the Dell 2230d is cheaper to run than some monochrome lasers, 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.
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