Setting up the Dell V715w via its USB or Wi-Fi connection is pretty easy if you have a PC; Mac users need to download drivers from the Dell website. Dell's on-screen installation process gives you the option of full hand-holding or more-streamlined guidance. If your router lacks Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), you'll need to tether the V715w briefly via USB. The V715w also won't let you select a network and enter a password manually via the control panel.
Bundled software includes ABBYY FineReader Sprint OCR software, which worked better on our text-only documents than on mixed documents. The Dell Printer Home task center provides one-button access to most basic scanning chores.
The Dell V715w's control panel, with its 2.4-inch colour display, is straightforward but plain. Instead of providing the usual colour and monochrome copy buttons, the multifunction printers has one button that toggles colour and black modes, and another that initiates the copy - an awkward, though bearable, deviation.
Media-handling features on the Dell V715w are mostly good. The unit has a 50-sheet automatic document feeder for scanning or copying multipage documents. Duplexing (two-sided document handling) is supported for the printer, but not the scanners. The single input tray holds an adequate 150 sheets of letter/legal-size paper (and even banner, somewhat awkwardly). You'll also find an SD/MultiMediaCard slot and a USB/PictBridge port for saving scans and printing photos.
In tests, at default settings on plain paper, black text printed at a middling rate of 6.4 pages per minute on both the PC and Mac platforms. On the PC, snapshot-size photos printed at 2.6 ppm at default settings and 1.5 ppm at finer settings. For a full-page, high-resolution photo on the Mac, the Dell V715w printed at a rate of 0.7 ppm - faster than most other MFPs managed to do with the same image. If you switch the V715w into draft mode, you can get your printouts in a hurry, with passable quality. Monochrome copying speeds were slower than average, but scanning speeds were faster than average.
See also: Group test: what's the best printer?
Text looked dark charcoal rather than black, but it was mostly crisp. colour photos printed on plain paper, on the other hand, looked washed-out and grainy; the same images appeared smooth and natural on Dell's own glossy paper. Scans and copies were good.
The standard-size, Series 21 cartridges run £16 for 180 pages of black and £18 for 170 pages of colour (in a trichamber cartridge). That's a pricey 8.8p per black page, and 19p per four-colour page. The Series 24 high-yield ink cartridges cost £25 for 500 pages of black and £34 for 500 pages of colour - a tolerable 5p per black page and 11.8p per four-colour page. While your mileage may vary, it's obvious which size of inks is the better deal.
One area in which Dell shines is recycling: The company will recycle the printer for free and provide envelopes for shipping back spent cartridges.
While the V715w is a pretty good product overall, a rockier-than-usual review experience dampened our enthusiasm for it. Our original review unit's printhead didn't work, nor did the one on a replacement unit.
Dell noted that both of those units had been used in previous reviews, and that they may have been mishandled along the way; however, the company also acknowledged that the cause might have been a printhead manufacturing problem, which Dell has since fixed. The third review unit we received was brand-new. Its printhead worked fine, but a newly inserted ink tank produced streaks until we performed a couple of head cleanings.
Dell told us that any streaking should be temporary. We also somehow managed to loosen a gasket sealing the tank to the printhead, causing the ink to stop flowing. Dell says that this problem has not been widely reported among its users.