The process of setting the printer up was more involved than I have previously experienced. When turned on, the printer seems to run some kind of self-check after which it requires a few configuration steps, including programming in the language, location and time-zone. Whilst this is a relatively simple task, there are a lot of button clicks required to reach U for United Kingdom. With it being a networked device, it would not be inconceivable to suggest that the location be guessed based on the IP address and edited should the need arise. Once the country has been set, it is necessary to enter the time zone, which provides further annoyance. The setting of the time zone should be done based on country, with edits being available (particularly for countries which span multiple timezones). Instead it’s necessary to iterate through a whole load of time zones to get to the correct one.
Laser printers are never the quietest of printers and compared to a number which I have used over the years, I would not say that this one is noticeably noisier than others I have had and used in the past. It is certainly a lot quieter than my old HP colour laserjet printer. There are also settings in the menu on the printer which suggest that the noise level can be changed. I have not seen anything which suggests what difference this would have to the printer itself (whether the speed of printing would be slowed, for example).
Of all the laser printers that I have had experience with (including colour and mono), this is by far the fastest printer I have ever used, producing pages ate a rate of up to 38 pages per minute (ppm). It really is the most impressive aspect that I have found of this printer so far.
With it being a mono device it is unlikely that anyone will be printing photographs, though the 1200dpi claim is very promising. It is certainly possible that documents will contain images which should be faithfully represented by a print-out. As a test, I have printed a few images at 1200dpi, and have attached a gallery of scans below. I will also provide 100% crops of the scans so that you can see what they look like. These images have be scanned in greyscale at 1200dpi too. Personally, I find the image output to be quite disappointing.
For me, the biggest single feature which is missing from this printer is the ability to load single sheets into it from another part of the printer. For example, I quite often like to print the address on an envelope of a letter I have written. Assuming that envelopes can be loaded from the main paper tray, it would require that I remove all paper from the printer, resize the tray dimensions, print the envelope and subsequently put the paper back in again. This is more hassle than I want – until now I have never owned a laser printer where inserting paper/envelopes in this manner has not been possible.
Whilst the printer is network-connected, it does seem to be a little behind the curve in terms of its network connectivity. Whilst it can be connected via Ethernet, it does not have WiFi built in. This is really a feature which is generally expected these days.
The biggest let-down to this printer is the cost of replacing the toner. Currently, a 7000-page print toner cartridge will set you back approximately £120. Whist this may seem like a lot of money (especially when compared against the current price of the printer – £180) but when compared against similar-capacity toners from other manufacturers, the cost is comparable. For example, the HP CF280X which has a capacity for 6900 pages and costs £120 at the time of writing.
A possible method of reducing the cost significantly is to re-fill the toner cartridge. This is not something which can be done a great number of times as the cartridge components will eventually wear. It should however, be possible to refill cartridges a few times though. Toner is pretty horrible though – it’s an incredibly fine powder which should not be inhaled and should be treated with great care.
Setting the printer upon Windows 7 was a really simple task. It required that the drivers (provided on a CD) be installed after which I could scan the network for the printer. The instructions for the printer clearly state that one must choose either to network the printer, or to use it via USB – not both.
Once the printer setup was complete, I was able to print from the printer immediately. My only criticism is that the name of the printer on the network is a random selection of numbers and digits – which become the printer name once the printer is added. This can be a little confusing, but can also be edited.
Drivers were supplied on the CD which came with the printer. The installation process was very easy and completed quickly. I was subsequently able to install the printer over the network and print straight away (duplex worked fine too).
Support on Linux at the time of writing is detailed as:
Having said that, the availability of the drivers on the Dell website seem somewhat sparser. Whilst my Ubuntu installation was able to find the printer on the network, I have not been able to successfully add the printer – there are no built-in drivers which support this printer. The only driver made available on Dell’s support site for Linux is for SuSE.
Driver Update – 22/06/2013: I have long had a suspicion about Dell printers that they were first made by Lexmark (a number of years ago now), and that now they are made by HP – this is just my opinion – nothing that I actually know). I have, however, managed to get this printer working under Ubuntu 12.04 (including using the duplexer) by making use of an HP driver – specifically the driver for the HP LaserJet 3330 printer.
Dell have made Dell Mobile Print available on the Google Play store which, when installed on an Android device allows printing of various document formats directly from the device (both devices must be connected to the same network). I have successfully printed PDF files from my tablet. My only slight frustration with the app is that it registers an ability to open a wealth of file types, which means when opening certain files (and links) for the first time after installing the app, you are asked whether to open that file type in the Dell app or in the default app. This includes contacts – whether to open a contact in the Android phonebook app or whether to open a contact in the Dell printing app.
This is the first printer I have ever owned where I have been able to print directly to it from my Android phone and tablet – it’s a great touch.
As with Android, there is a Dell Mobile Print iOS app available on the iTunes store offering much of the same functionality as is available with the Android app. Setup is just as easy and allows printing via a WiFi connection to the networked printer.
It’s great that that printer can be added so easily and printed to from Android and iOS devices. It is worth pointing out, though, that with limited support on both platforms of MS Office documents, it is highly likely that unless printing PDFs or images, that it’s quite likely that documents will look different to expected when being printed from such devices.
It is possible to adjust the dimensions within the printer drawer for different sizes of paper (e.g. A4, A5 etc). But as the printer does not have a manual feed, the nature of the media that can be used is more limited. For example, I have tried to put thick card through the printer and have been totally unable to do so – this is not something that I had trouble doing with and old and cheap HP laser printer.
When buying into a brand, it’s important to consider what alternatives there are, particularly at the price-point of the item in question or whether there is something else offering the same functionality offered at a lower price. If what you are after is a simple laser printer which is cheap to purchase, then this is probably not for you. One might in this instance consider some of the more compact laser printers, such as those offered by HP, Samsung, Brother and even Dell themselves:
If, on the other hand, you want something which will be suited to a higher level of use, then something with larger toner capacities and higher print speeds are probably of interest to you. This is the scenario into which the Dell 3330dn fits and so the printers below could be considered worthy comparisons. They will not all meet the exact specifications of the Dell (and some may exceed them) but they will all be comparable models.