The good: The Dell 1355cnw is set up for businesses success with an economical LED engine, convenient wireless connectivity, and high-quality color prints that you won't be ashamed to pass around the boardroom.
The bad: Its sluggish print engine makes you wait, and no autoduplexer means extra babysitting.
The bottom line: The Dell 1355cnw's wireless connectivity and simple controls lend themselves well to a busy micro-office environment, as long as you don't mind waiting a bit for multipage documents.
Suitable for Mac and Windows operating systems, the Dell 1355cnw is a capable, reliable color laser printer that can output up to 30,000 pages a month and also acts as a copier and a high-resolution scanner. Its 150-sheet input tray makes it most suitable for small-to-medium businesses with moderate printing needs, but Dell offers extras to sweeten the deal, like built-in Wi-Fi along with USB and Ethernet connectivity, and a 15-sheet autodocument feeder for the scanner. The 13550's print speeds and minimal software could be improved, but small quibbles don't undermine a solid recommendation.
Design and features
Dell built the 1355cnw on the same lines as the smaller Dell 1350cnw I reviewed earlier this year. With the same laser print engine inside, the big upgrades on the 1355cnw are a larger four-line monochrome LCD display and more buttons on the panel that control the device's scanning and copying features.
Dell keeps the 1355cnw relatively fit and easy to move around an office, opting for a square footprint instead of a rectangular one. The printer measures 16.1 inches wide, 15 inches deep, and 13.3 inches tall, and weighs just over 34 pounds. Thankfully, you get two notched grips on either side of the machine that give you more leverage during moves.
As with many laser printers, paper feeds in through the tray on the bottom of the 1355cnw and comes out facedown on top of the printer. Since the storage bin can only hold up to 150 sheets of plain paper and doesn't allow automatic double-sided printing, make sure your office isn't printing large-volume documents every day or you'll find yourself constantly getting up to monitor and replace depleted sheets. Dell rates the printer's monthly duty cycle at a maximum 30,000 prints per month, which should be more than enough pages for a small business or a home office.
Creative professionals will appreciate the special 10-sheet bypass tray that hides behind a fold-out door on top of the standard input tray. This tray is designed for alternative forms of print media beyond typical 8.5-by-11-inch reams; you can load only one size at a time, but the tray can accommodate transparencies, labels, envelopes, postcards, card stock, and some other types of media that can't load into the paper tray.
The control panel features a four-line LCD screen that displays monochromatic characters alongside an array of buttons--34, to be exact, including four directional controls positioned around an Enter key, two buttons to access the virtual menu, and one to cancel a job in progress. Dell gives you plenty of paper-control options through the LCD as well: you can set paper size and input paper type, select advanced features, and change resolution settings.
The back of the printer reveals a flap that unfolds an output tray for media fed through the bypasser. This is also where you would look to address a paper jam, although I didn't encounter any jamming problems in my testing.
Setting up the printer should be easy for IT professionals, but others shouldn't have a problem following the included pictographic instruction manual. I'm also thankful to Dell for including a USB cable in the box, since a lot of vendors leave them out. Aside from letting you connect the printer directly to a computer, the USB cable is essential for creating an ad-hoc network for wireless access.
The Ethernet port on the back of the 1350cnw makes it possible for multiple users to connect to the printer through an interoffice network, but it's also set up for Windows and Mac users to link up to its internal Wi-Fi print server. None of these features is unique to the 1355cnw, but the combination of wireless connectivity adds utility you don't typically see in color laser printers.
Most laser printers have an upper door that pops up to reveal the toner bay, but Dell moved the 1355cnw's access door to the right side, so take note of this to prevent obstruction in your work space. The 1355cnw takes one black cartridge and three color cartridges for cyan, magenta, and yellow, and Dell gives you a full spread to start off with.
Each cartridge yields 700 pages, which factors out to 7.1 cents per black page and 7.8 cents per page of color. These prices fall within the average cost of consumables for an officeworthy printer, and Dell also sells high-capacity toner cartridges at a discount: $70 USD for more than double the page-yield maximum of the standard cartridges.
The Dell 1355cnw isn't the fastest in the speed comparison tests, but it performed consistently and competently with little deviation between each type of document. It printed 12.84 pages of plain black text pages per minute and scored similarly throughout.
It still can't keep pace with the HP LaserJet Pro P1606dn in terms of black text, color graphics, and a 10-page monochrome slide presentation, but you'll notice little difference between the two unless you're printing out a stack of pages. I also rarely see such consistent performance across all four speed tests, and the Dell printed a color text page nearly as quickly as a full page of color graphics.
Compared with other color laser printers, the Dell 1355cnw fared well when it came to grayscale text and graphics as well as full-color graphics documents. Smaller fonts that would normally appear illegible printed by cheaper models appear dark and crisp using the Dell, and monochromatic graphics illustrate the same attention to detail with smooth gradients and adequate depth in portraits and photographs. On the other hand, the best-quality color laser printer won't deliver the level of detail you would get from a five-cartridge inkjet printer if you're outputting high-resolution photos. Still, I'd certainly recommend the 1355cnw for professional color handouts.
Service and support
The standard warranty for the Dell 1355cnw lasts one year, but you can upgrade it to up to four additional years. Dell also provides free, toll-free phone support 24-7, but the company recommends trying the live online chat option first. For less urgent inquiries, you can e-mail Dell's support team or check out its user forums. Dell's Web site also has product-specific support in the form of online user guides, drivers and software downloads, and a troubleshooting tool.
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