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Dell V515w All-in-One Wireless Printer

CNET
CNET EDITORS' RATING
3 Stars | Good
  • Reviewed by: Justin Yu
  • Reviewed on: 02/07/2011

The good: Auto-document feeder; comes with OCR software; impressive black text output speed.

The bad: Dismal image quality; prone to paper jams due to low-output tray capacity; unreliable wireless networking; small two-line LCD.

The bottom line: The Dell V515w is a capable printer with all-in-one print, fax, scan and copy functionality, but the cheap build, quick-depleting cartridges and spotty wireless service aren't worth the hassle. We recommend skipping over this ink guzzler and picking up a more reputable multifunction inkjet.

Review:

Two years ago Lexmark extended its relationship with Dell to collaborate on a line of inkjet printers that includes this Dell V515w. While Lexmark has a history of satisfactory imaging products, this multifunction all-in-one leaves a lot to be desired. Straight out of the box, the V515w is marred by physical flaws and a bulky design, not to mention a cheap two-line "color" LCD display that looks like it belongs on a low-end graphing calculator instead of a $130 machine. With additional frustrations, including frequent paper jams, unreliable wireless connectivity and expensive ink cartridges, the V515 doesn't have many redeeming factors. You'd be wiser to spend your money on a more capable machine. We recommend the less expensive Epson WorkForce 310 or the slightly pricier Canon Pixma MX870.

Design and features

The Dell V515w's measurements (13.4" wide, 19.2" long and 8" deep) are about average compared with other multifunction printers we've tested, although it weighs slightly more than average at 17.5 pounds. The top of the printer features a bucket design with a 35-page auto-document feeder that's useful for scanning, copying and faxing multiple pages. This feature is also convenient for amateur snapshot photographers who can save time with a hands-free way to scan multiple prints in one sitting.

The flatbed scanner lives just underneath the auto-document feeder and can handle up to 1,200x2, 400dpi resolution, another standard feature we normally see on multifunction devices. However, Dell deserves recognition for including a copy of the ABBYY FineReader Sprint software on the included driver installation disc that provides basic optical character recognition (OCR) functionality and will do its best to "read" a scanned document and import the text into a word processor of your choosing, typically Microsoft Word. In our testing experience, the software is fairly accurate, although we definitely suggest you check for inaccuracies after the scan completes. Additionally, be sure to hold onto the driver installation disc, as ABBY FineReader Sprint isn't available for download on Dell.com.

The first problem we have with the design of the Dell V515 isn't the oversized design or the scanner bay, but rather the control panel that folds out of the middle of the unit. During installation, we were instructed to install a clear strip of plastic on top of the panel that adds text labels to the Copy, Scan, Fax and Photo buttons. We're unsure why those labels weren't already printed there, but the extra layer and the mirrored finish take away from the rest of the streamlined design. Next, the paper path of the V515w starts at the standard 100-sheet paper input tray that folds out of the rear and guides through the printer until it's eventually spit out underneath the control panel where a plastic arm can only corral up to 25 sheets of plain 20 lb. paper. The printer has no problem stacking individual print jobs in the output tray at a time, but we experienced multiple paper jams down there once the number started approaching the 25-sheet limit, whereas the Epson WorkForce 310 can hold double the amount for the same price.

Regardless, we actually prefer the paper handling on the $200 HP Photosmart c6380 that employs two output trays to keep 4x6" photos separate from 8.5x11" documents.

Like many modern all-in-one printers, the Dell V515w includes an 802.11b/g wireless card that's supposed to help you cut the cord and free up USB ports that would otherwise be used for an inelegant connection to the host computer. The wireless installation disc that comes in the bundle does an adequate job of walking you through the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) using your wireless router's SSID and WPA password, but our connection kept giving us an error message that said "Cannot Print over a Wireless Network" despite the green notification light that supposedly indicates a solid connection. The message goes away after power-cycling the printer and the computer on and off again, but the message kept appearing intermittently, to our confusion. We went online and found that other V515w users reported similar errors on the Amazon.com customer reviews site, and Dell.com support didn't have an answer either. We always default to a hardwired USB connection for our speed tests so the printer doesn't waste time pinging the router before sending a job through to the printer, but we can't imagine the average consumer having an easier time establishing a network connection.

The V515w uses two separate cartridges for tricolor and black inks and ships with standard-capacity cartridges in the box. Alternatively, Dell also sells high-capacity ink cartridges on the company's Web site, but the page yield numbers are no longer listed on the site so we can't accurately calculate the cost per page. We can tell you that the standard cartridge didn't even last long enough for us to finish our quality and speed test, and the customer complaints on Amazon.com and the Dell.com purchase pages echo our experience.

Performance

The Dell V515w made quick work of all four speed document tests compared with the competition, producing text pages at a chart-topping rate of 8.39 pages per minute (PPM) over Lexmark, HP, Kodak and Canon units. The presentation and color graphics page tests yielded average results at 3.5PPM and 3.35PPM respectively, but the printer lagged while printing single 4x6" snapshot photos due to a significant pause between prints to allow for the ink to dry on the page before picking up the next sheet.

Speed tests
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Presentation speed (PPM) - Photo speed (1 Sheet) - Color graphics speed (PPM) -Text speed (PPM)

Dell  V515w                                                                                                                                      
                                                                         3.5 
                        1 
                                                                  3.35 
                                                                                                                                    8.39 
Lexmark Interact S605
                                                                              3.63
                                               2.07 
                                                                                    3.96
                                                                                                                            7.83 
HP Photosmart C6380
                                                    2.59 
                        1.61 
                                               2.07 
                                                                                                                          7.1 
Kodak ESP 5
                                                 2.21 
                    1.37 
                                                  2.13 
                                                                                            4.39 
Canon Pixma MP495
                                                    2.55
                    1.1
                                                   2.15
                                                                                        4.07

We weren't quite as impressed with the image quality put out by the Dell. While our full sheet of plain black text looked presentable at first, a closer inspection showed several jagged lines at the corners of text in small fonts, specifically in italicized text — white text on a colored background became unreadable at less than 5 points. Even at the high-quality setting, we wouldn't recommend using this printer for printing PowerPoint presentations or any document to be used in a professional environment. Furthermore, the color graphics page is marred by an overall faded look with a slightly yellow overcast, significantly departing from the color palette of the original image. We can't find any positive things to say about the image quality here, and despite several ink head cleanings and calibrations, the image just doesn't come out as sharp, or as accurate, as we'd expect from a $150 printer.

Service and support

Dell backs the Photo 926 with a one-year warranty, though you can pay to upgrade to two or three years of coverage. Toll-free phone support is available 24x7, and Dell's site offers email support and 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.

Find out more about how we test printers.

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