Review : Dell 5130CDN, The World's Fastest Colour Printer?

The 5130CDN was sent to us for a quick review back in December, but a series of unexpected occurrences means that we can only have a look at Dell's flagship standalone colour printing workhorse now.

The Austin-based manufacturer claims that the 5130CDN is the world's fastest "letter size single-function" office colour laser printer and possibly the next best thing to an offset printer. No fear though as it can print in A4 as well.

In an ideal situation - which we will explore further - this beast can print up to 47 single sided letter pages (although the UK Dell website says 45ppm instead) and up to a staggering 37 double sided letter pages per minutes even at its highest resolution of 1200x1200 dpi.

Arguably, these claims are valid for the letter format and should also hold for the more common A4 format. So that's roughly 1.2 seconds per single sided page or 1.8 seconds for double sided ones.

What makes it even more interesting is that those figures are valid both for monochrome and colour output where normally you'd expect the latter to be substantially lower than the former.

(Top : Angled view of the printer, below : front view of the printer, note the large paper tray)

The printer was sent to us on a freaking wooden pallet that is so big, we literally needed four able bodies to move it around. Build like a tank , the 5130CDN measures 56cm x 50cm x 43cm and weighs 49kg so you will need some desk space and a rather solid one to support it

Ironically, the fact that it is that big means gives it an impression of sturdiness and the quoted maximum monthly duty cycle of 110,000 means that it's ready to take on almost everything you can throw at it. That's roughly 5000 pages - or 10 A4 reams - every working day.

Dell has also introduced a new feature called ColorByDell which it presents as a total printer solution that "delivers improved color saturation and image sharpness and outstanding print quality".

As the above description implies, Dell uses a number of techniques that, combined together, enhance the image quality while bringing down costs and reduces the amount of energy consumed.

The Austin-based firm estimates that the cost per page (or CPP) for monochrome print-outs will be as low as 1.04c (or a fraction of a pence) while colour print-outs will cost as little as 6p.

(Top : Top view of the printer, below : Paper tray pulled out)

In addition, there's also a new application called ColorTrack Pro that allows system administrators to centrally monitor and control the access to the colour printer itself.

Users can interface with the printer through a mono graphics backlit LCD screen which has a 5-way cursor keypad and provides with basic information over the printing status. Nothing fancy.

Getting the printer to run couldn't be simpler. Install the drivers, plug the cables, switch on the beast and there you go. You will possibly need to check Dell's website for the latest drivers including Windows 7 ones which were not available on the CD delivered to us. Dell also provide a Printer Software Updater application which allows system administrator to execute that process seamlessly.

So how fast is the printer? Well, it is as fast as Dell claims. A simple 100 page monochrome document was spitted out in just over two minutes, roughly in line with the 47 pages per minute specification. We printed a 40 page, 21MB graphics heavy Powerpoint presentation file which took 175 seconds to complete from the moment we clicked on "print". The first page was out in less than 29s.

Part of the reason why it is so fast is because it has a 800MHz processor coupled with 256MB RAM. Unfortunately, we did not test the printer over a network - it has a Gigabit Ethernet port, but only via a USB port, nor did we try the double sided functionality or printing on quality photos. The 5130CDN also supports PCL Emulation (up to v6) and Adobe PS6.

(Top : Side view of the printer, below : Backside, note the fans and the two sockets (male/female))

Print quality is excellent with very little banding when printing in colour and solid, if unexceptional deep blacks in text document. Somehow, even at very high speeds, the Dell workhorse managed to keep spit out documents that could put to shame some entry level inkjets.

Swapping the toner cartridges and the fuser drum is done by removing a side panel to access them. It can hold 700 A4 sheets and can print up to 500 sheets before you'll need to offload the paper tray. Obviously, Dell sells the appropriate accessories should you want to increase the aforementioned capacities.

Dell sells the 5130CDN for £951 including VAT and delivery (link). The price includes one year basic warranty, next business day. Alternatively, Kikatek will charge you £786 for the same item excluding delivery (link).

The cost of consumables though are rather expensive although in line with what you would expect for a printer of this calibre.

The imaging drums cost £69.33 a pop (you'd need four) while high capacity toner cartridges (which should last 18,000 pages for the black and 12,000 for the other CMY colours) cost £122.20 and £179.78 respectively. Oh and don't forget the all essential fuser kit at £102.64. The consumables page can be found here.

The combined cost of those consumables listed above totals £1041.50, which is significantly more than the initial cost of the printer itself. In other words, it is more economical to buy another 5130CDN than to buy the consumables.

Certainly not good for the environment but your accountant will surely approve of it. We haven't included the cost of other accessories which some might consider as essential like a bigger paper tray, staple pack or a finisher with stapler stacker - some of which costs more than the printer itself.

Prospective customers might also want to look into buying a longer next business day on-site maintenance contract in case the printer breaks down.

As for the competition, the Xerox Phaser 6360 for example has a stated maximum speed of 40ppm on colour and mono with a resolution of 2400x600 dpi. Printerland is also giving a free Satnav system and 1GB RAM for £724.10 + VAT. But Its high capacity toners are much more expensive and so are the other accessories.

The 5130CDN is an excellent all rounder that's well worth the asking price and manages to surpass its rivals thanks to its outstanding printing speed. Its relatively low price makes it ideal for smaller workgroups as well as larger firms, both audiences will be wowed by the uber fast printing speed.