Aimed primarily at small to mid-sized workgroups, the �270 3110cn promises ease of use, low maintenance, low running costs and plenty of upgrading flexibility.
The Dell CLP 3110cn won't win any design awards, but it's not bad looking -- for a printer. It's approximately 400mm by 470mm by 485mm and resembles a fat, half-height dustbin, though its black and gunmetal colour scheme is a definite improvement on the plethora of beige printers we've seen over the years. It's not particularly heavy, but Dell recommends you lift it out of its box with the help of a friend.
Toner can be loaded with ease by opening the front of the unit and installing separate black, cyan, magenta and yellow cartridges. There's a control panel within easy reach at the top of the unit, which includes a two-line LCD display that relays information such as the remaining toner level for each of the four cartridges.
The main paper tray lives at the bottom of the printer, while a pull-down multipurpose document feeder sits right at the front. As well as ordinary paper, this accepts letterheads, transparencies and envelopes. The output tray lives at the top of the printer just behind the control panel. In all, it's a logically designed and well-organised printer that can be installed and maintained with ease.
The CLP 3110cn is designed to handle large colour print jobs without flaking out, as some smaller, less well-specified printers are prone to doing. It has an image resolution of 600dpi, understands PCL 6, PCL5e and PostScript 3 emulation, which gives it compatibility with just about every document type. It has an internal processor running at 400MHz plus 128MB of memory -- upgradeable to 1,152MB.
There's a 250-sheet tray at the very bottom of the unit, plus a 150-sheet tray multipurpose tray at the front giving a standard paper handling capacity of 400 sheets. We think this is more than ample for small to mid-sized businesses and solo users, but compulsive tree-murderers can add an extra 550-sheet tray, taking the paper capacity to 950 sheets.
The CLP 3110cn can be connected to a computer via a USB cable (included), but as the 'n' in its name indicates, it can also be connected to a network switch for workgroup printing. We like the fact it can be used with the Dell Wireless Printer Adaptor 3310, which operates on 802.11b/g networks and supports WEP and WPA security, but it can also be connected to a PC's via parallel cable, which may be of interest to anyone who still uses floppy discs and tinkers with DOS in their spare time.
Running costs on the 3110cn are very good. At the time of writing, a standard capacity (5,000 pages) black toner cartridge costs �53, while the three colour cartridges cost �73 and last for 4,000 pages at 5 per cent paper coverage. That's just over 1p per page for black, and almost 2p per page for colour.
Obviously your own mileage will vary, but the printer works with the Color Track 2 tool (included) which can help reduce the total cost of ownership. It gives you the ability to create up to 50 user or department accounts, each of which can be assigned usage limitations. Want to stop the notorious Sally from HR printing her holiday snaps? Just restrict her ability to print in colour.
The CLP 3110cn delivers excellent mono prints, and quickly. Black text is rich, clear and professional-looking at most font sizes -- even as low as 3pt. Although colour photos obviously aren't its (or any colour laser printer's) forte, colour prints were impressive. The relatively low resolution means you see a fair bit of dithering, but it's perfectly capable of printing colour brochures, flyers and suchlike to a very high standard.
The CLP 3110cn isn't as quick as the fastest printers in the range, but most users should be happy with its speed. Dell quotes 30ppm for mono documents, but we achieved 22ppm in our tests -- timed from the moment we hit the print button. It took 11 seconds before emitting the first page. Colour documents printed at 13ppm, 4 pages slower than Dell's claimed 17ppm.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield