Over the last couple years printers have gone through several evolutions. Now it is not good enough to have just a printer. Instead, it must be a printer, scanner, and something else. The Dell Photo All-In-One Printer 924 is a printer, scanner and it also adds a PictBridge so you can print from your camera.
- Print, Scan and Photocopy
- Up to 20 ppm (pages per minute) black, 16 ppm color
- Up to 17 cpm (copies per minute) black, 12 cpm color
- Borderless Printing
- 6 color printing with optional photo cartridge
- Wireless capability
Most All-In-One (AIO) Printers are a printer, scanner and fax. Dell has deviated from that design and instead of a fax they have included a PictBridge for printing directly from your digital camera. Not having to include a fax modem probably decreases the cost a little, which explains the low retail cost of $89. To make up for this the 924 can scan to just about any fax software and then you use the modem in your computer to send the fax.
Because this is an AIO photo printer you have the choice of either 4 color printing or 6 color printing. This can be achieved by installing either the black and tricolor cartridge that it ships with , used for four-color printing or replace the black with a photo cartridge for six-color printing. While this sounds like a clever feature we will talk later about how this may be more of a bother than a help.
The scanner is fairly standard as far as scanners go. It supports resolutions up to 19,200 interpolated and outputs at 48 bits. It is a standard flatbed scanner without an automatic document feeder (ADF). For a scanner that is fine because you will mainly use it for scanning photos and an occasional document. For a copier it is terrible, how many of you want to stand there for an hour while you scan a large document by hand? For this to really succeed as a copier, it really needs an ADF.
In case you don’t have a spare USB port, or you don’t have one close to you, there is the option of purchasing a wireless adapter for the Dell Photo All-In-One Printer 924. With the wireless adapter you can quickly turn this into a network printer and share it will all the computers in your home or office. You also have the freedom of placing the printer in a central location that may not be near a computer. The wireless adapter costs $99 so if you have the money I think the investment is well worth it.
With dimensions of 11.4 by 17.2 by 17.5 inches (HWD), the 924 is very compact. Most All-In-One printers are not known for their compact design. In fact they look more like copy machines then printers. This printer is small enough to share a desk with other devices or keep nearby on a flat surface. Because it lacks an ADF you may spend a lot of time copying pages if you have a lot.
Because this is a photo printer it supports 6 color printing. The way that Dell implemented this is a little different and not all that great. By default the Dell Photo All-In-One Printer 924 ships with one tricolor (cyan, yellow, magenta) cartridge and one black cartridge. This gives you 4 colors which is just fine for standard document printing and really good photo printing. If you want to do even better photo printing you can replace the black cartridge with another tricolor (black, light cyan and light magenta) cartridge. I have always questioned why a printer would use multicolor cartridges rather then separate cartridges for each color. The only reason I can think of is that multicolor cartridges are smaller and because of this the printer can be smaller. While this is a space saving design it is an ink waisting design. You will probably never use all the colors in a cartridge equally and because of this when you run out of one color you have to replace the other colors even if they are not empty. In addition to waisting ink when you put in the photo colors what are you suppose to do with the partially used black cartridge? You don’t want it sitting around drying out. So far I have not found a good solution for this, so if any of you have any suggestions please let me know. I would ask Dell to revamp their design to allow for single color cartridges so that we don’t have to waist so much ink. Especially since it costs $55 to get a black and color cartridge. Over the life of the printer you will probably spend hundreds of dollars on ink.
For a photo printer the only real question is how do the pictures look? Well in order to really answer that question I tried several different things. I printed all the following pictures on 4×6″ photo paper that was supplied to me by Dell. I first printed a picture with my old Epson Stylus Color 900, this would give me a way to compare the pictures. I also went down to the store and had a picture printed professionally. Now I have the low end and the high end. I expect the 924 to fall in the middle somewhere, hopefully closer to the high end then the low end. For good measure I am also including the original digital image, reduced in size, so that you can see what it originally looked like. I first printed the picture using the 4 color process. Even for a 4 color process the picture looks really good, especially when compared to the Epson. If you look closely though, you can see that it is not as good as the store printed picture. I then took out the black cartridge and put in the photo cartridge and printed the picture again with 6 colors. This picture is better than the 4 color picture and it is fairly close in quality to the store and original picture. If I were to use this as just a photo printer I would probably forgo the black cartridge and just use the photo and color cartridges.
The speed of the printing was really good. On full color the Dell Photo All-In-One Printer 924 averaged about 1 minute and 14 seconds for each 4-by-6, and 2 minutes and 42 seconds for each 8-by-10. For text and other black and white, the printer was much faster. The print time for an 8-by-10 page full of text it only took about 10 seconds. For a page with graphs and things other than text it took about 40 seconds. This is about on par with most laser printers that often cost much more.
The quality of the text is also a consideration when you purchase a printer. Most people don’t have the luxury of owning both a laser printer and an inkjet, so they have to buy one that does both photos and text. Inkjets have never been able to produce crisp text like a laser printer and they have even had more trouble with text that gets smaller than 6 pts. As you can see the text quality of the Dell Photo All-In-One Printer 924 is really good. I do not have any complaints about this, obviously it is not as good as a laser printer, but you are also not paying as much for the printer. If you are going to be doing a lot of professional document printing I highly recommend a laser printer.
Another part of the performance that most people don’t consider is how long the photos will last once they get on the paper. This is affected by so many different things including the quality of the paper, ink and the environment that you keep the picture in. Pictures printed on the Dell Photo All-In-One Printer 924, if used with the special photo paper, have a life span of 50 years. Dell will soon be releasing a new type of paper that will extend that to 80 years. Of course since this is an ink jet the photos are not water proof. If you live in a very humid climate you may want to consider having your pictures printed at the store.
When you are printing, the software not only gives you the amount that is done, it also tells you approximately how many more printings you can do and it shows you a graphical representation of how much ink you have left. When you have the tricolor cartridges in then the graphic changes to let you know. One strange thing that I noticed is that the CPU usage while printing is rather high. I have a 1.4 GHz AMD processor and it seemed to really raise the usage up to the maximum. I am sure that if you have a faster CPU then you will not see quite the same spike.
The scanner is also a huge part of the system so lets see how it performed. I tried scanning several different images at different resolutions and the results I got were promising. To scan a 8.5 x 11 full color page at 600 DPI it took about 2 minutes and 6 seconds. To scan a 4 x 6 full color page at 600 DPI it took 1 minute and 15 seconds. These are great numbers especially for the resolution. 600 DPI is the highest that this scanner can go so this is not intended for really high resolution scans. The above pictures, that I used to compare the print quality, were also scanned using this scanner.
For the retail price of $89 you are not going to find a printer that prints a better photo. I am so impressed with the quality of the scans and pictures that the Dell Photo All-In-One Printer 924 puts out that I cannot say enough about it. If that is what you are looking for then you will also be really happy. The part that I am not happy with is the handling of the cartridges. All my feelings were expressed earlier, but to sum them up I do not like multicolor cartridges and I don’t like having to switch between black and photo cartridges. Currently Dell is running a sale on these printers and you can pick one up for $79. For that price I would be willing to put up with a few quirks and I think that you will also.
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