The market for All-In-One photo printers is getting more and more crowded. In order to stand out you really need to have a great set of features, a low price and excellent quality. The Dell Photo All-In-One Printer 966 is Dells latest offering in this tough market.
- 4-in-1 Design: Combines printing, scanning, and stand-alone faxing and copying in one compact unit.
- Fast: Prints up to 32 pages per minute in black and 23 pages per minute in color (Actual print speeds will vary with use)
- High Quality: Produces professional-grade documents and photos at up to 4800 x 1200 dpi
- Photo Printing: Print borderless photos up to 8.5″ x 11″ directly from a digital camera or memory card
- Flexible: Features standard 50-sheet scanner document feeder, optional two-sided printing, and second paper drawer
Features, Features, Features, this printer has so many features that in my short testing I will probably never discover them all. So let’s start with obvious ones. When you first look at the printer you will notice the screen. The 966 sports a tilting 2.4”color LCD screen. This screen is used to display all the menus, photos that you are printing from a memory card or Bluetooth device, and show ink levels and other system information. The screen tilts so that you can adjust it for optimal viewing. This screen is especially nice because it gets rid of a lot of clutter that you find on other printers that don’t have nice screens. Instead of tons of buttons that do everything, you get a few buttons to navigate menus and in the menus you can change the settings.
The Dell 966 printer uses three ink cartridges, but only two at a time. The cartridges are: Color, Black and Photo Color. Because you can only use two at a time you will have to swap out cartridges depending on what you are printing. If you are printing text or color documents then you will use the Color and Black Cartridges. If you are printing photos then you will use the Color and Photo Cartridges. The Color cartridge costs $23.99 each, the Black cartridge costs $20.99, and the Photo cartridge costs $25.99. There are also High capacity cartridges that almost double the amount of pages that you can print. The High capacity Color cartridge costs $31.99, and the High capacity Black cartridge costs $25.99. I would recommend the high capacity cartridges because you get almost double the ink for only about $5 more. According to the costs and the yield of each cartridge the price per print of a 4″ x 6″ photo quality picture, using a high capacity Color cartridge, is about 32 cents. A full sized page of mixed text and color, using high capacity Color and Black cartridges, is about 11 cents. If you use the standard capacity cartridges your cost will go up to about 17 cents for color documents. It would be nice to see a high capacity Photo cartridge, which could lower the cost of photos. I print my photos at a store, and they charge $0.15 to print 4″ x 6″ photos. Because of this buying a printer just for photos does not make a lot of sense. Not only does it cost twice as much to print individual photos, but the cost of the printer is enough to print over a thousand pictures at the store.
The fax uses a built-in 33.6 Kbps color fax modem. Even though it is a slower modem you will probably not max it out because most public telephone lines limit you to 28.8 Kbps or lower, depending on telephone line conditions. With this modem you can transmit in Color and Black and White. Make sure the other end also has a color fax otherwise you are wasting your time. You can also program in speed-dial numbers for up to 89 individuals and 10 groups (with 30 numbers each).
The scanner is fairly standard and provides scan resolutions of up to 1200 x 4800 dpi in 48 bit color. The maximum document size that can be scanned on the flatbed scanner is 8.5″ x 11″. The automatic document feeder (ADF) can be used to make scanning easier by letting you load 50 pages to scan, and then walk away and come back when it is finished. The ADF also allows you to photocopy or scan legal-size originals.
The copier offers a lot of useful features. It is able to copy in color and in black and white. There are also many other features that you can use when you copy like: 4 on 1, 2 on 1, Image Repeat (4, 9, or 16), Collate Copy. The copier also allows you to reduce and enlarge from 25% to 400%.
The optional duplexer allows double-sided copying and printing. The duplexer costs $79.
The optional Wireless/Ethernet card allows you to setup your printer anywhere in your home or office and use it from any computer on your network. If you have more than one computer, then this is a fantastic feature. With the Canon MP530 I either had to keep one computer on at all times and share the printer, or I had to move the USB between the different computers. With the Canon MP530 moving the USB cable back and forth was the only way that I could access all the functionality from both computers. With the Dell 966 using the network gave me access to all the functionality.
When you first open the Dell 966 you will be impressed at how Dell fits so much into such a little package. Even though it is compact, with dimensions of 18.0″ x 15.1″ x 10.6″ (W x D x H), it is not a tiny printer. Add to that a weight of 22 lbs. and you are looking at something you won’t want to move every day. I recommend a separate table or stand for the printer because it would take over any desk it was put on.
The front of the Dell 966 is where you will find the controls, paper output, Media card slots, and a PictBridge connection. The controls consist of about 23 buttons which control every aspect of the printer and the display. Thirteen of those buttons are set aside for the Fax functionality. You have 12 for dialing numbers, just like on a phone, and a pause button. The buttons to the left of the fax buttons are for accessing the menus and starting the copier, scanner, or fax. Left of those buttons is the LCD screen and left of that is the power button.
Below the control panel is the paper output tray, media card slots, PictBridge connection and a paper cartridge. The media card slots are fairly standard. They support just about every type of card, but in order to use a Mini SD or Memory Stick Duo you will need an adapter. The PictBridge handles all the standard functionality, but also adds the ability to connect a USB drive. The paper tray can hold about 150 sheets of paper. The optional paper tray adds an additional 150 page capacity to the input for a total of 300 pages. The lid of the paper try is the output tray and also the manual paper loading slot. You can use this slot to load paper that you don’t use very often so you don’t have to unload the main paper tray. The manual paper loading slot is really deep inside the printer so it is a little difficult to get to.
There are several things you need to keep in mind when you go to use the media card slots. If you want to print directly from a memory card or a flash drive you can only print JPEG files. If you have a camera that saves images in any format other than JPEG then you must first transfer the pictures to a computer and then print them. The Once you have those things taken care of you can then view the contents of a card in a slide show, print all the photos, and print selected photos. Before you print the images you have the option of modifying the image. The options you have for modifying the image are to rotate, crop, correct red-eye, and adjust brightness. You can also use the media card slots to save the contents of a card to your PC by choosing that option in the control panel. When you select this option Dell’s Memory Card Manager utility will open on your PC. This utility is where you select the images you want to move. This is not the fastest option if you are in a hurry. The Card Manager typically takes a long time to display all the thumbnails of a large card, but you can still select the images you want to copy even if the thumbnails are not showing. The card manager can only be used when you are connected directly to a computer with a USB cable.
On the top is the Automatic Document Feeder. This will hold up to 50 pages at a time and can be used for the Fax, Scanner and Copier.
On the back is a space for the duplexer, the USB port, power plug, modem and wireless network card slot. The modem can be used as a pass through so you can plug in a phone, answering machine or anything else that needs a phone line.
Opening up the printer reveals a space where you install the print cartridges. Dell has made this easier by only giving you the ability to use two cartridges at a time. Normally you will have one black and one color cartridge. The color cartridge is a 3 color cartridge which has benefits and downfalls. The benefit is the easy install, and the downfall is not having individual colors. Dell also made it easier by putting the print heads right on the cartridges. In case the print head gets clogged, there are no expensive repair costs — you just throw away the cartridge and replace it with another.
When you first open the box you will notice that you will need to install some things, especially if you bought the wireless card or the duplexer. To install the wireless card you simply have to turn the printer around to the back, remove the plastic cover, unscrew the metal cover, insert the wireless card and screw it in. The next step is installing the print cartridges. Because there are only two this is not difficult. Also, Dell puts the print heads right on the cartridge so installing everything is really simple. Installing the duplexer is also easy. There is a space in the back and all you do is snap the duplexer in place.
Printing to the printer is as easy as just pushing the print button from your favorite program. There are many options in the print menus that you can use to customize your print. Among these options is the ability to set the print quality, paper type, and even do double sided printing. On a printer like this, double-sided printing is a very nice feature. Once you have it setup, double-sided printing works great.
Scanning is something you can do from the computer or from the printer. Either way it will need to be connected to a computer or else it won’t have anywhere to send the scan. You will also need to be running a program that can accept a scanned document or image. Luckily, the Dell 966 ships with one such program, Corel Paint Shop Pro X. The quality of the scan is excellent, as you can see from the following images. The black and white chart came out a little purple, but the color one looks great. Scanning a full size document at 100 DPI took about 8 seconds, and a color document took 10 seconds
Faxing is one of the tasks that you can do without the aid of your computer; because of this, it is important for it to be easy. Faxing a document is only as difficult as dialing a phone number and making sure your paper is in the ADF with the text facing up. Because there is not a duplexer on the ADF, you can only send single sided documents. If you have a double sided document you will have to copy one of the sides onto another page, and then fax it as two single sided documents. I really had no problems setting it up. Dell has made this really easy by putting all the setups in a program that runs on your computer. I was even able to set up the fax to only pick up on a double ring, a double ring is a distinctive ring my phone company set up to indicate a fax was coming.
Copying, like faxing, is also something you can do without the need of a computer. Like faxing, you can only copy single sided documents, but you can copy two single sided documents onto one double sided page. There are also many other options like reducing or enlarging your copy. I ran a few tests and found that it takes about 18 seconds to copy a Black and White page of text. It takes about 50 seconds to copy a color document. Copying a 4×6″ photo took 1 minute 45 seconds, but I don’t recommend that you copy photos because the quality is not very good.
Overall the printing, scanning, and copying was good quality and quick. To test the printing I printed off several pictures, some black and white text, and some color documents. The pictures turned out ok, but as you can see they were not quite as good as the store. The text turned out really good for an ink jet and the color documents were equally good. It took about 88 seconds to print a 4×6 photo quality picture, 8 seconds for text, and 12 seconds for color documents.
Dell was nice enough to send me a Bluetooth adapter to use in my testing. The Bluetooth printing was flawless. I used my Treo 650 to take a picture and then sent that picture to the Dell 966.
Setting up the wireless was the only thing that really gave me trouble. When I first got the printer I could only connet with wireless if I turned off all my security. I called Dell about this and they sent me a fireware update. After applying the firmware I could not even connect with the security turned off. The wired connection always worked during all this so I at least had a fall back plan.
Warranty and Support
Dell offers several different warranty options. They start with a 1 year warranty and you can upgrade to a two year for $39 and three years for $49. Dell provides 24/7 toll-free phone support. If you have a less urgent problem you could use the live chat, email, or check the user forum. Dell’s website also has downloadable drivers, software, and user guides. You can find tips and how-tos on the website. All of these things are organized by product, so they are really easy to find.
This printer has a lot of great features, more than any other All-In-One printers that I have tested. There are many features that make printing really easy. With Media card slots, PictBridge, Bluetooth, wire and wireless networking, you have all the connection options you need. If Dell improves the photo quality to match what you get from a store then this will be an excellent printer. With options and features galore, and a decent warranty, you can count on this printer to last a long time. Add to that a low starting price of $199 and you have a good printer.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|