Reasonably priced, quality All-In-One photo printers are hard to come by. Dell is trying hard to create a printer that is not only inexpensive, but also produces quality images. The Dell Photo All-In-One Printer 926 is their latest attempt at that very market.
- All-In-One Design!: Combines USB connected PC printing, scanning and faxing with stand-alone copying in a compact box.
- Fast: Prints up to 20 pages per minute in monochrome and up to 15 pages per minute in color (Actual print speed will vary with use).
- High Quality: Produces high quality photos and documents with print resolution up to 4800 x 1200 dpi
The Dell 926 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 $17.99 each, the Black cartridge costs $13.99, 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 $23.99, and the High capacity Black cartridge costs $18.99. I would recommend the high capacity cartridges because you get almost double the ink for only about $5 more.
While the printer has the ability to send faxes, there is no built-in fax modem. Instead, this printer will use a modem that is in your computer. If your computer does not have a modem then you will not be able to send faxes. If you have a computer with a modem you can use either the computer or the printer to start the faxing process.
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″. Scanning can be started from either the printer or the computer. In order to start scanning from the computer, the printer must be connected directly to the computer with USB.
The copier is very basic. You have a few options to choose from while copying like zooming, lightening or darkening the picture. The copier is able to produce copies at about 1200 x 1200 dpi.
Dell 926 is very small and equally light. Because of the small size and light weight it feels really fragile. The printer has dimensions of 17.36″ x 21.22″ x 7.2″ (W x D x H), and a weight of 11.9 lbs. The printer is small enough that it could fit on the same desk as your computer with out taking up much space.
The front of the Dell 926 is where you will find the paper output, media card slots, and a PictBridge connection. There are only two media card slots, so you are limited to what you can use. The two slots only support CompactFlash Type I & II, Microdrive, MultiMedia Card (MMC), Secure Digital (SD), Memory Stick (MS), and xD-Picture Card. The PictBridge handles all the standard functionality.
On top of the 926 is the scanner, a small screen and a few controls. The controls consist of 7 buttons. These buttons don’t do much in respect to the printer; they are mainly used to change the settings. The green button on the right side is used to start the copier, scanner and fax. The button on the bottom of this area is used to turn on and off the printer.
On the back is the USB port and the power plug.
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 and photo cartridges each have three colors which have benefits and downfalls. The benefit is the easy install, and the downfall is not having individual colors and you may end up throwing away a cartridge that is not empty. Because the color and photo cartridges each have 3 colors in them, it is possible to use up only one of the colors. Even though the other two colors are not empty you still have to replace the whole cartridge. 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. A downfall of putting print heads on the ink cartridge, and not having separate colors, is that every time you change the cartridges the printer has to realign the print heads. In order to do this the printer has to print out a special page it uses for aligning. This process uses ink and therefore the more you swap cartridges, switching from photo colors to regular colors, the more often you will run out of ink. Dell could solve this by providing individual ink cartridges for each color, and then the only time you have to switch cartridges is when you run out of ink.
Setting up the printer is really easy. All you really need to do is take it out of the box, install the ink and software, plug it in and start printing. When you install the print cartridges, and every time you change them, the printer will automatically align the print heads. If for some reason the print head alignment does not start automatically you can start it manually by using the display and controls.
If you purchased the Wireless 3300 print server you will need to install that first, and it is separate from the 926 install program. After several attempts and a firmware upgrade I was finally able to get the wireless printer server connected to my network and the 926 printer. After it was connected it worked great with no further problems. The print server does not have a wired Ethernet port, so if you do not have a wireless network you will not be able to network this printer. For only $99, the 3300 is a really good deal if you have more than one computer and a wireless network.
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, and the paper type. One of the things that you need to watch out for when printing is that setting some of the options in the software will cause other settings to reset. For example, if you choose the paper type, 4 x 6, and then choose borderless printing the paper type will reset to 8 1/2 x 11. I made this mistake several times when printing photos and ended up wasting a lot of ink and photo paper before I figured it out. Also, if you choose photo quality before you choose glossy paper, the resolution of the photo will be set to 1200 DPI instead of 4800 DPI. Because of these things I would recommend that Dell rearrange the settings so that the borderless setting is first, then paper type, and then finally quality. Either way you should really double and triple check your settings so you don’t miss anything.
Scanning is something you can start from a 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 926 ships with one such program, Corel Paint Shop Pro X. It can even scan to e-mail by opening a new e-mail message on your PC and attaching the scan as a file. The quality of the scan is excellent, as you can see from the following images. The black and white, and color charts both came out looking great. Scanning a full size document at 100 DPI took about 8 seconds, and a color document took 10 seconds.
This printer also has the ability to fax, but you need a computer with a modem before it will work. My computer does not have a modem so I was not able to test it.
Copying, unlike faxing and scanning, is something you can do without the need of a computer. I ran a few tests and found that copying color, and black and white, took about the same amount of time. The only thing that changed the copy time was if I changed the quality. I copied a 4×6 photo at photo quality and it took 2 minutes and 48 seconds, but I don’t recommend that you copy photos because the quality is not very good.
Overall the printing, scanning, and copying were 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 ok, as you can see from the image below the text is a bit blurry close up, but it is readable. Also, if you print text that is really small, around 6 points, the printer will have a hard time. Color documents seem to be where the printer does its best. If you don’t have a lot of text then you will not have any problems. It took about 2 minutes and 45 seconds to print a 4×6 photo quality picture, 7 seconds for text, and 28 seconds for color documents. According to the costs, I mentioned above, 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 46 cents. A full sized page of mixed text and color, using high capacity Color and Black cartridges, is about 22 cents. If you use the standard capacity cartridges your cost will go up to about 25 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 two times as much to print individual photos, but the cost of the printer is enough to print several hundred pictures at the store.
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 926. If you have a Bluetooth camera the $36 Bluetooth adapter is a really great deal.
Printing from a media card is a little different then I expected. When you put in a media card you can either print out all the pictures or a proof sheet. The proof sheet will have thumbnails of all the pictures on the card. Under each thumbnail are a series of bubbles that you can fill in to set the number of copies of each picture, and there is also a bubble for removing red eye. Above the thumbnail section is a set of bubbles for setting the size that you want the photos and for what type of paper you are using. Once you have filled in all the bubbles, you then place the sheet on the scanner and choose the option to scan the proof sheet. Once the proof sheet is scanned the printer will proceed to print out everything you chose. Assuming you filled everything out correctly, a little while later you will have all the photos you selected. When I tried this it actually worked well. I did not have any trouble with the quantity, size or paper type selections.
If you are connected directly to the printer with USB you can also use the Memory card manager to access your pictures. This program which comes with the printer will allow you to make simple changes to the pictures, like rotating them, and print pictures directly from the memory card. In addition with a direct USB connection you can access the memory card directly and copy the images to your hard drive, open them with a photo editing program or anything else you normally do with images.
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 $19 and three years for $29. 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 also find tips and how-to’s 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 for its price. With Media card slots, PictBridge, Bluetooth, and wireless networking; you can connect it to just about any computer. I would recommend to Dell that they add a wired Ethernet port to the print server to accommodate users that don’t have a wirelessnetwork. If Dell improves the photo quality to match what you get from a store then this will be an excellent printer. Dell could also solve a lot of problems by using individual ink cartridges for each color. With a very low starting price of $99 you can get yourself a printer that will be good at text and color documents. If you are looking for something to print pictures on, I recommend that you stick with the professionals at your local store.
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