An easy to use, simple print server for your parallel printer.
Jul 12, 2008
Review by Kurt Wurmser
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:easy to use, transparent, simple setup, just plain works
Cons:ummm...no wireless, no gigabit ethernet, 192.168.0.X IP addressing scheme may roadblock less sophisticated users
The Bottom Line: If you want to set up a parallel printer on an Ethernet network, the DP-301P is affordable, simple, easy to set up, and supports real TCP/IP printing.
Being a tech sometimes means tough decisions.
Recommend this product?
I've made additions and improvements to my home network that a lot of people wouldn't bother with. Since I have been elected the Cisco guy at work, I obtained a Cisco wireless access point, switch, and a PIX 506E. My networking equipment is pretty sophisticated for a home network, if I say so myself.
But I also like to utilize older equipment where I can. We own a Xerox 4508 laser printer which my wife obtained ten years ago. By today's standards it's a humble printer. It doesn't have USB. It's black and white. It doesn't have duplexing or a large paper tray -- OR a network connection.
I had originally gotten a Netgear PS110 network print server, which did the job, but with some things I didn't like. Finally, one day the Netgear simply stopped responding, leaving me with a choice: replace the Xerox or replace the network print server. The Xerox still works just fine after ten years of loyal (and low-volume) service, so that left one option: replace the flukey print server. I knew I wanted a print server that could support 100 Mbps (some older models only support 10 Mbps, as these usually date back to simpler times.)
I looked on Tigerdirect, and was originally looking at a Trendnet unit that was $10 cheaper. However, there was the usual 'People who looked at this also looked at' -- and there was the D-Link Express EtherNetwork DP-301P+.
There was a review on the site which said something about this product that grabbed my eye. Namely, that the DP-301P+ would allow you to print to a standard TCP/IP port.
That was something I had always disliked about the Netgear PS110. In order to print to it, you had to install Netgear's program, and use Netgear's printer port. It wasn't 'true' TCP/IP printing.
Now the distinction between the two may seem like it is only important to techno-geeks like myself. (At least that's what MT tells me.) But there is a reason it should matter to you. TCP/IP printing is built into Windows and has been since Windows 2000. (And although everyone loves to bash Microsoft, they actually did get printing right.) Odds are you're using a computer running Windows to read this now. Most versions of Linux also support TCP/IP printing. It's pretty much standard.
Netgear's client software, by comparison, was written ten years ago, and Netgear has shown no intention of updating it. My Vista machine didn't like the client software very much. With TCP/IP printing, I didn't have to worry about it.
So I ordered the DP-301P+.
The DP-301P+ has a very small form factor; it measures 3.5x2x1 length, width, and height. It attaches directly to the printer; no cable necessary. (A caveat: when you attach it to the printer, make sure the printer is OFF first. USB printers, which are the standard nowadays, are hot-swappable. Parallel printers aren't.) Then you attach an Ethernet cable to the port, plug it into your switch (or router, if you have a home router with a built-in switch), and plug in the power cable. There are three status lights on the DP-301P+. The standard green for power, the standard yellow for traffic, and a second green light that indicates that it's connected to the printer. This is a bit on the pointless side though, because most parallel printers have the port on the back, and when you plug the DP-301P+ in, the lights are on the back of that, so they face away from the user most of the time. (Mine faces the wall and provides a lovely green dot effect.)
Setting up the DP-301P+ is a simple procedure. When powered on, it has a default IP address of 192.168.0.10, which is a bit different because most home networks have a default addressing scheme of 192.168.1.X. I use 192.168.0.X anyway, so this was fortunate for me, but the average user might well get stuck on that problem.
I installed the PSAdmin software that came with it, and discovered it was much like the Netgear it had replaced. It offered Netware IPX/SPX and NETBEUI protocols as well as TCP/IP. Other than bringing back some memories, these protocols are probably not necessary unless you're running a very old version of Netware. (And let's face it -- you've got a TCP/IP network already, or else you wouldn't be able to get on the Internet and read my review!)
However, the software is not necessary to set up the print server, strictly speaking. The DP-301P+ can be administered through a web browser, and you can do just about everything you need to do. That's another mark in its favor; if you lose the CD-ROM you can still get things up and running. Good design on D-Link's part here.
Setting up the DP-301P+ took literally all of about three minutes. Getting it to print took only the time to reconfigure the printer to use a TCP/IP port. Test pages came out, and all was good.
But on my computer, I had installed the software. I decided to see if it would work with my wife's computer without it -- just plain vanilla, TCP/IP printing.
And it worked flawlessly. The printer whirred right into life and printed. As far as the computer was concerned, it didn't even know the DP-301P+ existed -- it just knew it could talk to the printer.
The DP-301P+ doesn't do everything. It doesn't support Gigabit Ethernet. It doesn't have wireless capability. (If you have wireless somehow, you can certainly print to it, but it's not built into the DP-301P+.) It really does one thing and one thing only -- it makes it possible to use a parallel printer on an Ethernet network. It does this superlatively well, transparently, and with a minimum of fuss.
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