Pros: Easy setup and very reliable color printing
Cons: Expensive consumables
We were needing a color printer in one of our sales departments about a year ago to replace an over worked HP color inkjet printer. Since we have been being all Dell printers to replace our worn out ones at that time my boss immediately turned to Dell to see what was available. Dell had two models available to chose from at the time; 3100cn and 5100cn.
After looking through the specs Dell had listed on their site and compared the two against what he figured the sales group needed he decided on the Dell 5100cn. The printer has been in use for more than a year and we haven't experienced anything out of the ordinary for a color laser printer; just normal consumable replacement and occasional paper jams, but nothing major.I have read a few reviews were people have been pretty critical of the 5100cn, but we haven't experienced many troubles at all, knock on wood.
I have been in the computer/printer repair field for more than 16 years and seen my share of poorly designed printers, but I can say that the Dell 5100cn isn't in that category. I know Dell didn't design or produce this printer, but since their name is on it they get the credit or blame.
Dell 5100cn Color Laser Printer
The 5100cn was the first color laser printer available from Dell and it has turned out to be a great machine for our usage. Our sales department need the ability to reprint color artwork, but they don't need high resolution images. So the 5100cn suits theirs needs at an affordable price. If they needed a higher quality color image we would have looked at a Xerox Phaser printer, but that wasn't necessary.
The Dell 5100cn is a very capable color laser printer with printing speeds of 35/25 (black&white/color) pages per minute and it has a 2150 sheet capacity with additional paper trays. The standard capacity is 650 sheets of paper in its 150 manual feed and 500 in the lower multipurpose tray.
A couple of things that made this color laser printer perfect for our needs is that it has created really high quality images even on plain white paper. Even though the print resolution is 600 x 600 which is lower than most higher end color laser printers available but using Dell 2400 IQ technology it still provides high quality color prints. The most important thing for our sales people needed was a quality print on plain paper.
Installation and setup of this printer was made fairly simple because of the user guide that Dell includes with all of their printers makes it easy to follow. Each of the four colored toner cartridges (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) were individually packed in plastic and they were packed in a box together. The toner cartridges were protected from accidental damage by covering vital parts with plastic removable covers and toner canister within the toner cartridge is sealed by a plastic strip that you simply pull out before you load each of the cartridges into the printer. The cartridges were very easy to install by removing the cover on the top of the printer. Each of the slots are color coded to be sure you don't put them in the wrong slot. The imaging drum ( user replaceable) is packed in a separate plastic bag and like the toner cartridges has the important parts protected by plastic covers and they must be removed before you install it in their printer.
The toner cartridges are rated at 9000 and 8000 pages (based on 5% coverage), black and color respectively. What that means is that if the image you are printing only covers 5% of the paper you should get 8000 pages of color printing out of each set of toner cartridges. The toner cartridges have a smart chip built into them and this allows the printer to track number of pages that are being printed from the toner cartridges. It is also used to verify that you are using genuine Dell cartridges.
Once you have all of the consumables loaded into the printer and it is powered on you can either hook it directly up to your computer using the USB connector (USB cable wasn't included) or you can use the built-in Ethernet port and attach it to your network. If you chose to use the network connectivity you will use the operator panel and LCD display to make all of the necessary setting changes.
Dell included the print driver for Windows on a CD and it was really easy to install them on each of our computers that were going to be connected to it.
The hidden expense of owning and operating a color laser printer is necessity of having to replace four color (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) dry toner cartridges, image drum and transfer unit. These six consumable items will set you back quite a bit and there requirement to be replaced are based on page counts that the printer keeps track of. The cyan, magenta and yellow toner cartridges will need to be replaced approximately every 8000 images and the black will need to be replaced after 9000 images and that those numbers are based on 5% coverage. The image drum and transfer units replacement as based soley on page counts and they are set at 35,000 images. One important note, the printer will not work when any one of the consumables need to be replaced. Fortunately you will receive plenty of warning before the printer stops working, as long as you pay attention to the LCD display on the front of the printer. Now for the cost of the consumables: all these prices are from Dell's website. Up until recently you had to buy all of these from Dell.
Black Toner cartridge - 49.99
Cyan Toner cartridge - 169.99
Magenta Toner cartridge - 169.99
Yellow Toner cartridge - 169.99
Image Drum - 139.99
Transfer Roller Unit - 29.99
The printer will let you know when the cartridges get down to 20% to give you plenty time to order a new one since it will not work when the any one is completely empty.
My final thoughts
I have to say that the Dell 5100cn Color Laser Printer was a good purchase for our company, over the past year I haven't heard many complaints from our sales staff. I have on several occasions used the printer to print color images and they have been pretty impressive. The colors were always pretty darn close without making any color adjustments in the printer driver. The speed and image quality were the two things that have been mentioned the most by users since replacing the old HP color inkjet printer.
The Dell 5100cn is very easy to setup and operate and only took me approximately 15 minutes from unpacking (removing all of the pieces of tape) to printing the print driving test page. Dell included step by step instructions to be sure you loaded all of the consumables correctly.
Once you get by the expense of all the consumables you will agree that the Dell 5100cn is a great printer.