While most schools are centralizing printing and scanning resources, Dell’s 1355cnw Multifunction printer goes against the grain by making a compelling argument for an all-in-one printer-scanner-copier-fax machine for each classroom. Capable of taking take care of an entire class’s document needs, the $420 1355cnw is efficient and inexpensive but costs a lot to operate.
The black 1355cnw is surprisingly small for a color laser printer that can do so many things for a classroom. It can connect directly to a computer via a USB cable or to a school LAN via its wired or WiFi wireless networking. There’s also a handy USB connector upfront for printing off of a memory key.
It has a 295MHz processor and 128MB of memory as well as software for working with Windows and Mac computers. I really like the included watermarks that can add “Confidential” or “Urgent” to any document without altering the underlying material. Teachers can add their own to assignments, like a motivating message to get the work in on time.
Simple to operate, the 1355cnw is a quick study and there are helpful online videos on how to get the most out of the printer. To get going, press the Scan, Fax, Copy button for what you want it to do and Start; the 1355cnw does the rest. Unfortunately, the buttons on its keypad are a bit stiff, so you might have to hit some twice.
As a printer, it can churn out 600-dot-per-inch documents at the rate of 4 color pages a minute, well short of its 12-page-per-minute rating. On top of a 150-page paper drawer, the 1355cnw has a pull-out slot for printing on cards and envelopes.
Unfortunately, the 1355cnw can’t automatically print on both sides of a sheet, potentially saving a school hundreds of dollars in paper costs; it comes with a manual duplexing system where you take a printed page and reinsert it to cover the other side.
Teachers will appreciate that the 1355cnw is whisper quiet, particularly compared to larger devices that can sound like 747 jet engines on take-off and use so much power that they dim the lights; it uses 16watts when idle and 600 watts when printing.
On the other hand, there’s an annoying beep every time it finishes its task. The printer’s menu is logically set up and the screen shows toner level while it’s idle.
The prints are sharp with well-formed type, but with colors that are a little muted. It can handle a variety of papers, from the cheapest copier paper to card stock. In a month of everyday use, it never jammed. On the downside, using the 1355cnw for typical school tasks (letters, worksheets, tests and take-home packets) costs about 18 cents per page. That’s roughly double what larger and more expensive color laser printers cost and is closer to the price of ink jet printers.
While it’s easy and surprisingly clean to change the printer’s small toner cartridges and Dell includes free shipping labels to have the old cartridges recycled. There’s a curveball, however, because the 1355cnw’s drum can’t be replaced, so the device is only good for roughly 30,000 pages. Still, that’s several school years worth of printing.
Finally, it is a surprisingly good scanner that can turn any document into a crisp and accurate 1,200 by 1,200 dot per inch digital file. Its software lacks 64-bit TWAIN support but the WIA driver worked fine on two systems I used. On the downside, it can’t turn scans directly into Acrobat .pdf files that all computers can read but can email the scanned image anywhere. It takes 56 seconds to scan a page at 600dpi.
In the final analysis, at $420 the 1355cnw is priced right for schools on a tight budget, but it costs too much to print with.
+ All-in-one printer, scanner, fax, copier
+ Simple operation
+ Wired, WiFi, USB connections
+ Windows and Mac
- Manual Duplex
- Expensive per-page costs
- Can’t replace drum
- Stiff buttons