Having made the connection, you run the installation software and specify the use of a network. After that, it's on your list of printers, and you can print to it (and also use its scanner) from anywhere in the network.
OK, so network printing has not been news for 30 years, but this brings the price to a new low. Everyone in the office can now share the same printer for less than the cost of a fancy catered lunch. In fact, it erodes the rationale for buying more printers, so that I wonder if Dell is wise to be offering it.
Speaking of cost, while Dell's site gave its list price as $199, at this writing it is offering a $50 discount, for a price of $149. That price is matched elsewhere. Oddly, Dell's accessories site was offering it for $289, but this included a five-year warranty and exchange service,, and no discount.
Physically, the machine was built like a plastic toy, as you expect in this price range, but was sturdy enough to be functional. The unrelenting black of the case seemed overdone. The layout was a little odd in that printed paper is emitted onto a shelf that is above the print engine (as is common with smaller lasers) but below the scanner, and does not slide out onto a tray.
There are two print modes, Normal and Best. I saw no difference with text. With graphics, the gradations between tones were softer in Normal mode-which made it superior for most uses, as far as I was concerned.
In terms of print speed, a 21-page presentation document with 27 pictures was finished in 70 seconds, including the initial warm-up. This approximately lives up to the claimed throughput of 23 pages per minute. Output was stacked face-down in the correct order.
The unit includes 128 megabytes of RAM. The input tray has room for 250 sheets, which is plenty. There is a two-line LCD screen for control. The unit came with OCR software that worked flawlessly, as far as I could tell.
It comes with a standard toner cartridge rated at 1,500 sheets. For replacements, Dell offers either the 1,500-sheet cartridge for $62.99 (or 4.2 cents per page) or a high-capacity 2,500-sheet cartridge for $87.99 (3.52 cents per page.)
Update on the HP 8500
In my previous review of the HP OfficePro 8500 Wireless All-in-One, I complained of not being able to get its wireless functions to work. It was supposed to be able to link wirelessly to a Wi-Fi router, or directly to your Wi-Fi laptop through a point-to-point ad hoc network. Since the wireless router connection struck me as an unnecessary gimmick, I was untroubled.
Since then I isolated the problem to my laptop's Wi-Fi. After doing a system restore, apparently removing some accumulated software incompatibilities, it worked like a charm. I was then able to get the laptop to print wirelessly to the HP using an ad hoc network by first setting up the connection by having the laptop's wireless networking applet connect to the HP's "hpsetup" wireless network and then installing the HP's printer driver.
So it saves $20 on a USB cable, but admittedly you can also print from anywhere in range, such as out in the garden. I also noted that using the point-to-point connection tied up the laptop's Wi-Fi port, preventing it from browsing the Internet until you changed its connection from the printer back to the router. This puts the HP's wireless connection to the router in a new light-if you absolutely must dispense with cables, then the HP's link to the router will free your laptops' link to the Internet.