Dell 968w Inkjet Multifunction Printer
Sunday, June 8, 2008; 12:19 AM
The Dell 968w color inkjet multifunction printer is a faster, more expandable step up from its cousin, the948 AIO. The 968w we tested also has integrated Wi-Fi (a cheaper model is available without that feature). But while it has many office-oriented features, it suffers from design flaws, and it also faces stiff competition from similarly priced models--including the Lexmark X9575 Professional, which the 968w closely resembles.
In our tests, the 968w performed satisfactorily. It posted a faster-than-average speed of 10.2 pages per minute (ppm) in printing text on plain paper. Color graphics came out more slowly; in printing a small photo on plain paper, for instance, the 968w managed only 2 ppm. Text samples appeared a little fuzzy but nicely black. Colors showed a yellowish or bluish cast, and images had a grainy look, even on Dell's own photo paper. The machine produced very good copies (a little chunky) and slightly dark scans.
The 968w's control panel is commendably simple. The 2.4-inch color LCD shows all the menu options using clear language. The navigation buttons are intuitive, too, although their shiny, chrome-like surfaces show fingerprints easily.
For a machine that's intended primarily to push paper, however, the 968w could be better designed. The 50-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF) is nice, but the front-mounted, 150-sheet input tray seems flimsy; its guides and markings are hard to see, as well. A second 150-sheet input tray costs $69. The top of the tray catches output (100 pages), but you must retract its extension every time you load paper--and if you're using legal-size paper, the extension gets in the way a bit. An automatic duplexer (for two-sided printing) is a $79 option.
Deep within the output area lurks a particularly troublesome component: a pair of spring-loaded guides for feeding a single envelope or other thick media. They're supposed to close in securely on both sides of the media, but I couldn't get them to work properly--my photo paper always skewed.
The 968w's pricey inks are business-unfriendly. The $26 high-yield black (K) cartridge lasts 490 pages, or 5.3 cents per page. The $32 high-yield tricolor cartridge lasts 400 pages, or 6.3 cents per page. Figuring out how to reach the cartridges is challenging, too, as you get no obvious handle for lifting the scanner unit to do so--just a subtle side indentation.
The 968w is a good machine overall. I just can't recommend it quite as highly as I would Lexmark's X9575 Professional or HP's OfficeJet J6480 All-in-One, both of which offer similar (or better) capabilities for about the same price.