Carrying Dell's trademark colours, the Dell Photo All-in-One Printer 922 has a wide, silver lid -- resembling the hood of a 1960s car, with a black underbelly and paper trays; it's utilitarian, not beautiful. At 4.1kg, the lightweight Dell 922 is nonetheless a bit bulky for a multifunction in its class, measuring 43.7 by 32.3 by 16.8 centimeters (W, D, H). Since extending the paper trays increases the Dell 922's height and depth by about 12.7 centimeters, this is a not a machine made for small spaces. A small control panel with a two-line LCD is on the top right.
Although this is a photo-quality multifunction printer, Dell doesn't include media-card slots or direct camera-to-printer ports -- a big omission, we think. A single USB 2.0 port (cable not included) is located on the back of the machine along with the power-cord connector, and despite its lack of a network interface, the printer can function as part of a peer-to-peer network.
The Dell 922 also includes high-yield black and colour inkjet cartridges. An optional photo cartridge is available separately. The multifunction printer's 8MB of RAM is not upgradable.
The Dell 922's input tray, located in the back of the machine, holds 100 sheets, while the output tray that extends from the front holds 50 sheets -- fairly standard for a home-based multifunction printer but inadequate for most small businesses. The small control panel on the right-hand top contains one button to copy and one to scan, plus a small, amber error light, and a menu button to manually adjust the printout quality and other factors. Information appears on a small LCD above the buttons, but the screen can be difficult to read because it is set back at an awkward angle and is not backlit. It's generally easier to adjust settings through the software than on the control panel.
The Dell 922 is limited to Windows 2000 or XP operating systems, and it isn't compatible with Macs. Installation is simple using the enclosed setup sheet and CD, although the LCD language selection on our test unit initially defaulted to French at setup. To change the language on the Dell 922's display, turn on the printer, then press and hold the Power and Cancel buttons at the same time for about 10 seconds. The language choices will then scroll across the LCD.
The Dell Photo All-in-One Printer 922 is primarily designed for printing, copying, and scanning, offering only light fax capabilities. Since the printer is built around a Lexmark engine, many of its features (and its software) will be familiar to Lexmark owners, such as N-up printing, which allows multiple images to print on one page; borderless photo printing; and poster, booklet, and greeting card options. The default pop-up screen that appears while printing can be distracting, though its ink level reminders are handy. Unfortunately, the print speed is pretty slow.
The Dell 922 is a reliable standalone copier for occasions where you need a quick copy and don't want to boot up your computer. It can produce up to 99 copies at once, offering various speed and print-quality options for greater ease of use. Most impressive, though, is the preview option -- available through the All-in-One Center software -- which lets you scan, fax, copy, edit photos, and perform other tasks from your PC desktop. A preview option lets you crop a document or descreen (remove) images electronically, if necessary.
As a scanner, the Dell 922 will import text or images directly to file, fax, or e-mail. The Dell 922 uses Microsoft e-mail apps, such as Outlook, or non-Microsoft e-mail programs, such as Eudora, by adding them to the list of default destination choices on the All-In-One Center software. To edit your scanned images, you can use the bundled Jasc Software Paint Shop Pro 8.0 or Microsoft Word or Paint. For editing scanned text, Dell provides Abbyy Fine Reader 5.0 Sprint Plus optical character recognition (OCR) software. Other bundled software includes the Printer Solution Center, providing thorough troubleshooting, maintenance, and how-to tips; and Dell Picture Studio 2.0, which offers quick access to Paint Shop Pro 8.0 and Dell-branded image-management options.
Unfortunately, the Dell 922 doesn't provide PC-free fax capabilities for those occasions when you don't want to fire up the PC. To fax, the Dell 922 relies on Microsoft software and the modem on your computer, so its only fax addition is its ability to incorporate scans. While ink costs can skyrocket with an inkjet, the Dell 922's high-yield ink cartridges offer reasonably priced colour ink and somewhat pricier black ink. Unfortunately, this printer doesn't support third-party inks. According to the vendor, the AU$53.90 high-yield black-ink cartridge produces 638 pages (which comes to about 12 cents per page), while the AU$59.40 high-yield tricolour-ink cartridge produces 561 pages (about 10 cents per page). The cheaper AU$44 standard black-ink cartridges are no bargain, producing only 298 pages, at roughly 7 cents per page; same with the AU$48.40 tricolour cartridge, which produces 237 pages at about 5 cents per page. An optional three-colour photo cartridge is available for AU$53.90, producing roughly 118 4x6-inch prints.
Considering that Dell's printers (and Lexmark's) are famous for great print speed and not-so-great print quality, the Dell Photo All-in-One Printer 922 is full of surprises.
First of all, the Dell 922 prints monochrome text and graphics really slowly and is one of the slowest-printing multifunction inkjet printers we've ever tested. In CNET Labs tests, the Dell 922 averaged 1.7 pages per minute (ppm) for text and 0.2ppm for photos. This compares unfavourably with the Dell A960, whose scores are 6.5ppm and 0.6ppm for text and photos, respectively.
On the other hand, the print quality impressed our jury. Both text and graphics samples showed great detail, among the sharpest we've seen from an inkjet printer. The photo printout was also finely detailed, although the colour tone was slightly yellowish compared to the original. Nevertheless, it was one of the best photos ever produced by a Dell or Lexmark inkjet printer tested at CNET.
Unlike its print speeds, in CNET Labs tests the Dell 922 scanned quickly. At 7.1ppm for grayscale and 5.2ppm for colour, the Dell 922 was actually the fastest-scanning multifunction printer CNET Labs has tested. In spite of this, the printer's copy-speed scores were just the opposite: a sluggish 0.4ppm.
We were, however, pleasantly surprised at the Dell 922's high-quality scans. The grayscale image was perfect, replicating the original target precisely, from gradient to shading. The colour scan image was also quite good, even though it had some visible banding and a little off-the-balance gradient.
We tested the Dell 922 at its factory default settings, which can be adjusted to better the printer's speed and output.
Performance analysis written by CNET Labs project leader Dong Van Ngo.
||Grayscale scan speed||
||Color scan speed||
||Text on inkjet paper||
||Graphics on inkjet paper||
Dell supports its Photo All-in-One Printer 922 well. The company provides free 24/7 customer support by phone during the one-year limited warranty period, which also includes its Advanced Exchange Service (see warranty for specific details). Additional warranties can be purchased separately.
Extensive support is also available online, including a searchable knowledge base database, user forums, and chat with a Dell representative (although chat was offline at the time of this review). The easy-to-navigate All-in-One Center and Printer Solution Center software provides thorough built-in help file for quick remedies. Included with the Dell 922 is a printed owner's manual that's straightforward, covering usage basics and troubleshooting.