Dell A920

WHAT'S HOT: A price of US$89 is inexpensive for a single-function ink jet printer, but for a multifunction printer that also scans and copies, it's extremely low. The Dell A920 scanned both text documents and colour images at speeds faster than the test-bed average for ink jet MFPs we've tested. PC World's output jury didn't like everything the A920 produced, but we thought it scanned and copied well enough for everyday use. Its printed text looked pretty sharp too, though up close we noticed a slight choppiness around the edges of the letters. The A920 printed glossy photos with realistic colors and sharp focus, though they also showed a somewhat grainy texture.

The A920 has no on-board LCD or menus, but it doesn't need them because its functions are so basic. It has one button for making black-and-white copies, another button for colour copies, and a third button that tells your PC to start a scan.

WHAT'S NOT: The A920 was dismally slow at printing graphics. Though the PC World Test Centre clocked the A920 printing text at 4.3 pages per minute--about a half page slower than the test-set average--the A920 printed graphics at a woefully slow 0.1 ppm. Colour prints on plain paper looked somewhat foggy and unfocused, and narrow parallel lines blended together. The output tray felt flimsy. Except for a thorough setup poster, Dell's documentation leaves a lot to be desired--the printed manual provides only cursory coverage of most functions despite being 64 pages long; the on-screen documentation comes in the form of help files.

WHAT ELSE: The A920 has no document feeder--no surprise considering its price--so to scan or copy multipage documents you have to feed each page by hand. The scanner lid comes off to make room for scanning or copying large or odd-shape documents. Copying speed was a few seconds slower than average.

Dell provides a substantial software bundle, including the Dell All-in-One Centre, which is convenient for performing scans and making copies; BVRP's FaxTools for faxing documents from your PC through a fax modem (the A920 does not send or receive faxes); the lite OCR package Abbyy FineReader 5.0 Sprint; and a Dell-branded basic photo editor.

Note that you can't buy Dell's consumables in a store; the company only sells them directly to customers, though it's made efforts to make reordering easy.

UPSHOT: The A920 is a bargain for scanning and copying-as long as you don't plan on printing many colour photos.

Dell A920

Print: Rated 14-ppm text (draft)/8-ppm graphics (draft), 4800-by-1200-dpi maximum resolution, 100 sheets input, 25 output. Scan: 600-by-1200 dpi; 48-bit external colour. Copy: 13-ppm black-and-white (draft)/5-ppm colour (draft); 99 copies. One-year warranty, 24-hour daily toll-free phone support.



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