Review: Dell Color Laser Printers 2130cn 2135cn Good Deal?

Dell Color Laser Printers (2130cn, 2135cn)

*Good deal only if you plan on using compatible or re-manufactured toner cartridges – or if you want to refill your own cartridges.  Dell toner prices are incredibly high, do not buy these printers if you plan on using Dell brand toner.

Dell 2130cn and the Dell 2135cn color laser printers

$209 for the 2130cn -- $299 for the 2135cn

Same Cartridges:

While these two printers use the same toner cartridges, the Dell part numbers are different for each printer.  The manufacturer part number is the same, but the dell part numbers are different. The Dell color laser printer 2135cn has multifunction abilities, while it’s sister the Dell color laser printer 2130cn is simply a printer.

At some point the transfer belt and print head, which are buried deep inside the printer, will need replacing.  As far as we can tell, these are not user replaceable, and there are no part numbers or ways to order on the Dell.com website. We assume that the transfer belt and internal print head would be covered by the warranty – if still under warranty.  It might be a good idea to pay for the additional service option if the printer will see heavy use.

New Design:

What peaked our interest in these printers is the way that Dell/Lexmark have designed the actual toner cartridge.  Cartridges for this printer are merely “toner holders”, and there is a “trap door” that releases toner as needed into the printer.  The only moving part inside the toner cartridge is a scooper that turns when toner is required by the printer.  Very neat design, but one has to wonder how long the internal belt/print head will last.

Dell color laser printer 2130cn, and 2135cn toner access door.

Toner cartridges for this printer series go in the side of the printer - they are nothing but "toner holders." There is no printing hardware in the individual cartridges.

Toner Cartridges:

Again with the two different “sizes” of toner cartridges.  Funny thing is, they are NOT different sizes; Dell puts less toner in the cheaper cartridges, and a full cartridge will cost you full price.  The cartridges are physically the same size and shape, but one is full and one is “half-full.”

Dell 2130cn Half Full Cartridges:

Dell 2135cn Half Full Cartridges:

  • Black – T102C – 330-1385 – 1,000 pages – $49.00
  • Cyan – T103C – 330-1386 – 1,000 pages – $65.00
  • Magenta – T105C – 330-1388 – 1,000 pages – $65.00
  • Yellow – T104C – 330-1387 – 1,000 pages – $65.00

That is $244.00 for a single set of toner cartridges.  Using the 5% coverage rating the cost per page clocks in at a hefty .24 cents per print, however you need to read this about what 5% coverage really looks like.  Actual cost per page will be much higher if you print full page documents.

Dell 2130cn Full Cartridges:

Dell 2135cn Full Cartridges:

That is $373.00 for a single set of toner cartridges.  If we use the 5% coverage rating, you are looking at .15 cents per print. There are inkjet printers on the market that have a lower cost per page, and that total price for a set of these toner cartridges is $164.00 more than the printer costs!  Still need evidence that printer manufacturers make all their money on toner/ink/consumables?

Both the Dell 2130cn color laser printer, and the 2135cn are identical in design (internally) to the Dell 1320c color laser printer we took a look at last week.

The Dell color laser toner cartridge T102C - T109C

This cartridge is identical to what is used in the Dell 1320c color laser printer.

But wait, it’s a Dell printer!

Why anyone would purchase a Dell printer is confusing – you can only get toner from them, and they run out frequently.  On the surface this looks like a terrible choice for a printer as nobody prints at 5% coverage – that would be a small paragraph of text on every page.  A more realistic coverage estimate would be in the 20%-30% range, and that would put the cost per page into the stratosphere.  Having had multiple bad service experiences with Dell in the past, we are hesitant to recommend these printers – however, the availability of compatible toner cartridges for $20-$35 each, and the low entry price of $209-$299 from Dell direct make this printer a gamble worth taking.

Compatible Cartridges Only:

Compatible cartridges have received good reviews, and you can also refill them yourself – but there is a catch.  Dell puts a chip on the cartridges that must be replaced once the cartridge reaches “empty” on the status indicator – you cannot simply refill the cartridge and start printing again, the printer (via the chip) will think the cartridge is empty.  Fortunately the folks over at Static Control have “cracked the code” on the chips and replacements are available.  The chip on the cartridge cannot be reset, it must be physically replaced.  Compatible cartridges include a new chip necessary to register on the toner level indicator – so you know when to change cartridges.

Compatible Cartridges:

  • Black – T106C – 330-1436, or 330-1389 – 2,500 pages – $25.00
  • Cyan – T107C – 330-1437, or 330-1390 – 2,500 pages – $25.00
  • Magenta – T109C – 330-1433, or 330-1392 – 2,500 pages – $25.00
  • Yellow – T108C – 330-1438, or 330-1391 – 2,500 pages – $25.00

Using compatible cartridges results in a .04 cents per print range – much better.

Compatible cartridges

Google shopping for the Dell 2130cn color laser printer

Google shopping for the Dell 2135cn color laser printer

Don’t Be A Sucker – Samsung CLP-315 $89.00

How Not To Shop For A Printer:

Samsung color laser printer.Low on the entry price, get’s you thinking…Fry’s offers the Samsung CLP-315 color laser printer for $89.00.  Sounds like a good deal right?  I mean, for $89.00 how can this be a bad deal?  Well it is a bad deal, and apparently it is not that great of a printer.  Reviews are mixed over on Amazon, and this printer garners a 3 out of 5 star rating.  Looks like a clear case of, “you can pay me now, or you can pay me later.”

Since its a color laser printer, it will have 4 toner cartridges – one each for black, cyan, magenta, and yellow.  Additionally, the printer ships with a set of the dreaded “starter toner cartridges” – take a look at the fine print from Samsung’s web site:

average continuous black cartridge yield: 1,500 standard pages (ships with 1,000 pages starter toner cartridge).

average continuous yellow/magenta/cyan cartridge yield: 1,000* standard pages (ships with 700 pages starter toner cartridge).

So that is a nice color laser printer, with cartridges that will get you 1,000 to 700 prints on your initial print job, and the best you can hope for when a replacement set of cartridges is purchased will be 1,500 pages black, and 1,000 pages color based on Samsung’s estimates here.

Toner cartridge prices:

So there are 4 toner cartridges for this printer. The Samsung Color Laser Printer CLP-315 also has a removable (replaceable) drum that will last for 6,000 pages color, and 24,000 pages black and white, as well as something called a waste toner container which is rated at 10,000 pages black and white, and 2,500 pages color.  So once you get through the initial 1,000-700 pages, get out the wallet.  Here are the “hidden costs” you are looking at over the life of the printer:

Final Analysis:

So there you have it – if we use 10,000 pages as a benchmark for use over the life of the printer here is what your total will be for that $89.99 printer.  6.6 black cartridges, 9 cyan, 9 magenta, 9 yellow, and a possible $12.99 for a new toner waste catcher – which equals a grand total of $1389.00 for consumables to get to 10,000 pages.  If we add the cost of the printer into the equation we are closer to $1500.00 for 10,000 pages, or .15 per print – and that is any print.  Compare that to the Epson Artisan 800 (with CIS) that will print 10,000 pages (plus) for at most $325.00, or .0325 per print – and you get full color prints, plus more flexible paper types can be used. We haven’t even mentioned the energy savings (love your planet) – when our laser printer fires up, the lights flicker.  Get smart, or get ripped off.