The 1700n's shiny, slimming, black-plastic case with silver accents seems to eat up little desk space, though it measures 15.5 by 13.9 by 9.8 inches (WDH) and weighs 27 pounds, average for a desktop laser.
The Dell 1700n comes with a single, built-in 10/100 Base-T Ethernet, USB 2.0, and parallel ports without cables. Ports are in the back of the printer underneath the rear exit door, and the output tray on top fits 150 sheets. The control panel's easy-to-follow two buttons and vertical row of five LEDs sit on the front right. A slot in the front cover of the 1700n serves as the manual feed, with a built-in paper guide that chaperones envelopes through the printer and out the rear exit door. At the base of the printer, a single paper drawer holds 250 sheets. A 550-sheet tray, for a reasonable $99.95, expands the total to a roomy 800 pages.
Inside the front cover of the 1700n, a small, 3,000-page use-and-return toner cartridge sits above the imaging drum. A new cartridge costs $99.95 or a steep 2.9 cents per page. But Dell asks $30 less for a recycled, 2.3-cents-per-page cartridge, and under the use-and-return policy, the company also offers robust 6,000-page cartridges for the 1700n at $89.95. That's an average price of 1.5 cents per page compared to a new 6,000-page cartridge for $129.95 or 2.2 cents per page.
With 32MB of memory, the Dell 1700n will easily handle documents for a small office or a home, but if you're planning to share it in a workgroup or crank out, say, the 2004 U.S. Budget, you can expand that up to 160MB. The 1700n comes with two 100-pin DIMM slots for more DRAM, which Dell sells at $29.95 for 32MB, $39.95 for 64MB, or $49.95 for 128MB.
The nonnetworked Dell 1700n connects to Windows 98 PCs and up but not to Macs, sorry. You'll have to buy the cables to hook up to either its contemporary USB 2.0 or the old-school parallel port. The setup poster's illustrations ease installation and toner-cartridge placement, and the manual makes networking simple, with a CD-ROM user guide providing even more depth. Once you network the 1700n, an online status monitor will check a job's progress and the printer's toner levels, and it will even e-mail you before the toner runs dry.
The 1700n's driver menus feature roomy, tabbed windows and large image buttons for picking print quality up to 1,200dpi. The menus illustrate how to reinsert a document for manual duplexing after the first side prints. And the account-tracking feature records how much people are printing. The driver also can retrieve watermarks and overlays from the network, although only the system administrator can create or delete them. Other options include multiple page or n-up printing, booklet and poster layouts, draft mode, and a halftone option.
The Dell 1700n is covered by a standard one-year exchange warranty. Dell also sells up to four additional years of exchange coverage, ranging from one extra year at $29 to three years at $119; the company offers support packages with a next-business-day onsite response. Dell provides toll-free, 24/7 technical service via telephone and the Web.