On the forehead of the 1815dn is the control panel and a two-line text LCD. A full numeric keypad allows you to dial a fax number or key in the number of copies you want. The LCD shows the printer's menus, and dedicated forward and back keys allow you to drill down and up through the menus. A check button confirms the selection on the display, a return button takes you back to the last menu you saw, which saves you from having to drill up interminably, and an X button takes you straight back to the main menu. The menus are intuitive and easy to navigate, despite the limited buttons.
Below the printer's control panel is a gap that serves as the output tray. Since the output tray is contained within the body of the printer, there's no annoying wing-like appendage hanging off the printer. While the output tray can easily hold paper sizes up to A4, it has a small flap that folds out to ensure that your longer printed material doesn't go sailing to the floor. The one downside to this design is that you can't expand the output capacity--it maxes out at 150 sheets. The 1815dn comes with a 250-sheet paper tray that can accommodate multiple paper sizes, and you can expand its input capacity with an optional 250-sheet tray, for a total input of 550 sheets (including the ADF). The paper tray doesn't have a stop at the end, which could spell disaster if you're not paying attention when removing the paper tray. To be fair, though, it does have a stop midway, which will keep the tray from flying out due to an enthusiastic tug. Below the output tray is a door that folds out so that you can remove paper jams or change out the toner cartridge. A smaller door within that door flips open to serve as the bypass tray for loading single sheets of nonstandard media, such as transparencies or labels. The back of the printer has a flap that opens out to serve as an output tray for media fed through the bypass tray.
The 1815dn comes with the 3,000-page toner cartridge standard. The cost per page (CPP) for black text is about 2.3 cents, according to Dell. If you upgrade to the 5,000-page cartridge, you can reduce your text printing cost to about 1.6 cents per page. These costs are quite good for a laser printer: the Samsung SCX-4720F has a CPP of 2 cents with its high-capacity toner cartridge. The Canon MF570's CPP is about 3 cents, and the Brother MFC-8440's CPP is about 2.3 cents with its high-capacity cartridge. The control panel of the Dell 1815dn gives you access to a multitude of features. You can set paper size, reduce or enlarge copied images, autofit or clone copies, input paper type, select advanced fax features, and change scan resolutions, among other things. The scanner bed can accommodate paper sizes only up to A4, but the duplexer has a dedicated scanner (called the platen) that allows you scan up to legal-size pages. You can initiate scans from the printer's control panel or--if you install the included software--from your computer, using any number of applications, including Dell ScanCenter, PaperPort, or Adobe Photoshop.
If you use Dell's Network Scan utility, you can scan a document to your networked computer as a JPEG, a TIFF, or a PDF. You can also send out scans via e-mail directly from the printer. In addition, if you plug in a USB flash thumbdrive to the front-mounted USB 1.1 port, you can scan directly to the key. (You can also print directly from the USB drive: Uuse the control panel to select the Print From option and navigate through the files and folders on the drive. This feature supports TIFF, BMP, TXT, PDF, and PRN files.)