The Dell B1165nfw is a logical purchase if you're shopping for a no-frills, monochrome laser printer to output simple, text-heavy documents, but still want the functionality of an all-in-one output machine.
Armed with the ability to function as a standalone scanner, copier, and fax machine, the $199.99 Dell B1165nfw is just as capable of flipping through a 40-page document stack for automatic copying as it is of printing directly from an Android smartphone, thanks to the Dell Mobile Print App.
Additionally, the option to connect to a wireless network without the need for a password is a boon for the office set, or anyone who might have frequent guests using the printer.
For its relatively low price and collection of useful features designed to expedite workflow in small offices, the Dell B1165nfw monolaser printer earns our recommendation with an asterisk for its lack of access to external storage drives.
At just 11.7 inches tall, 15.8 inches wide, 11.5 inches deep, and weighing 16.75 pounds with the toner cartridge installed, the compact B1165nfw is an ideal size for small offices that don't operate at a print volume requiring a full-size stand-up work group printer.
Whereas other laser printers offer a touch-screen interface with virtual buttons and the option to edit photos directly on the control panel, this Dell makes a budgetary concession by forgoing the fancy interface in favor of a simple two-line LCD display on a control panel that tilts up and down to achieve an optimal viewing angle. You can also use the printer with all the drawers folded tight into the chassis to save even more space.
There's limited real estate on the control panel, but Dell keeps all the buttons neatly organized and easy to understand. With so many printers incorporating touch screens just for tech's sake, it's refreshing to have all your options laid out in an intuitive fashion with classic tactile buttons.
Aside from the display, you'll also find a numerical touch pad for inputting phone numbers for the fax machine, eight quick keys for storing frequently used contacts, and three feature keys (scan, copy, and fax), as well as hot buttons for ID copy and another for immediate access to the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS). Finally, there's a small LCD on the bottom to indicate print status -- a blinking red light is also used to notify you of paper jams, though none occurred during our testing.
Contrary to the printer stereotype, setting up the wireless printing functions and creating a connection with your home computer takes minutes rather than hours, thanks to Dell's proprietary Easy WiFi Installer. The box also includes a driver disc that walks you through the setup process, but I was up in half a minute using Easy WiFi Installer after just tapping on the name of my network after the printer sniffed out available connections.
Perhaps the most convenient side note to this feature is the fact that you don't have to input the network password to gain access, making it an ideal ad hoc solution for offices that need walk-up availability for guests.
Another useful feature for the business world, both home and in the office, is Dell's ID Copy button, which sits on top of the control panel. This setting makes it easy to duplicate both sides of an ID card on a single sheet of paper. You can even use it in conjunction with compatible Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software programs to automatically import the card data into your address book.
Aside from the array of print duties, the B1165nfw is also a full-functioning fax machine, copier, and scanner. Its scanning abilities are limited to 1,200x1,200dpi in available BMP, PDF, TIFF, PNG, and JPEG formats.
The copier also lets you adjust the contrast and resolution, as well as remove backgrounds and autocollage pages before printing. Dell keeps warm-up times down to a minimum, with less than 30 seconds between powering it on and full functionality, and a 40-page auto document feeder (ADF) keeps your hands free for other projects.
In terms of paper handling, my only complaint is that Dell doesn't offer any additional paper trays to add to the bottom of the existing unit. Though the stock 150-sheet capacity is nothing to be embarrassed about, large-volume-printing offices may find themselves having to add new reams of paper more often than usual, which can get annoying.
In this lower price range, I'm not surprised that the front face of the printer also lacks some features that you'll get on costlier devices. For example, you won't find a media card reader for printing photos directly from a storage card on a digital camera, nor is there a USB port.
Finally, I'm most disappointed to see that there's no autoduplexer available at this price. Without the option to automatically flip over a sheet of paper for double-sided printing, you may waste valuable time in an effort to save paper. Whether or not these omissions are deal-breakers is up to your particular workflow, though I wouldn't be surprised if they caused some IT pros to look elsewhere when shopping for a new printer.
The Dell B1165nfw performed similarly to its linemate, the Dell B1160w, in both the speed tests and quality examinations. Dell claims that the printer can achieve up to 21 pages printed per minute using a text file with limited graphics, and my tests nearly measured up to those results with just over 18 pages per minute.
You shouldn't expect too much in terms of print quality from the B1165nfw, though it performed well enough for use with office handouts and professional documents. That is, provided that you start the print job with enough toner for the printer to handle the job to its best ability.
Like the B1160w, it printed a beautiful page of black text with solid lines and clean edges with uniform character spacing and full-formed figures, but it failed to deliver similar results with a page of graphics.
The same goes for snapshot photos, although we'll assume you aren't buying a monolaser to support your photography career.
Service and support
Dell protects the B1165nfw with a standard one-year limited warranty that includes advanced exchange on-site service and remote diagnosis, with the option to extend service for five years after it expires for an extra $80.
The Dell B1165nfw is a simple, inexpensive monochrome laser printer that makes sense for small offices on a budget. It doesn't sacrifice features (unless you really need a USB port) and the addition of cloud printing features through Apple AirPrint-compatible devices, a Google Chrome Web browser, and even Dell's own Android app should inspire confidence that this unit is relatively future-proof.