Dell 1815DN Review

The Dell 1815DN is a laser MFP. It's a networked laser printer that can scan and (I believe) fax. I bought one for work. I think it's an abominable piece of shit, and I'll never buy another printer from Dell again. I've decided that Dell make fantastic servers, tolerable laptops, and woeful MFPs.

First the good things: it's not a terrible printer. Installing the drivers is a bit naff. If you used Windows 3.1, you'll get a nice wee trip down memory lane. But if you answer the trick questions right, you'll be rewarded with a test page, and things will mostly just work.

It's a duplex printer. I wouldn't own any other kind. While it's an incredible pain to set up duplex printing from a mac, it is at least possible. And once you tell windows that you want to print duplex, it remembers. Which is nice.

Unfortunately, there's no way to tell the printer that everything should be printed duplex, except for the things that it gets sent specifically marked single-sided, but I can grudgingly live with that.

What else do I like about this brutally awful printer? Well, I like the fact that it can scan to pdf and throw the resulting pdf up on my screen. I quite like that. It's nice. And I guess I like the fact that when it isn't printing, it's silent. Also, it doesn't take up too much space, I guess.

But after that, I'm all out of nice things to say about this little shitheap of a scanner/printer. How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways...

First, the ADF, the auto document feeder. The word "duplex" figures prominently in the description of the 1815DN, so you'd think that the ADF could do double-sided scanning. You would be wrong.

Scanning to your PC

But it's the interface that I really, really hate. You see, when you drop a (single-sided, dammit!) document in the ADF, you have to navigate the most incredibly annoying menu system I have ever met to persuade it to scan your document.

It only has three buttons to nagivate the crappy little screen: left, right, and one with a "tick" mark on it, which the interface sometimes refers to as "start". To scan a document and have it appear on your screen, assuming you've set everything up properly, you have to press... left (to choose "scan"), Tick, Right, Right (to choose "network"), Tick, Right (to chose "PC"), Tick, Right, Right, Right ... (to choose your PC from the list), Tick. Then you have to enter your PIN, even though you set up your PC to not require one. Then you have to press Tick to select the place on your computer to scan to.

Phew, finally you can now press Tick to start scanning. But wait, these interface "designers" have a wee trick up their sleeve. You have to wait for the scanner to "warm up", because you haven't used it in over a minute. What does it do? Does it just pause, do its silly little "warm up" routine, then scan your document? Does it fuck. No, it beeps at you, tells you it's not warmed up, then throws you back to the very start. Jesus. I'm used to this now, but this still makes me want to throw it out the window roughly once a week.

Scanning to email

Of course, if you can't or won't set up network scanning, you could always set up an email address. You can http browse to the printer and give it some email addresses. But the rigmarole for sending a document to yourself by email is an incredible pain in the hole.

Left (to Scan), Tick, Right (to Network), Tick, (Email is selected), Tick, Sender address?, Tick to leave as default (why the hell does it have to ask me this???), Destination address?, number '9' on the keypad to select 'W'. Thankfully I'm the only W. Tick. Do I want to add another address? Sheesh, no I don't. Just like the last hundred times you asked me. Right (because the default is to add more!!!), Tick. Do I want to review the destination email addresses? Hell, no. Just. Like. Last. Time. And the time before that. And the time before that. Right. (Because the default is to review the addresses. Hello????) Tick. Send to myself? What? What does this mean? Send to who? Me? Oh, you mean you, the printer. Which I'd like to kill. No, don't send a copy to yourself. Like last time. And the time before that. etc. Tick. At least No was the default that time. Subject? Subject????? You think I'm going to type in a fucking email subject line on a numeric keypad without predictive text? Have you no concept of what a good user interface is like..... Oh, right. You don't. I'd kinda gathered that. OK, Tick. Accept the default. One last question: Resolution? Resolution Never to buy a fucking printer from Dell. That's my fucking resolution, you useless piece of networked ostrich shit. Oh, dpi. Right. Sure, the default will do. Like last time. Thanks for asking.

And after all that shit, if you haven't used the scanner recently enough, it'll beep loudly at you, start warming up, and throw you right back to the initial menu! Please God, give me patience.

So, those are probably the most annoying things about this Dell 1815DN. There are lots of other minor irritations, but the totally pale into insignificance beside fighting the menu system while trying to scan something.

Minor irritations like not being able to scan in colour to pdf. It's probably possible, I just haven't figured it out yet.

Minor irritations like when you open the - pathetically small - paper tray to give it more paper, it beeps at you. Five times. I mean, it's not as if you don't know the paper tray is open. Like, I just opened it, for fuck's sake. Becuase you ran out of paper yet again.

Minor Irritations like the little spiral-bound booklet it came with which is supposed to fit into the little boolket-shaped niche in the front of the printer ... but doesn't. Because, well, it just doesn't quite fit.

Minor irritations like the fact that it seems to eat through toner like it's going out of fashion. (I'm being quite subjective here; it just seems like it's using lots of toner. It might not be. Maybe the toner cartridge that came with the printer was only partly full when it arrived.)

So, that's my review of the 1815DN. Hopefully if you were thinking of buying one, you've seen sense. If you want a decent printer, go bite the bullet and buy a HP 4350DN.

But if you want a good scanner, one with an ADF, a double-sided ADF, that does quality scanning to pdf, across a network, quickly, with a minimum of fuss ... I'm afraid I don't know what to suggest. Hopefully I'll find out soon. Hopefully.

Update 2007-11-15: I've found another incredible annoyance with this stupid shitheap of a scanner. It's mysteriously just stopped scanning to my pc. It just says "No Application". Well, shit, that's useful. God, I hate this fucking 1815dn. (Rebooting the printer fixed the problem. Sheesh.)

Update April 2008 I've bought a Fujitsu Scansnap S510. It's everything the Dell 1815DN is not. I love it to bits. I will write a review someday.

Update April 2008 Jason Thacker writes to say:

Perhaps its an older review, however, I just read your review of the Dell 1815DN. And I must say, after being assigned the task by my IT Director of actually getting them to work--yeah, right--I completely agree. Completely.

Firstly, printing is mostly excellent. Once you install the drivers. Then click through the folder and basically install them again, you're in great shape. Unless they didn't install correctly. And if you didn't mind having to for all intents do it twice.

But then you can print. And nicely.

Scanning, however....well, that is a job unto itself. First of all, it doesn't even install scanner drivers by default. You have to select them, and don't forget to check them off, or all is likely lost. Provided you do this, you're pretty much ok. At least until such time as the scanner drops your PC because it went to sleep, was hibernating, or it just fucking felt like losing you. We have been dealing with this for nearly two years now.

One hint: Make sure the scanner is using your network's DNS server and WINS server. Do this by accessing the Web interface for the scanner, typing the IP into your browser. Firefox works best, IE will do. Once you do this, its likely to work as much as 50% of the time.

Of course, it will still lose your PC. And you will still need to reboot BOTH devices in order to make it work again. Which it might actually do, when it returns to service, you choose to scan, it starts warming up, you choose to scan once more, and it finally finishes warming up. At least after ten minutes of trying, you will now know for certain whether it works. It still might not, but you will at least know.

Hope this helps, at least a little. Changing your computer to Always On, under the power settings, usually, but not always, helps with losing the scanner. Most times a hibernating PC will be lost and the entire reboot sequence will be needed once more...fun stuff.

Try the Dell 3115 scanner. Its a hulking piece of shit, as well, and requires twice as much space as its predecessor (and a step ladder to scan, if you place it on a desk or table). But it scans in color--the 1815 simply does not--and is much more reliable (meaning it works right about 75% of the time). Also, the price has been about the same, as Dell is replacing the 1815 with the larger, hulking 3115, citing the "High Demand" of the 1815 as th cause for a horrendous back log of orders.

Me, I think its returns, that keeps this pieces of garbage from being sent out again....

Update May 2008 I still hate and despise this printer. I hate the way it beeps incredibly annoyingly for about five minutes whenever its woefully inadequate paper tray empties. I wish I'd bought a HP 4350DN. Oh well, live and learn.

Update July 2008 I'm starting to use Vista (which I hate a lot less than I hate the 1815DN, which is saying something!), and - of course! - I can't scan from the 1815DN to Vista. This doesn't surprise me. In fact, the only thing that surprised me was that I was able to print.

Update July 2008 bis Network scanning from the "steaming pile of shit" 1815DN to Vista works now. This page has a link to a newer version of the netscan utility here: ftp://ftp.us.dell.com/printer/Dell_MFP-Laser-Printer-1815d_A01_R173756.exe which worked for me. I had to run it twice: the first time, it uninstalled the pre-existing network scan utility. (I really hate this 1815DN. Don't buy one. Buy a Fujitsu ScanSnap if you want to scan. Buy a Brother HL-5250DN if you want to print. Or, for that matter, any non-Dell printer!)

Update December 2008 I've just found out something really funny about this printer: if you print N copies of a document double-sided, it prints out N copies of page 1, back-to-back, then N copies of page two, again back-to-back, and so on. For me, this is well beyond annoying and straight into comically funny. It's just so .... unbelievable. Also, it might not technically be the printer's fault, but it's definitely in character for the printer.