With a footprint barely bigger than many A4 inkjet printers, the new 1320c is Dell's smallest colour laser to date.

Refreshingly, the 1320c also lacks the hernia-inducing properties of many colour lasers, its overall weight of 17kg making it reasonably painless to lift out of the box and set up on 400 x 422mm of spare desk space.

Like most of its competitors, the space-saving design of the Dell relies on an inline toner cartridge system. This means that, instead of having all four CMYK toner cartridges mounted in a revolving carousel, the cartridges are stacked in a vertical configuration and toner of each colour is added in a single pass of the paper.

This makes for much quieter operation, compared with carousel printers, as well as cutting down on size, weight and mechanical complexity.

In the box

In its standard configuration, the 1320c relies on a 333MHz processor and a generous helping of 64MB of RAM, which is just as well because this can't be supplemented. One thing that's lacking, compared with much of the competition at this price point, is Ethernet connectivity, for which you have to add £24 on to the basic price.

In the small business environment this is definitely worth doing, because the network pack also comes with useful software that enables you to create up to five different user accounts and monitor the print jobs and costs per user.

Continuing in the small or home office theme, one of the joys of colour laser printing compared with inkjets is the infrequency with which you have to change cartridges. Again, the 1320c goes further than most in organising this aspect of printer usage, with driver software that not only alerts you when toner is running low, but also offers the option of ordering replacement cartridges direct from Dell, onscreen.

One drawback to this, however, is that the starter cartridges supplied with the printer are of the low-yield variety (1,000 pages) and even the high-yield cartridges are only good for 2,000 pages, based on the usual five per cent coverage at A4. You'll therefore find that you need to replace cartridges up to twice as often as with many other personal colour lasers.

Speed and quality

The Dell is no slouch, with mono and colour print speeds of around 16ppm and 12ppm, respectively, making it one of the fastest personal colour lasers around. However, "first page" output proved a much more average 20 seconds in our tests for both mono and colour text and graphics printing, while top-quality photo output took 27 seconds.

In terms of quality, the 600 x 600dpi resolution of our test model produced rich black and crisp colour text, while photo prints had an excellent sheen to them even when printed on standard copier paper. Unfortunately, things were slightly spoiled by banding - light stripes across the page.

Print costs are on the high side, working out at 1.7p and 7.8p per page for mono and colour, respectively.