Friday, August 20, 2004

Review: D-Link Fast Ethernet Print Server DP-301P+

Networking both of my printers (Epson Stylus C82 and Apple LaserWriter 360 Select) has been something I've wanted to do for years. Finally, CompUSA put the D-Link DP-301P+ Print Server on sale last weekend. I picked it up and here are my thoughts about it.

This model is for parallel printers - plugs into the parallel port and sticks out the back (or side, depending on where your port is) about 3 and 1/4" before cables are plugged in. Add another 1/2 to 1" for the patch cable and power supply.

Difficult to have the printer close to a wall if the port is in the rear as on the LW 360.

First test was on the LaserWriter 360. A sturdy printer made by Apple back in the 90s, though slow by todays standards, it works like a champ. This is the main printer I wanted to hook up as I print B/W more than color.

Installed the print server and via Safari on my Mac, I connected via the default IP and configured it. Was able to do a test page, was able to see it in several configurations via Print Center. Saw it via the Windows network, IP, Rendezvous. The latter was my choice, though I tried all three.

Here is where the problems began. I would send the print job from the Mac and I'd notice the light on the printer flashing - receiving data, then nothing would print. Curious, I checked the print server via the network and it was unresponsive. After numerous attempts, including rebooting the printer, I had to reset the print server by unplugging the AC adapter. There is no reset button, so that's the only option.

It is worth noting that the link light was out when I checked it, explaining why I couldn't get to it via the LAN.

All seemed fine again until I tried to print. Same problem.

Installed the drivers/utility that came with it on my Windows XP Pro box to see if there was something I was missing. The Windows utility, while convenient, does what the web-based configuration does.

Installed the printer on XP as well. Nothing. I was able to do a test print via the config utility, but the same thing happened on XP as happened on the Mac. Frustrated, I considered returning it, but instead decided to try it on the Epson.

Here is where the DP-301P+ shines. I reset and reconfigured it, ran test prints, prints from Word 2003 (XP) and 2004 (OS X) and all were successful. Pictures printed flawlessly. All of my networked systems have the driver installed and all print without a hitch. The Macs all use the Rendezvous protocol as well, which is pretty nifty.

My best guess with the LaserWriter 360 is that there is a problem with the printer itself. I normally have it hooked up to my XP box and shared to the Macs and other PCs on the network. But sometimes that fails and either the PC or printer need to be rebooted to work - 9 times out of 10, the printer is the problem.

I've tried new parallel cables, but that's not the issue. The fact that no computer, Mac or PC could print successfully to it says that the problem is the printer, not the computers. Suggestions are welcome on this issue.

Features from the box:
IEEE 1284 Compliant
Centronics (Parallel) Port
Multi-Protocol Support: TCP/IP, NetBEUI, Appletalk & LPR
Supports SNMP
Bi-Directional Communication
Web-Based Management
Pocket-Size, Light Weight
Mac OS Support for Postscript Printers Only

Pros: Handy device and at $29 after rebates, a great deal when compared with the $70 and up costs of the competition. If your network supports 100Mbps, then printing is speedy, almost as if connected directly to the computer.

Cons: Would be nice if the technology could e squeezed into a smaller package - though this is small, don't get me wrong! The problem is for those who are space-constrained and want to flush - or almost flush - the printer against a wall or in a corner. Other than these, I don't have many drawbacks.

Recommendation: A good buy. I'm learning to like D-Link more and more. Used to really dislike their design - mind you, it isn't Apple in this category, rather, it's more industrial in appearance. I also have a D-Link 802.11g Wi-Fi router that I'm quite happy with, so this makes 2 of their products that have done well under my abuse :-).

For the money, it can't be beat. Haven't tried it on other laser printers, but I imagine it would perform well. My LaserWriter problem is most likely the printer itself and had nothing to do with the print server.

Comments are welcome! Anyone own this print server and like it/dislike it? Anyone got it working with a LaserWriter Select 360?


Darren Mahaffy said...

Comments are open to anyone.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I just ran across this. I had a very similar problem with an Apple LaserWriter NTR (the predecessor to the LaserWriter 360) and the DP-301P+.

At first I thought things were ok, it showed up in the chooser (running Mac OS 9.1) and I printed out a couple of screen shots. The odd thing was the green receiving-data light on the printer never stopped flashing after the jobs printed, which worried me.

I shut everything down and restarted things and this time tried printing a small test page from MS Word... just the two words "Hello there". The receiving data light on the printer started flashing but nothing ever came out. After waiting some time, I tried printing a second time and this time I got an error message saying the printer was not available, and indeed it did not show up in the chooser.

This sounds exactly like what happened to you.

After some more testing I found that starting fresh I could only reliably print one job, and only then when it was over a certain size... larger than about a half page of text seemed to do the trick. After that I'd have to reboot/restart everything.

There must be some basic incompatibility between old Apple Laserwriters and the DP-301P+... maybe some buffer is being overrun or something. I tried changing the printer "speed" setting in the DP-301P+ configuration panel to "low" but that didn't help.

I wonder if D-Link knows about this...

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