Dell has released a range of LED printers and multi-function machines over the past few years. The E525w is a compact multifunction device, designed for small business or work groups and offering print, scan, copy and fax functions, with wireless, Ethernet and USB connections.
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In Dell’s normal jet-black livery and angular lines, the printer is clean-cut and has a small footprint, with the paper-out support pulling out no further than the input tray to keep the footprint contained.
At the top is a 15-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF) and directly below and in front of this is a full-width control panel, including a four-line by 20-character, mono LCD. This is well used for control and status, though it’s not a touchscreen. Some control choices are a little odd, too, with separate buttons to select mono or colour output and a third button to start the job.
The only paper tray takes 150-sheets, which is a bit meagre, and above it is a flip-up flap, which appears to have no purpose, as there’s no single-sheet feed. Fold down the right-hand side panel and the four toner cartridges clip in unconventionally, but easily, in a vertical orientation, side by side.
Connections at the back include USB and 10/100 Ethernet, as well as sockets for phone line and third-party handset. A USB socket set into the front panel can be used for uploading print jobs and downloading scanned pages.
A fold-down panel at the back and the hinged scanner section provide access for any paper jams – though we experienced none during testing.
As well as driver software, Dell includes Document Hub with the E525w. This gives you access to the printer wirelessly from mobile devices, either directly or via Google Cloud Print. As always, when it’s available, a wireless connection is the most versatile.
Wireless connection can be completed through WPS, with just a couple of presses on the printer and one on your router.
Dell claims a top speed of 18ppm for the Dell E525w, for both mono and colour print. Under test, we saw 7.5ppm on the five-page mono-text test, rising to 12.5ppm on the longer 20-page test. This substantial speed difference is mainly down to the long pre-processing time taken by the printer, up to 25 seconds. This has less effect on longer print jobs.
The five-page text and graphics test gave a slow 6.4ppm and a single-page copy, again due to the pre-processing time, took 33 seconds. A five-page mono copy from the ADF was quicker per page, taking 44s and a 15 x 10cm photo took just under a minute from a PC, with full A4 prints taking 32 seconds from the USB port and 1:09 from an Android smartphone.
Print quality from the 600dpi LED engine is very good. Beautifully crisp black text is matched by bright, attention-grabbing colours, with smooth, unbanded colour fills. There’s slight haloing of text over some colours, but not enough to be distracting. The printer does a good job with colour photos, too, though as is often the case, some darker tones merge to black.
Although the Dell E525w has a lifetime drum and fuser unit, so you only pay for toner, the pricing of that toner gives page costs of 3.4p for mono pages and a whopping 17.8p for colour ones. We’ve noted before that colour laser/led devices can be expensive to run and Dell is at the high end of the range. The costs of colour print may well push the device into an "occasional colour" category.
The price tag of £275 is quite a lot for a toner-based all-in-one, even one with direct wireless print and full fax. Samsung’s Xpress C1860FW can be had for just over £200 and includes a 110mm touchscreen and NFC wireless connection.
You should also consider the new wave of small business inkjets, such as Canon’s MAXIFY MB5350, Epson’s WorkForce Pro WF-5620 or HP’s Officejet Pro X476dw. They are faster and a lot cheaper to run. The Canon, for example, has page costs of 1.4p for black and 4.2p for colour. If you need to print photo images, they are also a lot more versatile.
The Dell E525w is a neat little colour multifunction with a good feature set and easy controls. It’s only let down by its almost-prohibitive colour-print cost and to a lesser degree, by a slightly clunky mono LCD screen. In this market place, you need to consider all the options, including business inkjet, before buying.