Dell is shooting for the cloud with the E525w, a color laser MFP that reaches out to mobile users.
It supports Wi-Fi Direct and AirPrint (but not NFC), and has both wired and wireless 802.11n connections as standard – although they can’t be used simultaneously. With wireless enabled, we linked the E525w to our access point using its functional web interface. A WPS button is provided on the front panel, meaning we had no problems printing from our iPad via AirPrint. Dell’s Document Hub iOS app allowed us to directly print files, web pages and Gmail messages, and even access the scanner. However, the app couldn’t identify the printer or scanner over a Wi-Fi Direct connection, and would only work with AirPrint. Driver installation takes only two minutes in Windows, and sets up Dell’s Printer Hub app, which lists all local Dell printers, and the status of their consumables. It also ties in with Dell’s Document Hub web portal, so you can scan straight to Dropbox, Box, Evernote, OneDrive, Google Drive and SharePoint Online cloud storage.
Accounts are set up by an administrator from the Document Hub portal and invitations are emailed to users. After activating an account, logging in to the Printer Hub lets you browse and print files from – and scan documents to – the cloud. The Printer Hub lets you create any number of predefined actions, so local or cloud scans become a two-click operation. There’s also an option to scan and OCR business cards to email as vCards, and save them to a contacts list.
Dell’s Windows 8.1 Document Hub app provided quick access to our cloud storage accounts but, unlike Dell’s C2665dnf MFP, the E525w doesn’t let you print remotely from the Document Hub web portal. This means that you’ll need Google Cloud Print to access it over the internet. The portal still has the free cloud OCR feature, for which Dell had previously threatened to charge extra.
Dell scores points for output quality: text is sharp, and mono photos show plenty of detail in darker areas. Our color test chart revealed smooth transitions across complex color fades, while color photos and reports were vivid, superbly detailed and didn’t display any noticeable banding. Scan quality is similarly very good.
The feature set is broad. You can scan directly to PCs, FTP servers and SMB shares, and there’s a 100-entry address book for scanning to email and fax. You can disable or password protect scan and fax functions, block color usage for copying and printing from USB drives, and use the driver to PIN-protect specific documents.
The E525w achieved its claimed print speeds in our tests, with our 18-page Word and 24-page color DTP documents both being delivered at 18ppm. There’s a long wait before printing starts, though: the time to first page was as high as 25 seconds for our large color test print. Duplexing isn’t automatic either: if you select double-sided printing, you have to print one side and manually flip the page over for the reverse to be printed. The scanner’s 15-page ADF is slow too: a ten-page single-sided copy averaged only 6ppm.
Furthermore, printing costs are dear: mono works out at 2p per page, based on high-yield cartridge costs, while color prints cost almost 11p. You’ll soon need to buy your first set of consumables too, as the printer only has 700-page starter cartridges.
Dell’s E525w is a tempting proposition for small offices, as it offers useful cloud print and scan features. Its great print quality belies its low price, but the running costs and pedestrian copy speeds deny it our recommendation.
A cheap color MFP with great output quality and cloud features, but with high running costs.