Ricoh SP C250DN – The cheapest color laser printer
Color laser printers, on the whole, don’t really float our boat. They’re fine for plonking in the middle of an open-plan office so people can print their PowerPoint presentations over the network while shouting ‘Giles, bring that to me in the boardroom in four minutes with an obscenely overpriced coffee!’ At least, that’s what we imagine people do with them. For the rest of us, they’re just bigger, more expensive inkjet printers that emit a funny smell and make your photos look like GIFs off the internet.But what if you could get a color laser printer that’s as cheap as an inkjet? This model from Ricoh has now been discounted to that kind of price bracket, making it the cheapest we’ve ever tested. It’s faster than most budget inkjets and, with its photocopier-like design and lack of blockable liquid-squirting nozzles, potentially more reliable. So could it change our mind?The Ricoh SP C250DN is, inevitably, bigger and heavier than an inkjet, but not enormous. We found it a bit noisy when in use. This is mainly down to its cooling fans, which pump air through vents that can be angled so they don’t blow directly at you.
Unusually for a low-cost laser printer, it not only has a USB 2.0 port to connect directly to a PC, and Ethernet for use over a wired network, but it also has Wi-Fi built in. Sadly, this doesn’t support AirPrint, so you can’t print directly from iPhone or iPad apps. To print from an Apple or Android smartphone or tablet you have to use Ricoh’s own Smart Device Print & Scan app (www.snipca.com/20258), which only allows a limited range of document types. Still, it’s better than no Wi-Fi at all.To replace the full set of four black and color toner cartridges will cost you – are you sitting down? – around £230. The color cartridges are rated for 1,600 pages (although they’ll run out a lot faster if you print large areas of color), while the black should last 2,000 pages. At over 13.5p per page, that adds up to nearly twice the running cost of a typical inkjet printer. You do get starter cartridges with the printer, and their quoted life of 1,000 pages initially makes the printer great value for money. If you only use it occasionally, it’ll be a long while before you need replacements.Because the colours all come separately, you could use the Ricoh SP C250DN mainly as a black-andwhite printer, taking advantage of the crisp black text produced by the laser engine at a reasonable 2.5p per page.In our tests, the Ricoh SP C250DN didn’t quite hit the claimed 20 pages per minute ( ppm) for plain text, but it was still faster than a cheap inkjet. In color, it managed about 10ppm, falling to six with more complex graphics. Photos might not look as, well, photographic as with a good inkjet, but halftoning – the dot patterning that’s used to achieve blends between colors – wasn’t too obvious, and color graphics came out even and neutral. Duplexing (doublesided printing) worked well, without adding too much to the printing time. You might want to use slightly thicker paper than normal: laser toner (basically melted particles of plastic) doesn’t soak in like ink, but we still saw a bit of show-through.The obvious reason to choose this over an inkjet printer is to print more pages faster, though you’d be paying more per page. As color lasers go, though, the Ricoh SP C250DN is unusually tempting.Ricoh SP C250DN VERDICT
Inkjet printers will make more sense for most people, but for mono and occasional color laser printing, this is worth considering.