Dell E525w review

Modern printers are all curves, touch panels and tactile delight, but it seems nobody told Dell. This new colour laser multifunction peripheral (MFP) remains obstinately black and square. You could describe it as business-like, but why shouldn’t businesses have nice-looking things too.

It’s not pretty, then, but the E525w feels solidly built and has a good specification: it can print, scan, copy or fax, and you can connect it via USB, wired or wireless networking. The biggest omission is automatic double-sided (duplex) printing, but the driver talks you through it manually.

Manual duplex printing with help from the driver, Dell E525w

We’d prefer automatic duplex printing, but at least there’s help to do it manually

This is a particularly easy printer to set up, with little packing to remove and an excellent installer that asks the bare minimum of questions. Unusually, there’s the choice of IPv6 or IPv4 drivers, while the default options will ensure that you can still use the printer if either IP address should change – a common scenario that catches out a surprising proportion of drivers. Dell’s new Printer Hub software integrates local print and scan features with cloud services, but this didn’t detect the scanner when we tried over a wired Ethernet. Fortunately, the TWAIN driver had been installed and worked correctly.

Dell Printer Hub showing no scanner detected, Dell E525w

Dell’s Printer Hub software didn’t detect the scanner, but its TWAIN interface worked fine

Dell’s PC scan interface could do with an auto-exposure setting, but it’s otherwise simple and effective, as is the print driver. Using the printer’s own control panel is like travelling back to the 1990s, however: the backlit, four-line mono display seems wilfully dated, and for some operations it’s needlessly clunky. At least it’s easy to print from or scan to a USB drive inserted into the front panel port.

Screenshot of a document scan preview, showing a blue colour bias in the white background, Dell E525w

Dell’s scan interface could do with an auto-exposure feature; we had to manually correct this blue bias

A single black or colour copy was lethargic at 27 seconds, but multi-page copies made using the 15-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF) were more competitive: 10 black pages took 51 seconds. Scan speeds were quite reasonable at all but high resolutions, with a 150 dots-per-inch (dpi) A4 scan needing 18 seconds. Print speeds fell a little short of Dell’s claimed 18 pages per minute (ppm) in black or colour: we measured 15.8ppm for the former and a competitive 12.6ppm for the latter.

Colour photocopies were just a tiny bit drab, but it was hard to fault the E525w elsewhere. Scans were reasonably sharp, with surprisingly good dynamic range ensuring that light and dark details were preserved. Printed text and graphics were excellent, while photos were also unusually good.

Laser printers in this price range are increasingly under attack from inkjet alternatives, particularly when it comes to running costs, and again it seems nobody has told Dell. With replacement black toner costing £46 and lasting for 2,000 pages, and the three colour toners each costing £49 and rated for 1,400 pages, costs work out at a disappointing 12.8p for an A4 page. Most rival lasers would be cheaper to run, but instead we’d opt for HP’s OfficeJet Pro X476dw inkjet. Its ink costs are less than 4p per page, and thanks to a cashback offer running until the end of July, it’s currently cheaper to buy, too.

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