Exceptional prints but Dell’s E525w Color Multifunction Printer cost too much to use

Dell E525w Color Multifunction PrinterWith apologies to the philosopher Heraclitus (assuming he even said the original in the first place), the one thing that’s constant in tech is change? Somebody tell Dell.

In all the years we’ve been looking at laser-class printers, Dell’s machines have been the ones that have changed the least, and the most slowly, on the outside. Take, for example, 2011’s Dell 1355cnw, a multifunction color-laser-class printer that looks almost identical to the new Dell machine we’re reviewing here in 2015, Dell’s $329.99-list E525w Color Multifunction Printer. And, when we looked even further back, we found other Dell multifunction printers (MFPs) that looked an awful lot like that E525w.

Points for consistency, at least: The family resemblance in Dell’s line over the years has stayed clear and constant. In fact, as we’ll discuss in some detail, from an appearance and interface perspective, the E525w isn’t just long in the tooth. Compared to some of today’s more modern competitors, such as HP’s snappy-looking Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw, it’s like stepping back a decade or two in time in printer design.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. And the Dell E525w comes with two offsetting positives: (1) Despite its aging and somewhat ungainly design, the E525w delivers exceptionally good prints, for the kind of printer it is. And (2) a comparable machine 20 years ago would have cost four or five times as much. This model, with a $329 list price, is modestly priced enough, but at this writing Dell was selling it for $199.99 with free shipping, and some other sellers had it as low as $179.99.

Now that’s cheap. And yes, the E525w delivers excellent-looking output, including photos that are better looking than you might expect from a laser-class machine. The only problem? The cartridges…oh, those toner cartridges. The E525w prints at an exceptionally high cost per page (CPP), especially for the color output. It’s the same old printer story of charging a low price up front for the printer itself, only to make it up on the back end with a relatively high per-page price for consumables (in this case, toner).

This, of course, isn’t an unusual practice. It’s certainly common among printer makers in their entry-level and midrange machines. Aside from that all-too-frequent tactic, though, Dell did a whole bunch right in this printer. Besides printing top-notch output for a budget-level laser-class machine, the E525w comes with a decent mix of features. That includes, in a forward-looking fashion you wouldn’t expect from this printer’s backward-looking design, several ways to connect to most mobile devices, which we’ll cover in more detail momentarily.

Before moving on to the next section, though, we should point out that as a “laser-class” printer, the E525w isn’t technically a laser printer at all. Instead it’s a LED-array printer, in which a fixed strip of LEDs does the same (or similar) work that the laser apparatus does in a “true” laser printer, in that it charges the image drum appropriately to transfer toner to paper.

Dell E525w Color Multifunction Printer (Angle View)While LED-based machines operate inside somewhat differently from true laser-based ones (the former are often smaller and have fewer moving parts, for example), the machines themselves appear to operate identically from the outside. The print quality between LED and laser is about the same in most cases, too, and LED-based models tend to use less power—a win-win for all involved.

In any case, aside from a too-high CPP, as well as a few other, more minor grumbles, the E525w is a fine laser-class printer, with better-than-average print quality for the price. You won’t want to print loads of output on it—the consumables are just too pricey for that—but used in moderation, it should be good enough for many would-be MFP owners who have never owned a color laser before and will use it just for occasional output.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper

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