Ricoh SP C250dn review - a colour laser printer for just £80

Ricoh's SP C250dn is as cheap as colour laser printers get. Surprisingly, it's not bad at all

IT Pro Value
  • Very high print quality; Supremely cheap;
  • Surprisingly loud; High running costs;

It's hard to spend less on a colour laser printer than the 80 or so that Ricoh's SP C250dn will set you back. You'd imagine, then, that it might be rubbish, but with both wired and wireless network connections and automatic double-sided (duplex) printing, it looks pretty promising. Its 250-sheet paper tray is enough for most home or micro-office users, and there's a single-page bypass feed for when you need to print on specialty media like an envelope or headed paper.

The SP C250dn isn't the smallest colour laser, and at about 29kg, it's good to have a friend help you unpack it. Despite the bulk, it's a pleasant enough design, with a couple of white panels seemingly wrapped around a black plastic core. There are some nice touches, too, as the vents over its two cooling fans can be rotated to blow hot air to the front or back. It's not perfect, though. While the display is backlit, it's a basic two-line LCD. There are no orientation markings in the main paper tray, which is a pain if you want to print on the flipside of a previous single-sided job.

In use, the SP C250dn was some way off Ricoh's claimed 20-pages-per-minute (ppm) speed. It produced a first page of black text in 23 seconds, and went on to deliver 25 pages at a rate of 16.0ppm. In common with most printers, it was far slower to deal with the complex graphics contained in our 24-page colour test - the whole test completed at 5.8ppm. Timed over just the last 10 pages, which represent printing off typical web pages, it reached 10.5ppm - much faster than a similarly priced inkjet would manage. Duplex printing 10 sides of colour graphics onto five pages took the best part of three minutes, but repeating this with the less complex pages took just 70 seconds.

Happily, print quality was very high. Graphics and photos alike had neutral colours, and the toner gave an even, satin finish. Those with sharper eyes might detect some half-toning patterns among subtly different colours, though, and on thin paper stock I could see some bleed through in duplexed pages. Text quality was exemplary, as you might expect from a laser.

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Despite vents which could spare you from an unwelcome draft, this is quite a loud printer - particularly so given its modest speed. While there isn't much clattering from the paper transport mechanism, those fans are loud, and occasionally while they were running I heard a sudden, short-lived buzz, as though an unfortunate insect had just been sucked into the blades.

This is usually the part of a laser printer review where we point out the high running costs, and say you'd be better off with an inkjet. However, while this printer's page costs do work out at a steep 12.6p for a page of mixed text and graphics, that's only about 35% higher than some inkjet MFPs at this price. If you'll be printing in moderate volumes we'd still recommend an inkjet, but for occasional use, this is a cheap printer that's well specified and produces great results - it's an excellent investment.

Verdict

While it's not without its niggling flaws, the excellent print quality of Ricoh's SP C250dn makes it easy to recommend. You'll be hard-pressed to find another laser printer that's as cheap as this - let alone one this good.

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