The Ricoh SP C252SF is a well-designed colour laser MFP with low running costs. It's just a shame it isn't better at printing graphics
Most laser multifunction peripherals (MFPs) are similar in design, so Ricoh’s quirky SP C252SF is a refreshing change. It’s quite compact, and its appearance is the better for some odd curves and the glossy, piano black plastic around the control panel. At the left, two circular vents can be rotated, a neat touch to direct hot and smelly exhaust air away from anyone sitting nearby. Although the scanner bed can’t be tilted upwards, it does slide back to facilitate access to the paper tray, which if anything seems like a better idea depending on where the printer is installed.
We found the physical setup of this device a bit confusing. There’s always plenty of tape, seals and foam to pull out of a new laser printer, but one particular bit disappeared into the gap between the white side panel and the black upper body, right next to a button which we assumed would give access to the consumables. After a bit of head scratching, we discovered that this button in fact locks the scanner bed in one of its three fore/aft positions, and that what initially looked like a paper stop in the printer’s output tray was the consumables access lever we were after.
When loading paper, we noticed that there weren’t any orientation markings in either the main 250-sheet paper cassette or the single-page bypass feed built into the printer’s front panel. After some trial and error we discovered that pages in the cassette are printed on the top side, while it’s the bottom side when using the bypass. Another quirk is that paper is fed upwards through the front of the printer and ejected away from you into the output tray; most laser printers are orientated the other way around. At the right is a lever which opens up the entire front of the printer, giving unusually generous access to remove any paper jams.
Although this is a smart-looking MFP, it gets a bit busy around the control panel, which comprises a mono display surrounded by a raft of buttons. The control panel is generally not difficult to use, but we didn’t always find it intuitive. Three action buttons below the screen line up with context-sensitive options, but these aren’t always used – for example, during copying two buttons remain idle while one is used to select duplex settings; changing common options such as the copy count or density involves diving into the full menu.
It’s easy to insert a USB drive into the covered USB port at the left, then make direct scans to it – even if the printer is busy delivering a job. There’s no print option, though, and looking in the manual it appears that the port supports only PictBridge printing from devices such as a camera, which is an odd choice for an office-orientated MFP. Similarly, although the printer supports mobile printing through iPrint and Ricoh’s Print&Scan app, on this model scanning to a mobile device isn’t possible.
When printing from a PC, the SP C252SF isn’t particularly quick, especially when waking itself up: it took 50 seconds to crank out a single page after a lengthy period of sleep. When warm, a first page of black text arrived in 16 seconds and the printer went on to reach 16.9 pages per minute (ppm) over our mono 25-page test, close enough to Ricoh’s claimed 20ppm. Things were much slower in colour, though, with the printer pausing for long periods during our graphics-rich test for an overall speed of just 6.4ppm.
We wouldn’t mind so much, but the results were underwhelming, with slightly garish colours in places, some visible graining in others, and a rogue stripe in the background of some of our presentation slides. We explored the various colour settings to try to produce more even prints, but couldn’t find an improvement. Happily, black text was superb, and our black and white test photo much better than average. Envelopes, once we’d worked out how to orientate them, were quite badly crumpled.
This MFP’s slimline automatic document feeder (ADF) closes when not in use to keep dust out. It sounds particularly quiet and expensive during copying, although it’s not especially fast: we timed 10 greyscale copies at 53 seconds and 10 colour ones at 74 seconds. Unfortunately, copies weren’t great, being too dark at the default setting. Lightening mono copies by the maximum two stops fixed the problem, but colour accuracy remained iffy at any setting.
Given our less-than-impressive results elsewhere, we were surprised to discover this MFP’s capable scanner. Before we could use it over the network we had to press a button in the driver to discover it by IP address, but this process completed quickly, after which we quickly grew to like Ricoh’s TWAIN interface. Though it looks complex, it’s easy to use. The software doesn’t have an auto-exposure button, but we were happy with our results, which were sharply focused and had accurate colours. The scanner was also unusually good at retrieving shade detail from the darkest regions of our originals.
Ricoh’s website and brochure are at odds about the maximum capacity of the consumables available for this MFP, but Ricoh confirmed that it will take 6,500-page black toner and 6,000-page colour toners. Including the only other consumable – a waste toner box – running costs work out at 1.3p per black page and 7.2p in black and colour, making this an inexpensive printer to run.
On balance, there’s plenty to like about this distinctive MFP, and its compact size and low running costs will make it a good choice for many users. It’s a shame, given its strengths, that its colour prints and copies aren’t a little better, but it’s still a good buy for a small office printer and wins a Recommended award.
|Technology||Single-pass colour laser|
|Maximum print resolution||600x600dpi|
|Maximum optical scan resolution (output bit depth)||1,200×1,200dpi (24 bit)|
|Number of colours (cartridges)||4 (4)|
|Standard interfaces||USB, Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless, USB Host|
|Duty cycle (pages per month)||65,000 (max), 3,000-5,000 (recommended)|
|Maximum paper size||A4/legal|
|Maximum paper weight||160gsm|
|Standard paper trays (capacity)||2 (251)|
|Maximum paper trays (capacity)||3 (751)|
|Automatic Document Feeder capacity||35|
|Supported operating systems||Windows XP or later, Mac OS X 10.6 or later, Android, iOS|
|Other features||Backlit mono display|
|Warranty||Two-year swap out|
|Black toner 407716 (6,500 pages), £81. Cyan toner 407717, magenta toner 407718, yellow toner 407719 (6,000 pages each), £116 each|
|Quoted life of supplied black toner||1,000 pages (ISO/IEC 19798)|
|Quoted life of supplied colour toner||1,000 pages (ISO/IEC 19798)|
|Cost per ISO/IEC 24712 A4 page inc VAT||7.2p|
|Cost per ISO/IEC 24712 A4 page inc VAT (colour part)||5.9p|
|Cost per ISO/IEC 24712 A4 page inc VAT (mono part)||1.3p|
|Capacity of supplied drum/s (pages)||N/A|