A direct competitor to the Dell Smart Printer S2830dn, our Editors” Choice entry-level monochrome laser printer, the Canon imageClass LBP251dw ($209) comes close to the Dell model in print speed, print quality and features, and its list price is $70 less. But it falls a little short in one key area—the per-page cost of toner. This may seem insignificant, but if you print a few thousand pages or so each month, even a 1-cent difference in the cost per page (CPP) will cost you significantly over the life of the printer, far more than that $70 price difference. Otherwise, the LBP251dw is an outstanding low-priced monochrome laser printer, making it an excellent alternative to the Dell S2830dn for low-to-moderate volume output in a home-based or small office, or as a personal monochrome laser printer.
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Small, Sturdy, Ready to Go
A step up from the Canon imageClass LBP151dw, another top pick, the LBP251dw measures 11.8 by 15.8 by 14.9 inches (HWD) and weighs 27.2 pounds with the toner cartridge installed, which makes it slightly larger and about 8 pounds heavier than the Canon LBP151dw sibling, and similar in size to the Dell S2830dn. The comparably priced Epson WorkForce Pro WF-M5194, a standalone monochrome inkjet laser alternative, is a few inches wider, but otherwise about the same size and weight. And HP”s less-expensive, and less-capable, LaserJet Pro M102w is significantly smaller and about 17 pounds lighter.
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The LBP251dw”s paper input capacity is 300 sheets, split between a 250-sheet cassette and a 50-sheet multipurpose tray. If 300 sheets are not enough, you can add on a 500-sheet cassette ($199.99), bringing input capacity to 800 pages from three separate sources. The Dell S2830dn”s default input capacity is 50 sheets higher, expandable to 900 sheets via one 550-sheet drawer, while the Canon LPB151dw holds up to 256 sheets, with no expansion options; the Epson WF-M5194 monochrome inkjet can be upgraded from its default 330 sheets to 580.
The maximum monthly duty cycle for the LBP251dw is 50,000 pages, which is half that of the Dell S2830dn. It”s still better than the Canon LBP151dw (15,000 pages) and HP”s LaserJet Pro M102w (10,000 pages). The Epson WF-M5194 monochrome inkjet”s maximum monthly rating is 45,000 pages, which is just 5,000 pages lower than the LBP251dw.
Configuration and monitoring, such as setting security options and checking toner status, can be handled from either the control panel, which consists of several buttons, a 10-number keypad, and a 3.5-inch monochrome text display, or via a built-in secure website you can access from computing devices on your network or over the internet.
Connectivity and Security
The LBP251dw”s connectivity options include Wi-Fi, 10/100/1000 Base-T Ethernet connecting to a single PC via USB 2.0, and Wi-Fi Direct. The latter is a peer-to-peer network that allows you to connect your mobile device to the printer without either it or the printer being connected to a network.
Security consists of the standard IEEE801.1x, SNMPv3, HTTPS and IPSEC network protocols, as well as Department ID Management for monitoring usage and securing access for specific individuals or groups of individuals (departments). You can, for instance, block specific users from accessing certain features, or from printing at all, or require that certain individuals log in to an account on the printer before being allowed to print.
Respectable Speed for the Price
Like most Canon laser printers, the LBP251dw is configured out of the box to default to two-sided printing as a money-saving measure; hence, I tested it in both two-sided (duplex) and one-sided (simplex) modes, over Ethernet from our standard testbed Intel Core i5-equipped PC running Windows 10 professional. Canon rates the LBP251dw”s two-sided print speed at 16 pages per minute (ppm) and its one-sided mode at 30ppm.
When printing a two-sided version of our 12-page Microsoft Word text document, the LPB251dw managed 14.8ppm, or just 1.2ppm shy of its 16ppm rating. The Dell S2830dn managed 21.6ppm when printing duplex pages. The Canon LBP151dw was tested with a previous methodology, thereby making using its results here unreliable. And, since neither the HP M102w nor the Epson WF-M5194 default to two-sided printing, we didn”t record their duplex results during testing. When printing our 12-page Word document in simplex mode, the LBP251dw showed a throughput of 30.1ppm. The Dell S2830DN came in just over 7ppm higher, but the LBP251dw outpaced both the Epson WF-M5194 and the HP M102w by 10ppm, or more.
To test the LBP251dw”s printing oomph on more complex documents, I clocked it as it churned out several discrete colorful graphics- and photo-laden Acrobat, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, and then combined those print times with the results from the previous Word document test, to come up with an average for printing our entire suite of test documents. The LBP251dw managed 1 minute 44 seconds on this part of our test, which is 4 seconds behind the Dell S2830dn, 3 seconds faster than the Epson WF-M5194, and more than half a minute slower than the HP M102w.
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You wouldn”t normally use a monochrome printer to print photos; even so, I tested the LBP251dw”s photograph printing prowess anyway. Between the device itself and its drivers, it converted our test 4-by-6-inch snapshots to grayscale and printed them at an average of 7 seconds. That”s at least 4 seconds behind the other printers discussed here, with the slowest, the Dell S2830dn, falling behind by well over 10 seconds.
Like most Canon laser printers I”ve looked at, the LBP251dw”s overall output quality was above average for a monochrome laser printer, especially such a low-cost one. Text output is above average—very close to typesetter quality, with well-shaped characters down to about 4 or 5 points. Charts, graphs, and PowerPoint handouts with dark fills and gradient backgrounds (though all in grayscale) printed without any discernable banding or blotching in our tests, and hairlines (1 point and smaller) came out well-delineated.
Photos, too, printed with good detail in attractive grayscale that did the full-color originals justice. Granted, the images weren”t as impressive as when they”re printed in color, but they”re more than suitable for inclusion in handouts, newsletters, and other black-and-white promotional material.
Day-to-Day Operational Costs
Given all there is to like about the LBP251dw, its 3-cent CPP, while mostly competitive with several other entry-level monochrome laser printers, is too high compared with the Dell S2830dn”s 2-cent CPP. Keep in mind that a 1-cent difference in running costs will, for every 5,000 pages you print, cost (or save) you $50. Not so much, you say? Say that you own and use the printer for four years, and in that time, you print 100,000 pages (that”s slightly more than 2,000 pages per month). A 1-cent CPP difference will cost you $500—more than enough to buy two more LBP251dw models, with money left over for toner.
In other words, the more you print, the more the CPP matters. That said, the HP M102w”s running costs are just shy of 1 cent higher than the LBP251dw; the Canon LBP151dw costs a half a cent more per page to use; and the Epson WF-M5194 inkjet laser alternative delivers running costs of 1.4 cents lower than the LBP251dw”s, making that inkjet laser alternative”s CPP 0.4-cent lower than the Dell S2830dn”s. (At that rate—printing 50,000 pages—the Epson WF-M5194 is $700 cheaper to use than the LBP251dw.)
A Highly Capable Monochrome Laser
Canon”s relatively small imageClass LBP251dw prints text, and grayscale graphics and photos as well as or better than most other monochrome laser printers, and it does so at a good clip and a competitive cost per page. But Dell”s Smart Printer S2830dn delivers comparable quality, faster print speeds, twice the monthly duty cycle, and lower running costs, for not a lot more money. Even so, there”s very little to dislike about the LBP251dw. It”s a fine entry-level monochrome laser printer, and a viable solution for home-based and small offices and workgroups that require high-quality output at relatively fast speeds.
In addition to writing hundreds of articles for Computer Shopper, over the years Harrel has also written for several other computer and business publications, such as PC World, Digital Trends, MacUser, theWirecutter.com, and Windows …
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