Ricoh SP C261DNw review

A compact laser printer with a big capacity

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Our Verdict

This print-only device produces decent mono text documents and vibrant colours but the fan noise and clunky, convoluted menu make it a pain to use, and its processing and print speed lags behind the competition.

For

  • Bold, bright colours
  • Crisp, dark mono text quality
  • Holds 251 sheets of A4
  • Compact unit

Against

  • Noisy cooling fans
  • Convoluted, unintuitive menu system
  • Only 1,000 prints from the supplied startup cartridges
  • Slow first page out and print speeds

The Ricoh SP C261DNw is a colour laser print-only device aimed at the small to medium-sized business and ready to serve a modest-sized workgroup. Its footprint is fairly small, but it can hold 250-sheets of paper in its single deep paper tray and dump 150 pages in its top-mounted out-tray. It costs around Ricoh will also sell you an additional unit that will hold another 500 sheets of paper if required. It comes with Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity built in and a free iOS/Android companion app.

Selling for about £235 (around US$310, AU$420) it undercuts the similarly specified Kyocera Ecosys P6230cdn, but it is worth noting that the cartridges that come with the Ricoh contain only enough toner for 1,000 pages, rather than the standard refills, which yield 1,600 pages for C, M and Y and 2,000 for black and cost around £278 ($363.48) for the set. The Kyocera starter cartridges yield 3,500 pages in mono and 2,500 in colour. 

Box contents

Design

Ricoh’s design team have tried to soften the visual impact of this boxy unit with some subtle curves, but the wobbly beige plastic panelling looks dated to our eye and only serves to add yet more bulk. The grimly utilitarian Brother HL-L5100DN manages to squeeze similar functionality into a smaller cube. The Ricoh’s folding flaps and the sliding paper width markers of the bypass tray feel loose and ready to fail. The plain cube design of the Kyocera P5026cdw and Brother HL-L5100DN look better and feel more robust.

Printer with test page

Spec Sheet

Here are the full specs of the Ricoh SP C261DNw:

Type: Colour laser printer

Functions: Print only 

Toner: 4 x toner cartridges 

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Ethernet, USB, NFC   

Data storage slot: USB

Print speed: 20 ppm (mono and colour) 

Main paper tray capacity: 250 sheets

Max Paper capacity: 751 sheets

Print quality: Up to 24,00 x 600 dpi

Scan quality: N/A

Apple AirPrint: Yes

Google Cloud Print: Yes

App support: iOS/Android

Consumables included: 4 cartridges (1,000-print yield)

Size/Weight: 400 x 450 x 320mm (HxWxD)/23.8kg

Features

As a print-only device, the Ricoh SP C261DNw has only a few features to mention here. Duplex printing means it can print on both sides of the page and it can print onto a range of paper formats up to A4 size, including envelopes. You can load these in the main paper tray, or feed them into the bypass tray. 

The Ricoh SP C261DNw is very well connected with Wi-Fi built and a hard button for making a Wi-Fi Direct connection. There’s also NFC for linking your Android phone in one tap. There are also two USB ports, one for flash memory drives and one for your PC. Ricoh has even included a USB data cable in the box, which very few manufacturers do any more. 

The print speed is quoted at 20ppm for mono and colour prints, with a first page out time of 14 seconds. Those are modest claims by today’s standards, but we didn’t manage to achieve anything as fast as that. 

Setup and operation

Getting the Ricoh SP C261DNw up and running is fairly straight forward, even though there is no setup wizard to walk you through. Instead you can follow the instructions in the user manual.

Setup

When you’re all set you can explore the printer settings by peering at the tiny and highly reflective two-line LCD monitor. Altering your settings and selecting paper type at the printer is time-consuming because the buttons and display are so small, the on-screen messages are often cryptic and the menu is convoluted. The touchscreen of the Xerox WorkCentre 6515 feels light years ahead of this. 

Lever

In order to print an address onto an envelope, you have to actually open the machine and pull a lever that changes the internal paper path, and of course remember to reset it when you go back to printing on paper. Overall, we’d have to say that the Ricoh SP C261DNw is the least user-friendly machine we have tested for some time.

Printer cartridges

Performance

Our various tests revealed mixed results from the Ricoh SP C261DNw. The first thing we noticed is that it is significantly noisier than any other printer we have tested and the racket is caused by the two cooling fans that whine into action as soon as the printer wakes up.

The printer defaults to ‘Energy Saver 2’ mode, which sends the printer to sleep after a matter of seconds of non-use, so you’ll be hearing those annoying wake up fans a lot unless you delve deep into the menu and switch it off. It is well worth the time you’ll spend tying to work out how to do this. 

How we test printers

Each printer we source for testing is measured on our test bench and the results are critically compared with every other model we have reviewed. Rather than relying on the manufacturer’s quoted figures, we time the first page out and print speeds in single sheet and duplex mode using a standard ten-page document and a stopwatch app. To compare print quality, we print out the same set of test documents on every machine. These twelve test pages include text of varying font sizes and colours, mixed image and text pages, a set of photos and a series of test patterns designed to assess sharpness, colour fidelity, contrast and grey scale. 

We also calculate running costs, compare functionality and consider each product’s versatility, design and build quality. The overall score reflects all of these parameters and overall value for money.

It is also frustratingly slow to print the first page, slow enough to make you wonder if it is actually working, while printing consecutive pages takes longer than other laser printers in its class. 

The printed results are actually rather good. Mono text looks dark and rich and clearly delineated at all font sizes, page after page. Fonts in a different colour, however, suddenly look less well formed and under a magnifying glass, look ragged at the edges.

Colour documents look very bright and bold, while photos also appear pleasingly bright. The lightness, however, is at the expense of contrast and in general, images seem to be containing slightly too much yellow and photo quality merely average. 

Final verdict

The Ricoh SP C261DNw makes a fine job of printing black text on plain paper, ensuring every character is rich and dark and crisp. It can churn out plain mono pages steadily at a reasonable speed and thanks to its deep paper tray it can keep on churning them out too.

And don’t forget that the paper capacity can be expanded to a maximum of 751 sheets. It offers full wired and wireless connectivity so you can print from the Ricoh mobile app via Wi-Fi Direct, or from your PC with the supplied cable.

Paper tray

The Ricoh SP C261DNw is something of an ugly duckling in terms of design and it is bulkier than print-only machines offering the same paper capacity, or more. The wobbly plastic panels and flimsy sliders do not inspire confidence and the cooling fans are too loud. 

Display

The user interface based around the tiny two-line mono display is cramped and the menu system is convoluted and unintuitive. We wasted lots of time working out how to select the right paper and print resolution and had to refer to Google, or the user manual many times. The poor design, and frustrating user experience is not especially well reward either. Colour documents take much too long to print and photos generally look too bright and too yellow.

And while the asking price undercuts some other print-only lasers, it also underperforms and the ‘starter’ toner cartridges that are included in the box will only last for 1,000 pages, compared to the usual 3,000 pages. 

The Ricoh SP C261DNw does a good job of printing text documents with an attractively rich and dark finish. Black and pages generally look crisp, consistent and professional, but in every other respect, this printer disappoints.

The design looks dated and bulky, the build quality feels poor, the fan noise is too loud, the display is too small and the interface is horrible. Colour documents take too long to print and lack contrast and given the especially small amount of toner included in the box, we think the Ricoh SP C261DNw is overpriced.