Oki B2500 review: Oki B2500

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MSRP: $299.00

The Good Low price; mailbox option is great for a multiuser environment; front-mounted USB port lets you print from or scan/fax to a USB thumbdrive; good color scan quality; manual feed slot; full QWERTY keyboard lets you input e-mail addresses easily.

The Bad Slow task speeds; poor grayscale scan quality; middling graphics print quality; not network-ready; control panel is hard to decipher and not intuitive; text LCD isn't backlit, making it hard to read in low light; per-page costs are high.

The Bottom Line The Oki B2520 MFP is a low-cost multifunction that ultimately fails for a variety of reasons, from its poorly implemented control panel to slow, low-quality output. There are better laser multifunctions that won't leave you scratching your head in confusion and frustration.

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5.6 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Features 7
  • Performance 5
  • Support 7

The Oki B2520 MPF looks like a compelling package at first glance, offering up all the features you'd associate with a multifunction laser printer--print, copy, scan, and fax--plus a couple unexpected extras at a low price. Don't be lured by its song, however; the user interface is clunky, the user guide is confusing, print speeds are slow, and print and scan quality are disappointing. And while this $320 printer boasts some interesting features for small offices such as mailboxes and a QWERTY keyboard, it's not network-ready, which means that unless you're an office of one, you'll need to look elsewhere (or upgrade to the B2540 MPF). Of the comparably priced mono laser multifunctions we've reviewed lately, we recommend going with the Lexmark X340n. It's a bit more expensive, but you get faster prints, better quality, and it comes network-ready.

The Oki B2520 MFP is diminutive for a multifunction laser printer. It sits 17.6 inches wide, 15.2 inches deep, and 16.2 inches tall, and weighs 26 pounds. The scanner lid is topped by a 50-page automatic document feeder (ADF) that allows you to copy and scan legal-sized documents (the flatbed scanner can only accommodate pages up to A4 in size). A single USB port adorns the front panel of the printer for connecting USB thumbdrives.

The paper cassette holds up to 250 sheets of paper and can be configured to hold a variety of paper sizes up to legal. Above the cassette is a single-sheet manual feed slot with adjustable paper guides. The output well includes a fold-out paper stop that catches long sheets. This printer lacks a rear-output slot for straight pass-through printing.

A printer's control panel should be dead simple to use; the Oki's is not. Many of the control panel's buttons are cryptically labeled, and the two-line text LCD screen is not backlit, making it difficult to read in low light. Beneath the LCD are the standard start, stop, and menu navigation keys, but there's no obvious menu call-up button. The user guide points out that pressing the down arrow calls up the menu, which is decidedly unintuitive. To the left of the LCD are four buttons, three of which have icons and the last of which is labeled ECO. Again, consulting the user guide, we learn that the three keys change contrast, "color analysis mode selection," and "analysis resolution setup," and that ECO refers to a mode that conserves toner (and reduces print quality). It took us a while to figure out that "analysis" basically means "scan" (the user guide wasn't particularly helpful on this count) so those buttons change the scan resolution and allow you to scan color documents. Why Oki couldn't just call it "scan" is beyond us.

To the right of the display are a numerical keypad and a full QWERTY keyboard. Below the numeric keypad are three buttons: the one with the three figures we correctly surmised was a broadcast fax button; the one that looked like an open book calls up the address book; and the one with the universal icon for volume control is actually a manual connection for faxing--again, not intuitive. Finally, the last few buttons let you switch between fax, copy, and scan modes, or stop a print job. There's also a button labeled "SMS," though that feature is not enabled on this model. Having looked at a lot of printers, we're baffled as to why Oki's control panel is so confusing and requires such an extensive legend in the user manual. If you get fed up trying to find tasks and options in the menu, the Oki B2520 MFP is set up for task shortcuts using numerical codes. The codes are displayed in the menus on the LCD, but they're pointless if you're having trouble finding what you need in the printer's menus to begin with. But you can print a function and task list that outlines the various (and extensive) codes. Either way, Oki needs to work on simplifying the control panel and making it more transparent to users. You shouldn't have to hold a training seminar for the new office printer.

Oki offers a 4,000-page toner cartridge for the B2520 MFP for $159. The estimated per-page print cost is nearly 4 cents, a bit high for a mono laser multifunction printer. As mentioned above, though, you can use the ECO mode to conserve toner if you're making prints for internal or personal use. The monthly recommended print volume is 7,500 pages, so this is best suited for a small office with light printing needs.

The Oki B2520 MFP comes with a 100MHz processor and 32MB of RAM (not upgradable). It's not network-ready, but you can add networking as an option. Additionally, Oki offers a USB dongle that enables wireless printing. Though the B2520 MFP is a mono printer, copier, and fax, it can scan both mono and color documents.

The copy options for the B2520 MFP are straightforward. You can make up to 99 copies at once and make N-up and poster copies. When scanning, you can scan to your PC or to a connected USB drive. If you choose to scan to your connected PC, the PaperPort software will be launched. Here, you can preview the scan, save it to various locations on your PC, choose the resulting file type (including TIFF, JPEG, and PDF), or open the document in a number of different programs, including Word, Adobe Acrobat, Excel, and Paint. If you opt for an editing program such as Word, the optical character recognition program will launch to scan the document as an editable file. Other options include attaching the scan to an outbound email (Outlook only) or to FTP.

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