Smaller than many inkjets, the Pantum P2502W mono laser printer fits best in a home, home office, or micro office with light duty print needs, an emphasis on text output, and no need for color. As with other Pantum printers, including the Pantum P3012DW, Pantum doesn’t issue a list price, but a range of up to $99 at this writing. Many of its capabilities, including paper capacity and speed, are closely matched to the HP Neverstop Laser 1001nw, our Editors’ Choice pick for an entry-level mono laser. A key difference between the two is that P3012DW is a lot cheaper to buy, while the 1001nw is a lot cheaper to use. So which will cost you less in the long run will depend on how many pages you print.
Easy Setup, Typical for a Mono Laser
As with most small monochrome lasers, the P2502W is easy to set up, thanks to a small size—just 10.5 pounds and 7 by 13.3 by 8.7 inches (HWD) with the trays closed—and the fact that it uses only one cartridge. Other than finding a spot for it, you only have to remove the cartridge from the printer, prep it by removing the protective sheet from the drum and the plastic tab that keeps the toner in place during shipping, then put the cartridge back in the printer.
In addition to the small size offering easy handling during setup, it also makes the printer a comfortable companion for a desktop and a tempting choice for any office where space is tight. Connection options include Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi Direct, as well as USB, so you can put it on any flat space where it will fit and print wirelessly to it, if you must. A choice of white or black finishes further enhances its versatility.
That said, if you expect to perform duplex (two-sided) printing more than occasionally, you’ll want it within easy reach. That’s because the P2502W offers manual duplexing only, which means it will print on one side of the paper when sent a duplex print job, then wait for you to re-feed the stack in the right orientation and press the Continue button before printing the second side of each page. The button is part of the control panel, which consists of two buttons and two status lights on the top of the printer near the front right corner.
The single paper tray is in the front, where its open design makes it easy to refill, swap out the paper to change paper types, or add a sheet or two of special-purpose paper to the top of the stack when needed. The 150-sheet capacity means you’ll be refilling it just a little more often than once a week if you hit Pantum’s 700 page-per-month recommended duty cycle.
One unusual touch is that Pantum sells two cartridges for the printer, both rated at 1,600 pages. According to Pantum, the more-expensive version, which works out to 3.8 cents per page, delivers better print quality. The less-expensive version drops the cost to 3.4 cents. Whichever one you choose, keep in mind that more-expensive printers that offer a lower cost per page—from the modest savings for the Pantum P3012DW to the extreme savings for the HP 1001nw—can wind up being less expensive in the long run. Our primer on how to save money on your next printer shows how to compare the total cost of ownership between inkjets. The same logic works for mono lasers.
For timing and quality tests, I used a USB connection and installed the driver from the included disc. The one-click setup routine simply asks you to select which connection you want to use.
In our Pantum P3012DW review, I mentioned that setting up printing from the Pantum mobile app was complicated by a missing step in the instructions. Pantum has fixed that problem with the P2502W, so the steps are all clearly explained. However, as of this writing, the version of the app on Google Play won’t work with the printer. Pantum says an updated version should be available later this month.
Testing the Pantum P2502W: Good Speed and Quality, for a Mono Laser
On our performance tests, the P2502W printed text using our 12-page Microsoft Word file at close to its 23 pages per minute (ppm) rating, coming in at 22.8ppm for pages two through 12. This is the relevant speed for printing long files, since the longer the file, the closer the printer should be to this speed. For comparison, the P2502W tied the HP 1001nw on this score, but was significantly slower than the Pantum P3012DW’s 33ppm.
Including the first page slowed the P2502W’s speed down to 18.9ppm, thanks to a 9-second first page out (FPO) time, a number that matters most for shorter files. The HP 1001nw, for example, has a 12-second FPO time, which slowed its speed to 17.5ppm for the full 12 pages. On our business applications suite with its multiple individual files, the FPO time has an even greater impact, slowing the P2502W to 14.2ppm for the full suite. On our photo suite, it averaged 9 seconds each for 4-by-6-inch photo.
For output quality, the P2502W scored nicely for text, surprisingly well for photos for an inexpensive mono laser, and acceptable for the breed for graphics. For the fonts in our test that are common in business documents, text offered crisp, clean edges and was well-formed enough to be easily readable even at 4 points.
The highly stylized fonts with heavy strokes didn’t fare as well. One was easily readable at 8 points, which is typical for a laser printer, but loops tended to fill in just a touch. For a second font, which is hard to render well, the printer tended to fill in space both between and within characters, making anything smaller than 12-point text hard to read.
Graphics were uneven. All the output was good enough to convey the image, and most images with lines and simple fills looked crisp and clean, but one thin line on a black background was barely visible over much of its length, and some gradients looked more like smudges.
Photos were generally good quality for mono laser output, thanks largely to dithering patterns (the arrangement of dots that your eye sees as shades of gray) that were subtle enough that I had to look closely to see them. However, some more demanding images showed posterization (shading changing suddenly, where it should change gradually).
Two minor issues that some may find annoying are a tendency for paper to curl somewhat after printing, and a relatively high noise level when feeding paper. However, the curl isn’t unusual for a laser printer, and the noise level is presumably because there isn’t much room for sound-deadening material in such a small printer. Once I got over my surprise at the high noise level, I rarely noticed it. But I say that as someone who’s spent most of my life in cities with lots of street noise and learned to tune it out.
A Competent Entry-Level Mono Laser
The Pantum P2502W’s low price and small size make it a tempting choice in any home or office where space is tight and there’s no need for printing in color. Its paper capacity and speed are easily enough to handle the light-duty printing it’s meant for. Output quality is up to par, as well, and its ability to connect via Wi-Fi as well as USB is a welcome extra.
Be sure to consider how much you expect to print and whether you can save money in the long run by buying a more expensive printer with lower running costs, like the HP 1001nw or the P3012DW. Between them, the 1001nw offers comparable features to the P2502W at a far lower running cost, while the P3012DW offers only a modest drop in running cost but a step up in speed and paper handling. It’s the only one of the three with automatic duplexing, for example.
That said, if a lower running cost won’t make up the difference in initial price, and you don’t need faster speed or better paper handling, the Pantum P2502W is a strong contender.