Ricoh Aficio SP 4210N Monochrome Laser Printer
At a Glance
Ricoh's Aficio SP 4210N monochrome laser printer is a decent performer with a somewhat high price ($649 as of May 25, 2009). The Xerox Phaser 3600/N, which carries the same sticker price, is better designed and easier to use, but the Aficio laser's extracheap toner could make it a better buy for high-volume offices.
The Aficio SP 4210N ships with a 6000-page starter cartridge. A 15,000-page replacement cartridge costs $197, or 1.3 cents per page--cheaper even than the high-yield option for the Xerox Phaser 3600/N's, and far less than the consumables costs of the competing HP LaserJet P2055x.
Performance is solid overall. Ricoh promises a top speed of 37 pages per minute (ppm). In our tests, it managed 32.3 ppm (an average speed) printing plain text, while its graphics speed was a zippy 9.2 ppm. By comparison, Xerox's Phaser 3600/N was faster printing text but much slower printing graphics. The Aficio SP 4210N's text quality was very nice, but graphics quality suffered from graininess or roughness--typical for a monochrome laser, unfortunately.
The standard configuration includes a 500-sheet input tray and a 100-sheet multipurpose tray, plus a 250-sheet output tray. All three are sturdy and easy to use, with helpful, colored decals for guidance. Little dials on each input tray indicate the paper size within, but you must adjust these dials manually. You may add one or two more 500-sheet input trays (priced at $275 apiece); an envelope feeder to attach to one of those trays ($120); or a duplexing unit ($195). Complementing the USB and ethernet connections is an extra USB port (Type A) in back for plugging in third-party applications.
Ease of use isn't great. Duplexing and color-management features are active in the driver even if you haven't installed the optional duplexer and even though the SP 4210N is a monochrome printer. The control panel's visual monotony--all six buttons are the same size and color, and the up/down navigation arrows are just a different shape--makes knowing where to look and recognizing what's important unduly difficult; also, some of the button labels--such as 'Suspend' and 'Escape'-- use potentially confusing technical jargon.
The Ricoh Aficio SP 4210N may lack the pricing or panache to rank higher on our chart, but it's deserves consideration. It's built for high-volume use and backs that up with supercheap toner. For some busy offices, that combination could be enough.