Ricoh Aficio SG 3110DNw review
Low colour print costs, but that’s the only redeeming feature of this disappointing, slow gel printer
Review Date: 6 Aug 2012
Reviewed By: Dave Mitchell
Price when reviewed: £146 (£175 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
Ricoh’s Aficio gel printers are designed to offer a low-cost, environmentally friendly alternative to small-business colour lasers. As part of a complete range refresh, the new SG 3110DNw takes over from three older GX models and adds wireless to the mix. The desktop footprint has been reduced by 30%, and Ricoh’s GelSprinter technology is now called Geljet.
The printer uses a pigment-based gel that dries more quickly on the page than ink, allowing Ricoh to claim a laser-beating print speed of 29ppm. The gel cartridges are loaded into a small panel at the front, and are keyed so they can’t be placed in the wrong slot. On power-up the printer has to charge its tanks, which takes close to ten minutes.
We recommend the high-yield 2,500-page black and 2,200-page colour cartridges, since they return low running costs of 1.2p for a mono page and 4.4p for colour. Ricoh also offers 600-page low-yield cartridges, but these push costs through the roof: mono and colour pages cost 3.8p and 14.4p respectively.
A status window can be loaded on each client system to provide updates on gel levels. The printer also offers a simple web management interface that can be used to keep an eye on consumables, create email alerts, configure the wireless network and apply IP address-based access security.
In our tests, we found that the claimed top speed was all but unachievable. Printing a 30-page Word document on the High Speed setting took 1min 23secs for an average of 22ppm. This is essentially a draft mode that’s of no general use, since the quality is so poor that small fonts are almost unreadable. Stepping up to the Quality Priority setting produced much sharper text, but speed plummeted to only 6ppm.
Bring a good book if you’re planning on using the High Quality driver setting. We tested this with a 24-page DTP-style document, and its challenging mix of colour graphics and photographs took the printer 34 minutes to complete at a shocking average of only 0.7ppm.
We found that cheap copier paper remained slightly soggy for up to a minute after printing, and the output quality didn’t even justify the long printing time. Our colour performance chart revealed smooth gradients across colour fades, but the printer couldn’t reproduce the 0.1pt and 0.2pt gaps between solid blocks of colour. Grey shades using a mix of C, M and Y gels also showed a slight magenta cast. Many of these problems disappeared when we used higher-quality 100gsm paper, but this will obviously push up running costs.
One thing the Aficio SG 3110DNw can do that laser printers can’t is print on glossy photo paper. However, even here we felt let down: test prints showed an unpleasant yellow tinge. The printer also had an annoying habit of stopping halfway through a photo, ejecting it and restarting the whole process from the beginning.
The low price of £146 exc VAT could tempt small businesses away from colour lasers, but they may regret it in the long run.
Although the Aficio SG 3110DNw’s colour printing costs are low, output quality simply isn’t good enough for business use, and print speeds on anything but the draft setting will hit productivity hard.
Author: Dave Mitchell
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