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In departmental office environments one of the key requirements is print speed and as printer makers know this it’s one of the main features determining price. As the throughput speed increases the price goes up steeply. Ricoh’s Aficio SP 4100N is a large workgroup or small departmental mono laser with a claimed speed of 31ppm.
The printer has a fairly conventional layout with a large, 500-sheet paper tray at the bottom and a further, 100-sheet multipurpose tray which unclips and folds down from the front panel above. You have to know just where to press it, though, as the click-open, click-closed catch doesn’t respond unless you press directly over it.
The printer’s control panel is remarkably easy to use, as its eight buttons are well labelled in English, rather than relying on sometimes obscure icons and the two-line LCD display is completely horizontal and has a good backlight.
The printer comes with USB and 10/100 Ethernet as standard interfaces and you can add Gigabit networking and Wi-Fi as options. It's a bit surprising that duplex printing isn't included as standard on a machine at this price, but a duplexer is an option, along with two more 500-sheet paper trays, an envelope feeder, a hard drive and extra memory.
A single-piece drum and toner cartridge slides in from the front, once the front panel has been folded down. You shouldn't have to do this often, though, as the standard capacity of the cartridge is 15,000 pages. The maintenance kit, which is needed every 90,000 pages, is the only other consumable.
Software installation is reasonably straightforward, though choosing Quick Install only sets up the PCL 6 driver and the Adobe Postscript Level 3 installation is more fiddly, requiring you to assign a port manually. Since Postscript and PDF support are two important features of the printer, you'd think the driver installation would be included in the Quick Install Wizard.
The driver itself includes support for up to 16 pages per sheet, watermarks and user code entry, so only those with valid authority can print to the machine. There's no facility for walk-up printing from a USB stick, though, which is becoming an increasingly common feature.