Most of the multifunction machines we review come from manufacturers who specialise in printers. Some even buy in the scanner component to make their devices. Sharp, however, comes primarily from the photocopier market and the AR-M201 is an office photocopier which can also print. Printing isn't an afterthought, though, as the machine can print in full duplex, handling both sides of each page in a single job.
The AR-M201 looks rather different from multifunction printers you may be used to. It's quite a bit bigger than most and designed much more like a photocopier than a printer. Paper is loaded sideways in the single 250-sheet tray (a second 250-sheet tray is available as an option). It feeds through the machine from right to left and ends up on an output tray with a large aperture on the left-hand side, so you can remove the finished pages. A50-sheet special-media tray folds down from the right-hand side, giving a total, unexpanded capacity of 300 sheets.
On top, there's a 50-sheet Automatic Document Feed (ADF) for scanning and copying and this can be hinged up, so you can scan from the flatbed glass, as well. The full-colour scanner has a resolution of 600 x 1,200ppi, so it's suitable for scanning photo prints as well as text pages. The machine comes with a single USB socket for PC or Mac connection, but an optional adapter can be fitted for network use.
The control panel is a shallow strip along the front of the machine and is in places a bit confusing. The special function and page imposition options are rather crowded onto just two buttons, though the diagram of paper sources, with lights showing where paper will be fed from, is a useful extra. There are 18 quick-dial buttons for the fax, as well as number pad for less frequently dialled numbers.
The installation of consumables shows the machine's origins in photocopying. The toner cartridge and developer drums slide conveniently in from the front of the machine, behind a fold-down cover.
Software setup is straightforward from the supplied CD. As well as the printer driver itself, Sharp supplies its Sharpdesk application, a bit like a cut-down version of PaperPort, which can handle printing and scanning jobs, including OCR of text pages and the compiling of documents from several text or picture files. This is a useful way of working with the device and is easy to learn how to use.
Fax software is provided for generating faxes from your computer and facilities on the machine include cover pages and choice of resolutions.