Sharp quotes speeds of up to 20ppm for this mono laser device and under test we saw our five-page text document complete in 34 seconds and the five-page text and graphics test finish in 38 seconds. These times equates to real-world speeds of 8.8ppm and 7.9ppm. The machine spends quite a bit of time preparing to print, though, so longer documents will get closer to the rated speed.
Our 20-side duplex document took 2 minutes 17 seconds, giving a speed of 8.8ppm, noticeably better than some other laser-based printers and certainly faster than most duplex inkjet devices. A15 by 10cm photo took 17 seconds, so you would expect to get about four photo pages per minute.
As you might expect, photocopying is the AR-M201's forté and a single page A4 copy from the flatbed took just eight seconds. The same document from the ADF increased this time to 13 seconds, but both still show good photocopying performance.
Print quality is particularly good for text and even small font sizes are reproduced clearly and intensely black. Greyscale graphics output, as from our business graphics sample, is passable, though tints reproduced rather dark and there is some obvious micro-banding. Photocopies of the text and graphics document show noticeable degradation in the copy quality, but would still be usable within an office.
Photo output again exhibits the micro-bands seen in the business graphics test and some of the darker details are lost. Again, this output - which like all our photo tests was done in the highest quality mode available - would be OK for internal documents, but you might not want to give it to customers.
Sharp is particularly reticent to quote prices on the Web, either for the AR-M201 itself or its consumables and the user guide doesn't mention the part numbers for its toner cartridge or developer drum, either. We eventually got trade prices out of the company, along with page yields, and with no better option, we've doubled these to work out page costs. They give a cost per page of 0.91p, 0.7p of which is our standard paper cost. The maintenance and consumables costs on this machine are very low.
Sharp's AR-M201 is a robust, well-designed multifunction printer, well up to everyday use in a small or medium-sized office. If you're more familiar with photocopiers than you are with computer printers, you may find it easier to operate and maintain, too.
However, it's very hard to see how Sharp can justify an SRP of over £2,800. Even allowing for the possibility of negotiating a cheaper price from one of Sharp's dealers - the way these things usually work - you have to look at competitive products with similar specifications. With the likes Brother MFC-7840W available from under £400, why would you knowingly pay this much?