We've looked at a couple of Ricoh’s Aficio inkjet printers, which use the company's GelSprinter technology before, in the GX2500 and GX3000s, but although it's an interesting departure from the mainstream of ink squirting printers, the output quality and price of earlier models have detracted from its overall value.
The Aficio GX e3350N is like a second-generation machine, although looking much the same as earlier models. It includes duplex printing as standard, relatively high-yield ink cartridges and a turn of speed that could separate it from the pack.
It’s a big machine for an inkjet but, although it looks different, the design is quite similar to recent models from HP and Epson. So, for example, paper feeds from a single tray at the front, containing up to 250 sheets, and out to a tray moulded into its cover, making a 180-degree turn during the process. An optional, 100-sheet multipurpose tray can be fitted to the back of the printer to take special media.
The four ink cartridges slide into holders behind a fold-down cover on the right and are connected to a wide-swath print head via flexible tubes. The control panel includes a 2-line by 16-character LCD display, with no backlight, but it's still relatively easy to read. There are nine buttons for menu navigation and key functions, such as paper feed. The whole panel hinges up to latch in two alternative positions if this makes reading the display easier.
At the back are USB and network sockets, though unusually the USB socket is positioned high on the back panel, leaving the cable to hang. Setting the machine up involves plugging in the four ink tanks, loading the tray with paper and installing a driver from the supplied CD. There are drivers for both Windows and OS X, though Ricoh makes no mention of Linux support.
Speed is one of the strong points of the Aficio GelSprinters and our five-page black text document completed in 34 seconds, a speed of 8.82ppm. The 20-page document increases this slightly to 9.84ppm, but the most interesting result was the five-page black text and colour graphics test, which hardly slowed at all and gave 7.89ppm. We can’t think of another printer costing under £150 which can match this.