Depending on which variant of the ISO speed standard manufacturers choose to quote, they are at liberty to exclude any time taken by a printer in warming up or processing incoming data and can just quote the actual time from the first to the last page feeding through. If your printers starts printing quickly, that’s probably acceptable but if, as here, it can take up to 40 seconds before paper starts to feed, it’s not really a fair measure.
Ricoh quotes speeds of 20ppm for both black and colour print, but under test, measuring from clicking 'Print' to the last page landing in the output tray, we saw 7.7ppm on our five-page black text document, rising to 11.1ppm on the 20-page test. This is only around half the rated speed and on our 5-page black text and colour graphics test, the Aficio SP C232SF managed 8.8ppm.
These speeds aren’t that bad when compared with other similar machines, but they're nowhere near the quoted ones. Duplex black print produced a speed of 8.6spm, so you're not losing a lot by printing on both sides, and you do save paper.
Ricoh claims this machine can produce duplex copies, but there’s obviously some confusion over terminology, here. When we hear ‘duplex copy’, we think of taking a document printed on both sides and producing a copy printed on both sides. Ricoh appears to think of a single-sided original copied onto both sides of the paper, which isn’t quite the same thing, or quite as useful.
Print quality, from the 600dpi engine, is generally very good. Black text is dense and clean, with no signs of spatter, and colours are bright and vibrant. Black registration over colour is a bit adrift, so you can see some haloing, but not enough to be distracting. Even our photo test print looked okay, though some detail is lost and the colour mix is restricted, as is often the case with colour lasers.
Each colour in the Aficio SP C232SF comes from an integrated drum and toner cartridge and these are available in standard or high yield variants. The standard yield components provide 2,500 pages of black or colour and the high yield ones offer 6,500 black pages and 6,000 of each colour. There's also a waste toner bottle, though this is a cheap consumable and lasts for 25,000 pages.
Working through the arithmetic produces page costs of 2.57p for an ISO black page and 9.45p for ISO colour. Both figures are good against many of the machine's competitors. Although you can buy a machine with cheaper running costs, Ricoh isn't trying to recoup its costs purely through its consumables.
The Aficio SP C232SF is a good, solid, colour laser multifunction. It prints reasonably quickly, with better than average quality and doesn't cost the earth to run. It does take a while to start printing, though, so if your workload is largely composed of short documents you may find yourself waiting. It would be good to see a front panel USB socket and a larger integrated paper tray, too.