Ricoh laser aims at SMB crowd

The Ricoh Aficio CL3500N is a colour laser printer designed for small offices and workgroups. Offering built-in networking capability, fast print speeds, and a 530-sheet paper tray, this printer is a well-built machine that can help make your work environment more productive. This printer also includes Adobe PostScript 3 compatibility. And if that’s not enough, Ricoh offers a variety of customization options available for purchase: you can soup up this printer with extra RAM, a duplex printing unit, or an attachable scanner, among other parts.

Setting up this printer can be slightly difficult, and I recommend reading all of the instructions before getting started rather than following them step-by-step. The CL3500N weighs 73 pounds, so at least two people are required to unpack it safely. The setup process involves installing a waste toner cartridge, two photo conductor units, and four toner cartridges (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). You must be very careful when installing the photo conductor units: exposing them to too much light could potentially compromise print quality, and might cause certain colours not to print. Ricoh’s documentation includes illustrations that should guide you smoothly through the setup process.

The CL3500N is reasonably fast. It includes 128MB of RAM (customizable to 512MB) to handle complex print jobs. In my testing, this printer took 47 seconds to print a 10-page Word document, 22 seconds to print a one-page Word document, 2 minutes and 21 seconds to print a 22MB Photoshop image, and 1 minute and 13 seconds to print a four-page PDF. These speeds are sufficient for a small office, but they lag behind the Oki Data C6100dn, another laser printer designed for small offices and workgroups. However, the C6100dn is more expensive.

If the CL3500N’s speed doesn’t impress you, its print quality will. Our panel of experts gave the CL3500N’s text quality a rating of Superior. Fonts, even at small sizes, appeared crisp, smooth and clean. The printer also performed well when printing graphics, with unbroken fine lines and smooth colour gradients, earning a Very Good rating. For photos, the CL3500N’s reds were a little strong, but overall the test image looked very pleasing, earning another Very Good rating.

How we tested: We connected the printer via USB 2.0 to a 2.66GHz Mac Pro running OS X 10.4.8 with 1GB of RAM. We recorded the time it took the printer to print a one-page Word document and a 10-page Word document, as well as the time it took to print a 22MB Photoshop image and a four-page PDF. A panel of experts examined samples of the printer’s output to rate its print quality as either Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair or Poor in comparison to the output of past photo printers we’ve tested.

Buying advice
Small offices and workgroups will appreciate that the CL3500N is priced reasonably for what it offers: excellent prints at relatively fast speeds and PostScript 3 compatibility. With the CL3500N, Ricoh offers an impressive machine in the sub-US$1,000 price range.

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