Ricoh Aficio C232SF review
single-pass colour laser, 20ppm print speed, USB, 10/100 Ethernet, 476x420x493mm
Ricoh’s Aficio C232SF feels surprisingly flimsy for such an expensive printer. It’s also noisy and it rattles when running. Its paper tray is awkward to fill too; if the poorly marked paper size slider isn’t positioned correctly it's all too easy for a wad of paper to become jammed against the rollers. This means you have to apply some serious brute force to free the tray because the Aficio C232SF doesn’t have a conveniently located flap or door to help you clear paper jams.
It’s also been around for a while, which means it doesn’t come with appropriate drivers for the latest operating systems. This means that if you're running Windows 7 you'll have to download drivers from Ricoh's website. The PCL6, PCL5x, PostScript3, network scanning and fax drivers were all easy to find, but they were ambiguously named and most didn't come with an installer, which meant we had to use Windows' options for adding printers to find the printer on our network and then manually point to the directory in which we'd unzipped the drivers.
Thankfully, the printer’s mono LCD screen and integrated control buttons are easy to use. The Copy buttons don’t work if you’re in the settings menu, but that’s a very minor niggle. Some settings aren’t immediately obvious, though. To fix the too-dark default copy quality, for example, we had to change the “density” setting; this is typically known as brightness on most MFPs. A HTML interface replicates all the features of the onboard menus and makes it easy to monitor the MFP’s status remotely. You can also use it to restrict access to some features, such as copying, faxing and scanning, to users that have an appropriate ID.
The Aficio C232SF’s scanner interface looks rather old-fashioned because of its dull, Windows XP-style buttons, but it works well enough, even though its default paper size is the US letter standard. There are few options available, but you can set the colour mode, resolution and the size of the scan area, and the interface helpfully retains your preview scans. The Aficio C232SF’s scans were accurately coloured, but slightly lacking in sharpness, particularly at lower resolutions.
We were particularly surprised to find that print quality is a weak point on this laser. 12-point mono text is as sharp and clear as you’d expect, but smaller font sizes are remarkably jagged, displaying broken lettering. Colour images also presented an odd shadow or halo effect around the edges, and that’s something that would come as a disappointment from a cheap inkjet, let alone an expensive laser. We noticed a similar issue with our photocopies. The C232SF is below par when it comes to colour print speeds, too. Mono prints emerge at a swift 16ppm, but colour is a sluggish 5.7ppm.
The Aficio C232SF is, to some extent, redeemed by its remarkably low running costs. A mono page costs 1.8p and a colour page is 9.3p thanks to cost effective high-yield toner cartridges. This also means that that its total cost of ownership is among the lowest we’ve seen from a laser MFP, particularly for medium to heavy users. However, none of this makes up for the poor print quality, flimsy paper tray and mediocre scans. If you’re spending this kind of money on a workgroup MFP, the Samsung CLX-6220FX is a much better buy.