Sharp MX-3100N

We take a look at a no compromise workgroup laser printer from Sharp.

One aspect of the machine Sharp is keen to show is the remote access via a VCN application, which mimics the touch panel. This isn't primarily so you can start a print job remotely, which would be of little value, as somebody has to collect it from the output bin, but rather so a service engineer can diagnose and possibly fix problems without having to delay use of the machine while he drives to site. Though physical problems, like the repeated transfer belt cleaning we experienced during testing, would require a visit, we can see how settings problems could be conveniently solved remotely.

The company also mentioned its tandem print feature, where if you have two MX-3100Ns or MX-2600Ns, or even one of each, a print job sent to them can be automatically split between the two, finishing in roughly half the time.

There's a wide range of options for these machines, including extra paper trays and finishers which can collate, fold, hole-punch, staple and saddle-stitch. Fax functions are extra, as is the slide-out keyboard, very handy for typing faxes or emails from the scanner.

The quoted print speeds are quick, but as usual the manufacturer has quoted a page on page speed. Testing on the 31ppm MX-3100N, we timed a 20-page black text document, from start of job to last page printed, to a speed of 21ppm. A 20x copy of our text and graphics page took 51 seconds, giving a colour print speed of 23.5ppm.

Text print quality is very good, with sharp (sic), precise, black text and bright, clear colours. We noticed some registration problems with black text over colour, with white halos showing, but photo colour was generally good and certainly not over saturated, as is often the case with colour lasers. Some shadow detail was lost in our test photo, but generally colour print was acceptable.

Print jobs can be allocated to individuals for budgeting and there seem to be few functions Sharp hasn't thought of, though quite a few of them are options and not included in the standard printer. Even so, for general office duties, this is a heavyweight player with a lot of room for expansion.

Verdict

The MX-3100N and MX-2600N – the only difference is the speed – are well thought-out multifunction machines for the large workgroup or small department. With secure file-handling and versatile walk-up scanning and printing, along with A3 handling and duplex as standard, they're flexible in what they can do and remote operation via network and internet should ease service support.

Dimensions: Base machine 620 x 695 x 950mm Dpi: 1,200dpi, 26/31ppm A4 colour multifunction Paper handling: 2 x 500-sheet paper universal paper trays + 100-sheet multi-purpose feed, up to A3 Duty Cycle: 30,000 page monthly duty cycle, based on five year life Connectivity: USB 2, gigabit Ethernet Extras: 8.5-inch touch-screen control panel

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