A black and white purchase decision!
I have had a fraught relationship with home desktop printers over a decade and a half. The relationship till now was restricted to inkjet printers that appear appealing due to their low upfront price and the possibility of setting up your own personal photo studio. Unfortunately, my photo printing over the years was limited to utilizing the set of photo papers that were originally provided with the printer for printing a handful of passport photos. The situation with cartridges is even more dystopic for they not only cost more than the initial capital expenditure on the printer, but end up providing a pretty old yield (number of pages), in part due to shrinking cartridge sizes and in no small measure due to chip-restricted artificial ink levels. On top of that, they get clogged with infrequent usage requiring you to expend even more ink for nozzle cleaning. Cheap refills appear appealing at first but their quality ends up lacking, requiring you to use high quality modes to get decent printouts before the cartridge becomes unusable as a whole.
Thus, I had made my mind up this time to purchase a printer solely for document printing as that happens to be my chief use case. Thanks to positive reviews all over the web, it was easy to settle on the Ricoh SP 111. It is remarkable that one can now purchase a personal laser printer for an equivalent amount of less than $50. The setup is pretty easy as the physical connections involve connecting the provided USB 2.0 cable and the power cord. For some reason, there are 2 power cords provided, a 2-pion and a 3-pin one and I personally always prefer the 3-pin option. While setting up, make sure to first install the driver on your PC before switching the printer on. It worked flawlessly on Windows 10 x64. On the down side, only Windows drivers are officially provided, so the printer is not recommended for use on Mac OS or Linux. It uses DDST (GDI) as against PCL or Postscript which makes it all the more difficult to get generic drivers working. There certainly is a generic Linux driver around which may prove useful. The printer is compact enough when folded but in full flow it occupies a lot of space as seen in the attached images. So, make sure you have enough space to install the printer.
The specifications mention a 13-second first page printout time with a speed of 16 ppm. Although, I haven’t printed that many pages, I am inclined to believe that and frankly it doesn’t matter much for home use consisting of occasional printing of documents. The quality is undoubtedly good even though I have only used the lower, default 600-dpi option and it should suffice for almost all use cases. This is my first personal laser printer and the smell it emitted on the first printout felt odd, but I guess that is part of the process that comprises the wonder of electrostatic printing.
Keep in mind that the toner supplied with the printer has a yield of only 500 pages which is based on a 5% print area per page. Thus, you are most likely to have a lower yield and shouldn’t be taken in by the figure of 2000 pages which is the yield of the larger replacement cartridge. Ricoh officially supports refilling the cartridge and the recommended number of refills per cartridge is 2. This should result in a good price per page ratio. As of now, I can see third-party refills starting at Rs. 350 and the 2000-page cartridge at around Rs. 3000 which is acceptable. Ricoh’s official website puts the price for the original consumables at Rs. 675 and Rs. 4548 respectively which ought to be the last resort should no other option be available. I haven’t tested the “jam-free” claim but I assume the YouTube videos depicting this are true in which case it is certainly a good-to-have feature.
In conclusion, the Ricoh SP 111 is the most affordable laser printer that can purchase to take care of any home documentation needs. As long as it is mechanically reliable, it should have low running costs which is what any home user can ask for.