Ricoh FAX800. (fax machine/printer) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Robert Bixby
The Ricoh FAX800 is the world's first combination of ink-jet fax machine and printer. It can operate as a standard fax machine, and it can emulate a Canon BJ-10e ink-jet printer.
Ink-jet printers print text beautifully, but they have a problem with banding in graphics, particularly when an ink cartridge has become old (some of the jets may cease functioning because of blockages). Heavy black and dark gray areas become saturated with the liquid ink, causing them to become wrinkled or convex.
The ink-jet printer in the FAX800 is an excellent, fast, and practically silent partner on your desktop. You simply install your software to use a Canon BJ-10e and change the setup in the fax machine to make it emulate that printer, and you're in business.
The fax machine prints out a decent fax with 200- x 200-dpi resolution. The advantage of a plain-paper, ink-jet fax machine is that you can use any kind of paper--even expensive linen paper--so your faxes can be of as high a quality as you can afford. You don't have to worry about buying the special flimsy roll paper that most fax machines use. You can use this machine for a convenience copier as well. Just slip in a sheet of paper as if you were going to fax it, and press the copy button. The copy comes out looking like a fax because the scanner is of fax quality. Once again, a compromise on quality limits the machine's value. It does a slightly better job of copying grayscale images than a fax machine does, but put the accent on slightly.
Two things that would seem logical to include with the system are absent: You can't send a fax with your computer, and you can't scan material with the scanner built into the fax machine and import the image into your computer. This was disappointing, since the parallel printer connector should be able to import the image easily.
It's a shame that these were left out, because a built-in scanner would have better justified the $1,845 suggested retail price. When I mentioned to a colleague all that the FAX800 could do, he was impressed. But when I told him the price, he said, "I could buy a PC, a fax/data modem, and an ink-jet printer for that." And he was right. The selling point that Ricoh has chosen to emphasize is that the FAX800 takes up less space than a fax machine and a printer, but this alone doesn't justify the price. The copier is a nice thing to have around (it beats driving to Kinko's every time you need a copy), but you can buy a copier for less than $500 now.
This is a solid machine that does all it claims to do, but its price needs to be brought down to a point that is under the cost of an inexpensive laser printer. If bought separately, the components of the machine should cost more than the machine itself; otherwise, it doesn't make any sense to buy the combo unit. Although at the time of this writing, Ricoh hasn't reduced the suggested retail price, discount office-equipment supply houses have advertised the product as low as $649, according to Ricoh's publicist. For an expanded report on the Ricoh FAX800, see the April "Personal Productivity" column in COMPUTE's support area on the America Online network.