OVERVIEW: The first all-in-one of Sharp’s AL-1600 series, the Sharp AL-1641CS offers computer printing and scanning, as well as the original copier features found in their AL-1631.
The 53 pound all-in-one copier has a footprint 20.4” x 19.4”. The copier is a little large to put on a desk but will feel right at home on any credenza.
The AL-1641CS uses a stationary 8½” x 14” platen for scanning instead of a sliding platform to keep its footprint no bigger than its physical size. The automatic document feeder allows for 30 single-sided copies to be made up to legal-size: more originals can be fed in as the level lowers. By scanning the original once and storing the image into its 8MB memory allows the AL-1641CS to produce copies at the rate of 16 pages per minute, up to 99 copies.
The AL-1641CS has three different exposure modes & resolutions (auto, manual, photo). Automatic (or default) resolution is 600 x 300 dpi. “Photo quality” is 600 x 600 dpi at 256 grayscale levels. The magnification can be changed from 25% to 400% in 1% increments or in 6 jumps.
Using either Parallel or the USB 1.1 connection, the AL-1641CS can be connected to a computer to double as a modest laser printer. In a small office, the Sharp can be set up to be a shared printer provided the computer it’s connected to remains on during the hours the printer would get used. When connected to a computer, the AL-1641CS can scan color images with resolutions up to 600 x 1,200 dpi.
The control panel for the AL-1600 series is pretty straightforward, so you don’t need to go to the manual to figure things out. In addition to magnification, quantity, and exposure, you can control which paper tray to use and to switch to the toner save mode. Indicators blink for toner and drum replacement, and paper jams. Unfortunately, the jam indicator does not show where inside the copier the misfeed is, so you’ll have to do the sleuthing yourself.
The sliding paper tray can hold up to 250 sheets of either letter (8½” x 11”) or legal (8½” x 14”) size paper. Non-standard sizes from 3” x 5” up to 8½” x 14” can be placed singly on the scanning platform, or up to 50 sheets placed on the multi-purpose flip-tray on the side of the copier.
This Sharp model was made for compactness, not expandability. There are no options available to increase its paper or memory capacities, nor to add network capability.
During its prime, the 16 ppm copy speed was impressive for a small copier. In printer mode, the touted 12 ppm speed can only be achieved at lowest resolution (but that’s the caveat for any printer specs). Don’t expect the faster print speeds of 20 ppm that’s typical of current B&W laser printers.
The 250-sheet paper tray is woefully undersized for office copy use. It’s typical for even a small office to go through a ream of paper in a single day. And it’s also common for offices buy paper in 500-sheet reams, if not a 10-ream case. For personal and home use, a 250-sheet tray is sufficient, so long as you’re not someone whose home is their office. Having a tray that you can dump an entire ream of paper into would be something any office would invest a few more dollars for.
Printer emulator doesn’t include PCL or PostScript, but relies on Sharp’s own proprietary emulator. For standard printing, most users won’t notice any difference in performance or print quality.
INK / TONER NEEDS:
The AL-1641CS only comes with a 50-percent full toner cartridge, which will need replacing after 4 reams of paper. The standard-yield toner can hold 4,000 pages at 5% coverage, the high-yield producing 6,000 pages.
The AL-1641CS has separate toner and drum to help reduce overall consumables costs. The front plate flips open, allowing for the toner, then the drum units to be accessed. Since the cartridges have to be slid out sideways, it will take a little bit of practice to get the hang of replacement.
The drum unit will need to be replaced every 18,000 pages, or on the 3rd toner change. During the course of changing toner, people often forget to keep track when it’s time to change the drum. Combo-packages are available that offer the drum with several toners. By the time the toners are consumed, the remaining drum is replaced. These combo-packages make maintenance easy and increases overall longevity and print quality.
Included is Sharp’s own desktop document management software. The software does a decent job in giving you control of the unit’s various printing and scanning functions.
Unfortunately, the software is only for Wintel machines. Apple machines running OS 10.3 and above may be able to use the printing and scanning functions native to OS X or through 3rd party applications, like Photoshop.
The AL-1641CS is Sharp’s next generation in all-in-one compact desktop machines-- Mel Myers