I’ve owned and been very pleased with Sharp copiers for many, many years, and they have always performed flawlessly around here.  Other family members and business associates report similar experiences with sharp copiers and Sharp fax machines. With that reputation around here, I jumped at the opportunity to have a look at the latest technology in this category from Sharp, and I was not disappointed.

The AJ-5030 ($299 street price) packs faxing, copying, printing and scanning into a compact size at an affordable price. Small businesses and home offices everywhere are looking for ways to do more in less space, and for less money.  Why have different devices for all these functions when one box will do, and without compromising on performance?  That’s why I chose to have a look at this new Sharp product.

Printing at up to 1200 x 1200 dpi provides photo-quality output.  In fact, the photos I printed looked great.  Print speed is rated at up to 7.5 pages per minute in monochrome and up to 3.5 pages per minute in color, but I did not achieve that standard.  These page-per-minute figures from all manufacturers, I have found, is an almost arbitrary figure, but it’s a useful guide number as compared to other products.  In other words, they all say their printers are faster than we can actually achieve in real world use.  This device, however, did not seem slow.  Speed was certainly acceptable in every respect.

The printer is an inkjet type with two cartridges – one for black and one for color.  Specs call for a yield of the larger black ink tank of 600 pages and about 275 for the color ink tank.

Of course, it can handle just about any paper type required – plain, coated, photo, envelopes, transparencies, labels, iron-on transfers, greeting card stock, banners.

The copier function features reduction and enlargement from 25% to 400 % in 1% increments. Nice touch!  I use this feature quite often.

The TWAIN compatible scanner functionality provides 9600 dpi enhanced color scanning, plenty for all but the most critical users who will want and need something considerably better and at a higher cost.  I liked and used the one-touch scan-to-E-mail function which sends a scanned document directly from the 5030 to a preset E-mail inbox.  The built-in 14.4 Kbps modem is the standard performance these days and did a fine job as did the approximately 30-page (512 KB) memory feature.  Scan in document after document and THEN fax, or, if paper runs out, the memory will store the faxes until you refill the paper.  The memory feature is also useful for the purpose of sending the same fax to multiple recipients.  Just scan the pages in, set the 5030 to send to several places and then go.  (Ninety nine speed dial numbers can be entered and stored.)  To make the job easier, there is a 10-page automatic document feeder, also handy for multiple page scans.

In my tests, the operation of all functions was smooth and trouble-free.

For added value, the Sharp AJ-5030 comes bundled with MGI’s PhotoSuite III SE, an image correction and manipulation suite, Stamps.com software for direct postage printing, and Sharp’s own Multifunction Software for desktop document management and optical character recognition (OCR).  This last bit of software

It’s useful for scanning text from pre-printed sources, such as newspapers, letters and other documents, and then having the connected PC figure out the characters on the page.  Once the computer does the job, the converted text can be entered placed a word processing program as if it was typed, but without actually typing the information.  It sure can save some time and energy. Accuracy depends upon the quality of the scanned text, its size and the precise nature of each character.  No OCR program is flawless. This one worked well, but not as well as some others I’ve tried, such as OmniPage Pro and TextBridge.  Still, it’s decent, worth using and included in the price of the 5030.

This little gem of a product is compatible with Windows-based PCs of Pentium 133MHz or higher, with Windows 95 and higher and including NT 4 and Windows 2000.  Connectivity is by standard parallel or USB (cables not included).

All things considered, the small footprint, the great price versus performance, and the ease of use and overall performance makes this Sharp AJ-5030 a great choice and highly recommended.  For more information, go to www.sharp-usa.com or call 1-800-BE-SHARP.  You should be able to find the AJ-5030 at retailers including the usual home office suppliers such as OfficeMax.

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