The Good This digital LED printer is an inexpensive color laser printer other than its name. Toner cartridges last a long time.
The Bad Although it is a single-function printer, it is large and heavy. Laser printers are not great for color photos. Setting up without a touch screen is a pain.
The Bottom Line This Brother color printer lacks additional features to reduce cost.
If you’re anything like me, the idea of printing on a home printer sends you running around the mountains. Will the printer wake up? Will it connect to my laptop? Will paper jam? Will I receive an ink loss warning? The last – tricky questions – of course, you get it.
So, I finally decided it was worth looking at the investment a little more and going laser. I found monochrome nirvana with Brother HL-L2395DW , a versatile printer that can often be found for sale for $ 99. Then I became a little more ambitious and looked for something with the same combination of value and reliability, but with color. I tried the Brother HL-3170CDW, which is usually available online for $ 199 (the “official” price is $ 249). User reviews on it are generally good, but not as good as the monochrome version. In the UK – £ 240 and in Australia – $ 259.
To reduce costs, I canceled the scanner features and the color touch screen interface that can be found in monochrome, so it’s just the printer and the main one. But I wasn’t looking for bells, I wanted a semi-decent printer that didn’t cost too much, was easy to use and, most importantly, actually worked at least most of the time. My biggest guideline was: I would consider it a success if I did not want to throw the printer out the window in a week.
My colorful quest
It is important to note that I have not set up or officially tested several similar products like we do reviews of laptops, TVs, phones and more. Instead, it was a personal quest where I chose a model that looked like it had the best consumer reputation for the price I was looking for.
Technically, the HL-3170CDW is a digital LED printer, not a laser printer. The difference is the type of light beam that is used to produce the toner on paper. LEDs are cheaper, while lasers may offer better quality, but the differences are subtle.
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You give up a couple of key features in exchange for cheap color. The built-in display is not a touch screen, which makes Wi-Fi setup a lot more annoying, and it’s just a printer, meaning there’s no scanner hardware or photocopying feature. Anecdotally, I find the scanner on a home multifunction printer at least a few times a year, so for me it’s not an excuse, but your needs may be different.
Keep in mind that although inkjet printers can be incredibly annoying, they still print fine color photos on photo paper. The Brother Color Printer did a great job of printing a large photo on decent, unglazed paper (see below), but it is not a print that no one will hang on the wall. Although both laser printers I tried are very good at illustrations and graphics, the photos ranged from “OK” to “bag” with low color accuracy.
You can mitigate photo problems by using glossy laser printer paper – inkjet photo paper is specially coated for inkjet and does not play well with laser printers. If you specifically want to print a lot of high quality photos, you might want to use a special photo printer, such as Canon Pixma line or the HP Envy Photo line.
Printing was a bit slower than using a monochrome model. The 10-page black and white text document took 55 seconds to print completely (up to 27 seconds for a monochrome printer), whereas a single page color test sheet took 20 seconds. With both printers, by default, black text looks a little darker and bolder than a monochrome printer, but you’ll have to sit side by side to determine the difference.
The color of the HL-3170CDW comes with pre-installed black, blue, yellow, and magenta toner cartridges that, according to Brother, should fit 1,000 pages. If you buy from Amazon, auto-refill is on by default, so keep an eye on it, as replacement cartridges cost about $ 57 per color (and are said to be good for 1400 pages each). A third-party color laser toner can be found online for less than $ 100 per full-color set.
Not the only game in town
As I said before my review is monochrome HL-L2395DW , these are not the only inexpensive high quality printers you can find, but these are models that I’ve been constantly reviewing for recommendations, so they seemed like a good place to start. I am convinced that even for budget buyers, laser (or digital LED) is the path, not the inkjet, that has caused me so much frustration over the years.
I’ve been using these two Brother printers for about a month now, so although they’ve passed my test of not wanting to throw any of the closest windows out, this can certainly change over time. I will update this review if it does, and will warn against standing under my window.
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