The Good This inexpensive monochrome laser printer and scanner is often sold. Toner cartridges last a long time, and setting up Wi-Fi was quick and easy.
The Bad To get the best deal you need to wait for it to be sold on Amazon. It is large, heavy and black and white.
The Bottom Line Take this basic monochrome laser printer when it is on sale and your printing frustrations will disappear.
If there’s one truth about every printer I’ve ever owned, it’s my dream pulling IniTech : Taking everyone into an empty field and breaking it into pieces with a baseball bat. Unless you identify that feeling, chances are you never own a low-end consumer inkjet. I’ve had a few years (I won’t name or be ashamed of specific brands) and end up experiencing the same unpleasant cycle every day.
Editorial Note, August 22, 2018: Brother of HL-L2395DW retails at Amazon for $ 99, with color HL-3170CDW retails for $ 175, both on August 19th. More about these discounts can be found here .
First, I am tempted by low starting prices, usually less than $ 80, but the setup is a pain, the printer sees my laptop over Wi-Fi when it’s in the mood, and the output ranges from fine to spotting, with colors and tones throughout. Of course, the ink runs out soon, and sometimes my expensive replacement inkjet cartridges are not recognized or initialized properly. Make too many trips to troubleshoot the rabbit hole and you’ll be ready to go back to the right pads and # 2 pencils.
If any of the above sounds familiar, you’ll understand why I decided to find 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.
Epson EcoTank ET-2550
HP Envy 4520
Epson Expression Home XP-430
|Price||$120 Walmart||$298 Amazon||$410 Walmart||$100 Amazon||$150 Amazon|
Quest for junk printer
I consulted with some CNET colleagues who were faced with similar disappointments, searched for different models with different lists of features, and searched for buyers’ reports of problems. Price, both front and current, was also a major factor.
Eventually I landed on Brother HL-L2395DW . It has almost 2000 customer reviews on Amazon , almost all are positive, and this is a favorite of the Gizmodo , too. This is a monochrome laser printer that includes a scanner (people call it a “multifunction” printer), and it is a continuation of the Brother HL2380DW, which has worked in CNET labs for months, honestly printing shipping labels without missing a beat.
But here’s the key part: although the official price is $ 169, it is for sale on Amazon at least once a quarter for $ 99 or $ 199 in Australia. Wait for it to go on sale and you will feel that it is well spent $ 99 (now it’s a half discount, for $ 129 on Amazon). Brother does not offer this exact printer in the UK, but comparable models start at 142 pounds.
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. There are other laser printers that can drop to about $ 99 during the sale, and many of them are probably just as good, so don’t @ me with your beloved. (In fact, please.)
Installing the HL-L2395DW was straightforward, and the only assembly required was to pull out several strips of tape, keeping all doors and panels closed, and inserting a drum-plus-toner pack. The most difficult was the thin instruction plate with less detailed illustrations, but I could figure out the right way to insert the toner. Brother says the “initial” black toner that comes with the system should be good for 700 printed pages and 1200 pages replaced it costs $ 44 from Amazon .
Setting up Wi-Fi was also painless, but it helped that there were quite a few options on the OSD. The small color touch screen was sensitive enough that I managed to push my Wi-Fi password the first time I tried.
A larger time sink was set to print through Google Cloud Print, a system that I always thought was inappropriate. Just adding a network local printer through Windows 10 or MacOS is not a one-button task either, but I figured it out in a few minutes.
AirPrint, Google Cloud Print and more
It took me 27 seconds for my test to print 10 pages on my MacBook, including about 5 seconds for data to flow from my laptop to the printer. It took 36 seconds to print a seven-page web page from an Edge browser on a Windows laptop. It took 9 seconds to make a “photocopy” of one sheet of paper.
But more importantly than when I set up the printer and made a Wi-Fi connection, it worked every time and threw out a perfectly legible document every time. I tried different laptops, tried my phone (19 seconds for one-page email using AirPrint), tried Google Docs, PDFs and emails. It just worked, and for me as a user of streaming jet friends for decades, it was a refreshing change of pace.
If you buy from Amazon, you should note: it uses the Amazon Dash auto-recharge feature. This means that it will automatically order new toner when it is low, but it is a feature that you can disable through your Amazon account.
The HL-L2395DW has a tablet scanner and copier, but not a color printer. I think most of my prints are labels, TV pages of notes, and notebook guides that can be read during testing. But I also understand that colors are important to many people, and a monochrome printer can be a misfit. That’s why I followed the printer’s rabbit hole a little deeper to find a big, basic, color version of my brother.
I tried the least expensive colored cousin to date the excellent HL-L2395DW, which is called HL-3170CDW . Let’s say the clear name of the product here is not a strong suit. This color printer is usually $ 249 (£ 240, $ 259), but Amazon and other stores regularly sell it for $ 199 or twice the selling price of the monochrome version. User reviews on it are generally good, but not as good as the monochrome version.
More details are mine HL-3170CDW review here , but the biggest result is that you trade in some features, such as a scanner and a touch screen, for a cheap but effective color.
The window test
These are not the only inexpensive high quality printers you can find, but these are models that I’ve been constantly pushing for recommendations, so they seemed like a good place to start. I’m convinced that even for budget buyers, laser is the way, 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’ll update this review if it does, and I’m also making sure that no one is standing right under my window.
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