So I have been looking at printers for home since my old HP multifunction printer died in the spring, and used some birthday money and a great sale at OfficeMax to get a new one.  I decided on a color laser printer, the Brother HL-4040CDN.

Picture 1

Now you might be thinking “color laser printer” isn’t that overkill and/or really expensive.  I first used a color laser printer in the mid-90s – the HP Color Laser Printer.  It was terribly slow, needed a lot of maintenance, cost a ton to buy (close to $10,000) and the supplies were prohibitively expensive (~1.50/page).  Needless to say this was not for home/personal use. Today this color laser printer is $279 and costs far less than an ink jet printer to operate, oh and it prints about 20 pages per minute.

I’ve had it less than a week now, so this is more about first impressions than a review/recommendation.

My requirements

What I need is something that I can print to every day, and that my family can print to every day, without having to worry about the correct paper being installed, the expensive photo ink being installed, and with less concern about the cost per page to print.

I am teaching some classes now, so I may need to print 20-40 pages on the way out the door, and copies of web pages and articles on the fly.  The kids are writing a number of reports each week and similarly need to be able to print before taking off for the day or night.

In this, color is actually not a requirement, but is very nice to have.  The problem with ink jet printers and color is that they are so expensive to run, and if you print a big enough image, they still come out wet and need to set a while before using.

Pros

  • XP, Vista and Windows 7 drivers – local and network:  This is very important for us because the kids have XP netbook computers, we have one Vista laptop, and my main machine is now Windows 7.  XP and Vista drivers came on the disk, and Windows Update found Windows 7 drivers immediately (which was very nice).  So now everyone is set up to print to the printer from wherever they are on the network.
  • Speed – 20 ppm, black and white or color.  It might be just me, but I end up printing things right as I exit the door going somewhere.  It is nice to know that I can do this and have the printouts ready by the time I get my shoes on.
  • High duty cycle – this is a workgroup/office class machine and is duty rated for thousands of pages per month. This is well more than we will use, but it is good to know.
  • Large sheet capacity (250).  The bottom third of this unit is just a paper tray that can hold 250 pages – this is nice for big print jobs or just not to have to worry about it.
  • Long print life.  The standard toner cartridges last from 2,500-1,500 pages, and the high capacity carts last 4,000-5,000 pages.  Again, it seems like with the ink jet I am always changing carts and paper.
  • Duplex – this was not a requirement, but is very nice.  Duplex means that I can print on both sides of a sheet of paper automatically. This saves paper, and is great for printing workbooks on 3-hole paper.  Then I can take the sheets and bind them directly with the facing pages set up correctly.

Cons

  • Size, weight – huge.  Even when the Office Max guy de-boxed the thing with me it barely fit in my car.  This thing is a monster and the box it comes in could be a kids play house.  In case you think I am exaggerating, the carton size is 22.4" x 24.6" x 22.2" and weighs 74lbs.  The unit alone is 16.5" x 18.7" x 12.5" and weighs 65lbs.

 Picture 2

  • Ethernet, but no wifi.  Fortunately where I was going to put the printer was next to a network hub, but others may need to put it somewhere unwired.  It should be a feature that could be added, but I don’t see that anywhere.
  • Features I won’t use, like direct USB printing of PDF, Jpeg, PictBridge.  For the price and added tech to support these rather useless features I would have rather had WiFi.
  • Brother is not a known brand to me. Nothing really good or bad here, it is just a brand I have never dealt with.

Impressions

Overall I am really happy with the printer so far and will follow up in a few months with a longer term review.  The kids used it over the weekend for different research projects and I am ready for class this week already.  So far so good.