The small color touchscreen was responsive enough that I was able to tap in my Wi-Fi password on the first attempt.
A bigger time sink was setting up to print via Google Cloud Print, a system I’ve always found to be inscrutable. Simply adding a networked local printer via Windows 10 or MacOS is also not the one-button task it should be, but I got that sorted out after a few minutes as well.
AirPrint, Google Cloud Print and more
In my hands-on testing, printing 10 pages from a MacBook took 27 seconds, including about 5 seconds for the data to stream over the network from my laptop to the printer. Printing a seven-page webpage from the Edge next page browser on a Windows laptop took 36 seconds. Making a « photocopy » of a single sheet of paper took 9 seconds.
But much more importantly than that, once I had the printer set up and the Wi-Fi connections made, it just worked and kicked out a perfectly legible document every time. I tried different laptops, I tried my phone (19 seconds for a one-page email via AirPrint), I tried Google Docs, PDF files and emails. It just worked, and for me as a decades-long inkjet user, it was a refreshing change of pace.
One thing to watch out for if you buy from Amazon: It uses « Amazon Dash Auto Replenishment, » which means it’ll automatically order new toner for you when it’s running low, but that’s a feature you can turn off via your Amazon account.
The color option
The HL-L2395DW has a flatbed scanner and copier, but isn’t a color printer. I find that most of my printing is shipping labels, pages of notes for TV appearances, and user manuals for laptops to read while testing. But, I also get that color is important to a lot of people, and a monochrome printer can be a dealbreaker. That’s why I followed the printer rabbit hole just a little deeper to find the Brother’s big, uh, brother basic color version.
I tried the least expensive color cousin to the so-far excellent HL-L2395DW, which is called the HL-3170CDW. Let’s just say clear product naming isn’t a strong suit here. This color printer is normally $249 (?240, AU$259), but Amazon and other stores regularly sell it for $199, or double the on-sale price of the monochrome version. User reviews for it are generally good, but not as good as for the monochrome version.
More details are in my review of the HL-3170CDW here , but the biggest takeaway is that you’re trading some features, like the scanner and touchscreen interface, for cheap, but effective, color.
The window test
These are not the only low-cost, high-quality printers you can find, but they are models I kept running across recommendations for, so they seemed like a good place to start. There’s one thing I am convinced of, which is that even for budget shoppers, laser is the way to go rather than inkjet, which has caused me so much frustration over the years.
Now, I’ve only used these two Brother printers for about a month, so even though they pass my test of not wanting to throw either one out of the nearest window yet, that could certainly change over time. I’ll update this review if that happens, and I’ll also make sure no one is standing right below my window.
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Setup of the HL-L2395DW was easy, and the only assembly required was pulling off several strips of tape holding all the doors and panels closed, and inserting the drum-plus-toner package. The hardest part was the thin instruction sheet with less-than-detailed illustrations, but I was able to intuit the correct way to insert the toner. Brother says the « starter » black toner that comes with the system should be good for 700 printed pages, and a 1,200-page replacement costs $44 from Amazon.