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There's no doubt about it: Laser printers keep getting better and better while prices keep getting cheaper and cheaper. Today, just $300 will buy you the top-performing Brother HL-1440 laser printer. For your money, you'll get a printer that ranks at the head of its class for both performance and output quality, with top-notch ease of use to boot. There's no doubt about it: Laser printers keep getting better and better while prices keep getting cheaper and cheaper. Today, just $300 will buy you the top-performing Brother HL-1440 laser printer. For your money, you'll get a printer that ranks at the head of its class for both performance and output quality, with top-notch ease of use to boot.
Ready to roll
You'll have the petite $299 HL-1440 churning out pages in no time. Setup is brainless, and a quick-start guide walks you through the simple process of installing the integrated 20,000-page drum and 3,000-page toner cartridge. The printer has both parallel and USB ports but unfortunately doesn't come with any cables. The HL-1440 works with PCs and Macs, supporting Windows 95, 98, Me, 2000, and NT 4.0 and OS 8.5, 8.51, 8.6, and 9.0, respectively. The printer uses PCL 4 emulation and includes 24 resident bitmap fonts. Standard memory is only 2MB but is expandable to 36MB.
The full-featured software drivers are quite easy to use. We did notice a quirk with the supported media types. The HL-1440's drop-down menu offers a choice of plain, thin, thick, and thicker, among other options, but we would've preferred that the software offer more specific options or guidelines for paper types. There's also an easy-to-use manual duplex feature, which includes pop-up screens that walk you through instructions to print on both sides of the page. Should you run into any trouble, the printer offers interactive help in the form of step-by-step video clips that show you how to address problems such as a paper jam, an empty toner cartridge, or full memory.
Great speeds and good looks
The HL-1440 is currently the only 15ppm (pages per minute) printer in the sub-$300 price range. And as expected, it easily outperforms similarly priced 12ppm printers. In CNET Labs' tests, the HL-1440 clocked speeds of 11.4ppm for text speeds via the USB port. The closest competitors were the $399 15ppm HP LaserJet 1200 at 10.5ppm, and the 12ppm $349 NEC SuperScript 1400 at 10.1ppm. With combined text-and-graphics documents, the NEC actually outpaced the Brother, coming in at 9.7ppm compared to the Brother's 9.6ppm.
Fortunately, the HL-1440 also produced impressive output. While text looked excellent at the default 600dpi (dots per inch) resolution, it was a bit lighter than that of the LaserJet 1200. However, at tiny point sizes, this was a boon to the Brother--even at three-point font, the HL-1440 maintained its clarity. Graphics output also looked excellent, with especially smooth gradients. Upon close inspection, we could make out some dot patterns on a document at the default 600dpi resolution, but they weren't visible at a more customary distance. When we tested the printer at its highest 1,200x600dpi resolution, photographs appeared smoother than at lower resolutions.