Brother HL-2170W review: Brother HL-2170W

Performance
In our lab tests, the Brother HL-2170W emerged as one of the front-runners in terms of speed, shooting out an impressive 17.48 pages of black text per minute. Compare this with other similarly priced lasers below and you'll find that the Brother is fastest on most counts. In addition, printers usually need an average of four seconds to process a job before the actual printing begins, but the HL-2170W began to spool paper and print with only 2 seconds of lag time.

Speed test (in pages per minute)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Graphics  
Presentation  
Text  
Brother HL-2170W
17.93 
17.48 
17.81 
HP Laserjet 1020
12.61 
11.66 
12.52 
Dell 1720dn Laser Printer
21.59 
11.79 
13.46 

Of course, speed isn't everything and quality should never be sacrificed to quantity. The HL-2170w performed well in our text quality tests; the samples we printed on standard 20-pound paper with the quality set to "best" were evenly dark with clear fonts all the way down to two-point Times New Roman. The individual letters were also free from line breaks and fuzzy edges. The graphics sample, however, didn't produce equally positive results. The gradient steps were so abrupt that a severe checkered pattern appeared where the printer obviously couldn't handle the transitions. The small photos we printed appeared fuzzy in the shadow regions in addition to the overall digitized effects. Finally, the HL-2170W also failed our 12-step shading test. Harsh banding quickly appeared at the 40 percent shading mark and continued to get worse as the percentage increased.

Overall, this printer would make the most sense as a secondary, text-only printer to save money on paper and ink in the end, but PowerPoint presentations, photos, and graphics-heavy newsletters should be saved for a robust inkjet printer with multiple color cartridges and a nozzle that can handle precise detail. All-in-one printers are another practical alternative if space saving is a factor.

According to Brother, each standard toner cartridge will yield approximately 1,500 pages. Three cents per page is relatively high for a laser jet printer, but still significantly less than it would cost to replace an inkjet cartridge with the same frequency. Brother also offers a "high yield" toner cartridge that yields 2,600 pages at a slightly cheaper two cents per page. The combination toner and drum unit included in the box is a "starter" package that only yields a reported 1,000 pages.

Service and Support
Brother stands by all of their monochrome laser printers with a one year Express Exchange limited warranty in addition to offering a toll-free customer service number for trouble-shooting information. Customers can also visit the Web site for driver downloads, FAQs, and comprehensive support center.

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