Brother HL-3170CDW review: A laser fit for a small office, with or without wires

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Brother HL-3170CDW boasts office-friendly features like automatic double-sided printing, wireless and wired networking options, a generous monthly duty cycle, and two separate trays for standard and thicker-than-average paper.

The Bad The photo quality lacks detail and the fixed control panel can be awkward to operate.

The Bottom Line Despite its photo printing shortcomings, the Brother HL-3170CDW is a capable color laser printer that meets all the major requirements for a small office workgroup.

7.6 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Value 7.0

The HL-3170CDW is Brother's office-friendly workgroup printer that uses the company's Digital LED print technology for black and color outputs at up to 600x2,400 dpi resolution. While that limits its usability for offices that print a lot of photos, the lack of moving parts in LED printers compared with traditional laser devices is certainly a boon for IT professionals with long-term sustainability at the top of their shopping list.

As you would expect, the HL-3170CDW supports automatic double-sided printing, a collection of cloud-printing options including Apple AirPrint and Google CloudPrint, and multiple connection points for wired and wireless customers. These features make it a worthwhile business purchase at its standard $279 retail, but you can get it at OfficeMax for just $199.99. At such a low price tag for a wealth of productive features, the Brother HL-3170CDW is a no-brainer recommendation for offices that value both black and color prints in a reliable laser printer.

Design and features

View full gallery (6 Photos)
Sarah Tew/CNET
Nobody would consider the Brother HL-3170CDW a small printer, but at 9.4 inches tall by 16.1 inches wide by 18.3 inches deep, it's not much bigger than the similarly equipped HP LaserJet Pro 400 M401dw. Still, you probably won't want to move the 39-pound HL-3170CDW around the office, so pick its position wisely and keep it there.

View full gallery (6 Photos)
Sarah Tew/CNET

On that note, you might be disappointed to find that the display on the front is fixed to the machine; in other words, it doesn't allow for incremental viewing angles perpendicular to the chassis in the manner of the pricier HP LaserJet Pro 500 M401dw. The result is that you're forced to look down at the Brother printer, with no option to raise the screen to an easier viewing angle.

The top of the printer echoes the bare-bones theme painted across the entire printer; aside from the simple monochromatic LCD and a small collection of Start, Stop, Cancel, and Select buttons, the rest of the front-facing edge is relegated to the output tray and a small tab that lifts up to corral outbound prints.

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250-sheet main feed tray Sarah Tew/CNET

Users get two separate trays for inserting paper, but I suspect that most offices will use the main 250-sheet tray most of the time. Just in case, though, Brother also includes a single-sheet, manual paper-feed tray for atypical media like envelopes and thick card stock.

View full gallery (6 Photos)
Manual feed tray.

Keep in mind, however, that although the 30,000-page monthly duty cycle should be good enough for SMBs, Brother doesn't offer the ability to add a paper tray to the bottom of the device as you can with other printers. If you plan to go through several reams of paper a day, this is not the printer for you; perhaps your high-output workflow would be better matched with the HP Officejet Pro X576dw.

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