The Good Fast monochrome text speed; competitively priced; expandable.
The Bad Limited paper storage; some of the add-ons are expensive; color graphics output could be better.
The Bottom Line A fast and versatile network-ready color laser printer, the Brother HL-2700CN offers much for small businesses.
The Brother HL-2700CN is a fast, network-ready, desktop color laser that sells for less than $1,000. Like the Samsung CLP-500, it's fast even though it's affordable. And like the , the Brother HL-2700CN recognizes that most small businesses do not yet need a dedicated color laser, but rather a fast monochrome laser with the capability to print the occasional color job. Unlike the Samsung CLP-500, the Brother lacks an automatic duplexer. And unlike the Lexmark C510, the Brother HL-2700CN has a slower processor chip, but it does allow for up to nearly twice as much RAM. Given these pros and cons, the Brother HL-2700CN is a solid purchase for any small business looking for a fast, network-capable color laser without abandoning its monochrome laser needs. The Brother HL-2700CN is unremarkable, with a beige, boxlike design. It weighs a hefty 69.3 pounds and measures 15.2 inches high by 18.9 inches wide by 16.5 inches deep--about average for a network color laser printer.
The HL-2700CN's control panel sits on the front-left corner of the printer next to the 250-sheet output tray. The output tray includes a plastic tray extender with a pop-up paper stopper for corralling legal-size paper--a nice touch, but we'd like it better if the extender weren't so flimsy.
The rest of the design is solid. A two-inch-long plastic tab on the right side of the printer opens the HL-2700CN's front cover to reveal the four (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) toner cartridges. The cartridges slide in and out with exceptional smoothness. A waste toner cartridge sits alongside and to the right, just above the 250-sheet, letter and A4 input tray. Located inside the back cover is the Brother HL-2700CN's fuser unit. Along the printer's right side are a 10/100 Base T Ethernet port, a high-speed USB 2.0 connection, and a parallel port offering maximum connection options for most small businesses.
For convenience, you can get to the Brother HL-2700CN's management tools from any Web browser on any PC networked to the printer. Small businesses new to networking will appreciate Brother's own easy-to-use network interface, Web-BrAdmin and BrAdmin Professional, which runs under Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS). The HL-2700CN also supports Rendezvous, the zero-configuration networking technology from Apple that enables users to add new printers to existing networks quickly and easily.
The HL-2700CN's software is compatible with Windows (95 through XP), Mac (OS 8.6 through 10.3 or greater), and Linux (Red Hat, Mandrake, SuSE, and Debian). Drivers for the HL-27000CN include PCL6 and Brother's own version of PostScript 3 language emulation. The printer driver includes such options as Manual duplex, n-up (multiple images on one page), Poster, and Watermark print modes. The Brother HL-2700CN includes many useful small-office features. It comes with a 300MHz processor and just one 144-pin DIMM slot with 64MB of memory. You can expand that memory to a whopping 576MB, which is more than adequate for most small businesses and, incidentally, much more than the Lexmark C510n's 320MB maximum.
The HL-2700CN includes a CompactFlash card slot, which, with the addition of a CompactFlash card, you can use to store and reprint large documents, as well as for storing special font and frequently used forms and templates. You can buy a CompactFlash card for the HL-2700CN from third-party vendors for about $30 for a 32MB card or around $50 for 256MB card.
The HL-2700CN's built-in paper capacity is rather small, just 250 sheets. The printer also lacks a multipurpose, nonstandard media tray or feed slot, so you'll have to use the 250-sheet paper tray for all media, including envelopes (it can hold a maximum of 15 envelopes at a time). However, the HL-2700CN's paper capacity expands to 780 sheets with the purchase of an additional, letter-size, paper-only 530-sheet paper tray, the LT-27CL, for $549.99. If in addition to that you need a paper tray that holds a variety of paper sizes, you can swap out the built-in paper tray with a more versatile one. The LT-27LG costs $149.99 and holds 250 sheets of A4, letter, A5, B5 (ISO/ JIS), executive and legal-size papers; transparencies; or 15 envelopes.
While you're shopping for options, don't forget to pick up the DX-2700 duplex unit, which allows automatic double-sided printing, for $999. You can also buy tools for creating extra fonts and bar codes, but you probably won't need them, as the HL-2700CN comes equipped with PCL-6, BR-Script3 (Brother's version of PostScript3), IBM Proprinter, Epson FX, and HP-GL emulations for exact renditions of the most commonly used fonts.
The toner cartridges for the HL-2700CN come preinstalled, which is nice, but they're only starter cartridges. Brother estimates the initial black cartridge will produce 5,000 pages, while the three starter color toner cartridges (cyan, magenta, and yellow) will last only 3,000 pages apiece. With average use, the cartridges will empty at varying rates. A replacement black cartridge costs $169.99 and should last up to 10,000 pages at 5 percent coverage. The color replacement cartridges each cost $164.99 and are rated to produce roughly 6,600 pages apiece at 5 percent coverage. Brother did not provide a typical cost-per-page estimate. The Brother HL-2700CN performed very well in CNET Labs' tests, pumping out 18.5 pages per minute (ppm) of monochrome text. In fact, of the color lasers we've tested, the 2700CN is the second fastest at printing monochrome, just behind the Lexmark C510, which prints text at 19.2ppm. With monochrome graphics printing, however, the Brother failed to keep the momentum at 11.3ppm, falling behind both the Lexmark at 17.4ppm and the Samsung at 14.3ppm.
On the other hand, the Brother HL-2700CN is the fastest color laser printer for color printing we've tested. The printer was very consistent with 6.9ppm for text and 6.5ppm for graphics, comparing favorably against the Lexmark at 6.7ppm and 6.4ppm, respectively, and the Samsung at 4.6ppm and 4.5ppm, respectively.
Overall, the HL-2700CN offers impressive print quality. Our juries found the monochrome text and graphics very crisp, with great detail. The color text looked a little dotty but still very good. Only the printer's color graphics disappointed us. The samples had bad color matching and some banding; they were also too dark.
We tested the Brother HL-2700CN with its factory default settings. These settings can be adjusted for better performance and output quality. Learn more about how CNET Labs tests printers.
Performance analysis written by CNET Labs project leader Dong Van Ngo.