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Brother HL-3170CDW review:

A laser fit for a small office, with or without wires

Sarah Tew/CNET

Brother's latest addition to its line of business printers is a charge toward features that attempt to draw less power. The HL-3170CDW is one of the first units to include what Brother calls "Deep Sleep Mode." Users can adjust the amount of time during latency periods before the printer engages this feature, which then uses less than 2W to save energy -- and of course, decreases your next bill.

Automatic double-sided printing is another feature that endeavors to help out the environment by cutting down on the amount of paper used per print job. The setting is easily engaged through the control panel menu, and an autoduplexer inside will flip over each sheet before proceeding to the next piece of paper.

Sarah Tew/CNET

A number of options are available for office IT professionals or individuals to connect to the device. The easiest, of course, is a hard-wired connection using a USB cable, but you also get a wireless option through Wi-Fi Direct or network-wide access via the Ethernet port on the back of the unit.

Additionally, Brother encourages mobile printing and quick access for guest printers using cloud-based apps like Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, and Brother's iPrint & Scan smartphone app. Check out CNET TV's instructional video for more on how to use these services.

The limited selection of consumer-level color LED printers is just cause to throw a collection of single-function, monochrome, and color laser printers into the mix for comparison with the Brother HL-3170CDW. While it bested the competition, including the HP LaserJet Pro 400 in the plain black text and graphics sheet tests, it was outperformed by its linemate, the Brother HL-5450DN in the presentation speed test that includes both graphics and text, likely due to its limited resolution output that also renders less-than-desirable results in print quality.

While the HL-3170CDW had no problem printing solid black text lines with clean edges and uniform character spacing, the graphics page needs improvement. Suffering gradation issues and malformed consistencies in the finer lines, I wouldn't use this printer to output portrait or even snapshot photos onto a greeting card. On the other hand, I don't doubt its ability in the boardroom for simple handouts and presentation documents. You won't likely be disappointed as long as you're not expecting perfect color reproduction.

Service and support
Brother stands by all of its printers with a one-year Express Exchange limited warranty in addition to offering a toll-free customer service number for troubleshooting information.

Aside from its inability to reproduce photos as well as an inkjet printer, the Brother HL-3170CDW carries all the necessary features to maintain a productive office environment, including multiple connection points, mobile access via the cloud, and Earth-friendly efforts like Deep Sleep Mode and autoduplexing.

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