The Brother HL-2270DW laser monochrome printer provides a viable alternative to the classic bottomless money pit that has become today's inkjet printer. Modern photo, tricolor, and high-capacity ink cartridges can cost anywhere from $20 to $100 per refill, so multiply that by your volume of prints and try not to balk at the true cost of operation. As an alternative, supplementing a printer setup with an inexpensive black-and-white laser printer can cut costs in home offices that cycle through black ink cartridges with text-only documents. Although it's not without its shortcomings such as poor graphic document output, the Brother HL-2270DW balances out with speedy text printing and simple 802.11 b/g wireless for $149.99.
The HL-2270DW has the same overall size and design as the Brother HL-2170W, with 32MB of onboard memory and a 802.11 b/g wireless interface. As far as laser printers go, this machine is rather small at 6.7 inches high, 14.5 inches wide, and weighing just 15 pounds. Designwise, Brother draws away from the classic gray colorway, opting for a matte black finish instead.
The front lip folds down to reveal the toner port, and like most laser printers, you can remove the paper tray, located on the face of the unit, for toner refills. You probably won't need to refill too often considering the printer can hold 250 sheets of standard 8.5-by-11-inch paper. There's also a manual-feed paper slot that handles an assortment of different paper sizes including Letter, Legal, Executive, A4, A5, A6, B5, B6, and envelopes. We printed more than 150 pages during our lab testing and never experienced a paper jam or delay.
Unfortunately, Brother only offers a "starter" toner cartridge with the unit that can only last about 1,000 pages. After that, you'll need to purchase your own standard cartridge for $49 that can yield approximately 1,500 pages, for an acceptable 3.3 cents per page. You can also save money by purchasing a higher-yield toner cartridge that can go for about 2,600 pages until you'll have to spend $68 on a replacement.
The HL-2270DW's control panel is just as simple as the body itself, featuring an all-inclusive "Go" button that also controls error recovery, wake-up, job cancel, wireless on/off, and manual feed, with three small LEDs for toner, drum, and error status rounding out the panel. As stated, this isn't the flashiest float in the parade--it's designed with utility, not fashion, in mind.
The HL-2270DW includes 32MB of internal memory so you can send more documents through the printer and generally speed up the whole printing process. Most monochrome laser printers don't come with a lot of fancy features, but the Brother HL-2270W includes three networking options for connecting it to your computer: wired USB 2.0, 10/100 Base-TX Ethernet, and wireless 802.11 b/g. The printer is also Mac-, Windows-, and even Linux-compatible.
Connecting the printer to our wireless network gave us little trouble thanks to the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) standard that lets you establish an additional device to your home network in a few easy steps that are laid out in the accompanying instruction manual and aided by onscreen drivers. As long as you have your network name and SSID password on hand, you should be able to connect your printer and computer without wires like we did, in less than 10 minutes easily. You can also use the AirStation OneTouch Secure System (AOSS) if you have a Buffalo network wireless router.
The HL-2270DW has a slighter faster processor speed than its predecessor at 200MHz, so it performed a little better at 18.64 pages per minute (ppm) for a page of all black text, 19.03 ppm for a page of all graphics, and 18.15 ppm in our PowerPoint presentation test. Still, neither Brother kept up with the Editors' Choice-winning Oki B431DN that registered chart-topping print speeds at more than 30 ppm in all three test results.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The HL-2270DW 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 2-point Times New Roman. The individual letters were also free from line breaks and fuzzy edges. The graphics sample we printed, however, didn't fare as well. 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. The HL-2270DW also didn't perform up to par in our 12-step shading test. Harsh banding quickly appeared at the 40 percent shading mark and continued to get worse as the percentage increased.
Like the HL-2170w, this printer would make the most sense as a secondary, text-only printer to save money on paper and ink in the long run, 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.
Service and support
Brother stands by all of its monochrome laser printers with a one-year Express Exchange limited warranty in addition to offering a toll-free customer service number for troubleshooting information.