You can mitigate the photo issues by using laser printer glossy paper -- inkjet photo paper is specially coated for an inkjet mechanism and doesn't play nice with laser printers. If you're specifically looking to print lots of high-quality photos, you're better off with a specialty photo printer, like the Canon Pixma line or the HP Envy Photo line.
Printing was a bit slower than using the monochrome model. A black-and-white 10-page text document took 55 seconds to fully print (versus 27 seconds for the monochrome printer), while a single-page color test sheet took 20 seconds. With both printers on their default settings, black text looked a little darker and bolder from the monochrome printer, but you'd have to have them sitting side by side to tell the difference.
The color HL-3170CDW came with its black, cyan, yellow and magenta toner cartridges preinstalled, which Brother says should be good for 1,000 pages. If buying from Amazon, it has autoreplenishment turned on by default, so keep an eye on that, as replacement cartridges cost around $57 per color (and are said to be good for 1,400 pages each). Third-party color laser toner can be found online for under $100 for a full-color set.
Not the only game in town
As I said my review of the monochrome HL-L2395DW, these are not the only low-cost, high-quality printers you can find, but they are models I kept running across recommendations for, so they seemed like a good place to start. There's one thing I am convinced of, which is that even for budget shoppers, laser (or digital LED) is the way to go, rather than inkjet, which has caused me so much frustration over the years.
Now, I've only used these two Brother printers for about a month, so even though they pass my test of not wanting to throw either one out of the nearest window yet, that could certainly change over time. I'll update this review if that happens, and warn you against standing under my window.
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