The Brother HL-4040CN is a moderately priced single-function laser printer for workgroups or small offices. The $400 printer is network-ready and offers some interesting features, such as reprint and secure print, as well as great print quality. On the downside, it's a bit slower than the competition, but we think the positives outweigh the negatives. This is a good, cost-effective printer for offices with standard printing needs.
The Brother HL-4040CN is a boxy and standard-looking color laser printer. The navy-and-gray unit sits 16.5 inches wide, 18.7 inches deep, and 12.5 inches tall, and weighs a hefty 64 pounds. All the connector ports (USB and Ethernet) and the power port sit on the rear of the printer. There's also a front-mounted USB port for connecting PictBridge cameras or USB flash storage drives for PC-free printing.
The HL-4040CN's paper tray holds as many as 250 sheets of plain paper and can be configured to handle a variety of media sizes, including legal. (Brother doesn't offer an optional second input tray for the HL-4040CN.) The navy front panel folds down to serve as a 50-sheet manual input tray with adjustable paper guides and a pull-out flap to support long pages. The well in the top of the printer is the output tray and another flap folds out to corral long prints.
The control panel on this printer is basic, befitting the printer's basic functionality. Four multidirectional buttons let you navigate the menu, while the Reprint and Direct Print buttons let you make prints without touching your PC (more on this in the Features section). Rounding out the control panel is a backlit, two-line text LCD. Surprisingly, the LCD is mounted on a swiveling plate, which lets you flip it up for easy viewing. This type of feature is normally limited to graphical LCDs on photo-oriented inkjet printers. The LCD displays four bars that inform you of the toner levels.
The HL-4040CN's toner cartridges can be found by flipping open the printer's entire front panel. A pull-out tray reveals the four cartridges, lined up in a horizontal row. It ships with standard cartridges; the black is good for about 2,500 prints and each of the three color cartridges will last for about 1,500 prints. The cost to replace these is $60 and $70 (per color), respectively. Brother also offers high-capacity versions: the black one prints about 5,000 pages ($93) and the color ones print about 4,000 pages ($130 each). Using the high-capacity cartridges, per-page costs work out to about 1.9 cents for a black-only page and 11.7 cents for a full-color page--inexpensive for black prints and about average for color prints. The recommended monthly duty cycle (that is, the suggested monthly print volume) is 35,000 pages, making it better suited for busy workgroups or small offices than for home users. The printer's driver also has a Toner Save mode, which helps reduce your print costs by using less toner; obviously, the print quality will take a hit.
As a single-function color laser printer, the HL-4040CN doesn't feature much to discuss, but what it does offer is novel and interesting. It ships with a 300MHz processor and 64MB of onboard memory. You can upgrade the memory to a maximum of 576MB. It's network-ready, with a built-in Ethernet port, but you can also connect via USB. The HL-4040CN lacks a duplexer, and Brother doesn't offer one as an add-on. The HL-4040CN's driver helps you with manual duplex tasks, though.
You can make N-up prints (as many as 25 pages on one sheet) and poster prints (of as large as 5x5 size). Using the front-mounted USB port, you can connect a PictBridge-enabled camera to print images or connect a USB flash drive to print TIFFs, JPEGs, and PDFs without using your PC. When you connect a USB drive, the contents will pop up on the text LCD and you can scroll through the folders to choose the file you want to print. Here's where it gets interesting. Another feature is the Reprint option: the last print job is held in the printer's memory. By pressing the Reprint button, you can print that file without using your PC, up to 999 copies of it. You can even make secure prints. When you print from your PC, the driver gives you the option of setting a four-digit numerical passcode for the file. It sends the file to the printer, which holds the data in memory. When you're ready to print, just press the Reprint button, choose your username, enter the four-digit passcode, and the HL-4040CN will finish the print job. This is a great feature for information-sensitive environments.