The Brother HL-6050D, built for a small to medium-size office, hurries to print your laser pages, holds one ream of paper, makes double-sided prints, and offers a model with 802.11b/g Wi-Fi. It provides twice the paper capacity and prints better text than the similarly priced Lexmark E332n, which also lacks two-sided printing. Still, you can get many of those features cheaper with the HP LaserJet 1320. And we're surprised that this $550 laser printer doesn't clearly explain an installation tip that helps you easily improve the quality of the graphics, which were so-so at the default settings.
The boxy Brother HL-6050D weighs nearly 46 pounds and stands just more than a foot tall by 15.4 inches wide and 16.7 inches deep. Its putty-colored plastic with navy blue logo trim is about as bland as printer design gets. The curved top output tray holds a roomy 250 sheets facedown, or 50 sheets faceup, however--convenient when you do a lot of printing. A 15-line LCD glows, traffic-light style: green for go, orange to show it's busy, or bright red for a problem. A target-style menu controller includes a data light to indicate print job status, as well as buttons to reprint the last document, cancel a job, or change menu choices and pause the printer.
The HL-6050D's cover pops open easily so that you can change the toner cartridge and print drum. Happily, there's a full-size toner cartridge rated to last 7,500 text pages. Replacement cartridges cost about $100, giving you a nice, low cost per page of about 1.3 cents--nearly a penny below average.
This printer's generous 500-sheet main paper tray holds letter or legal-size papers, and a business on the make can add an additional 500-sheet tray for $250. Just inside the front cover, the 100-sheet multipurpose tray accepts handfed heavy, fragile, or specialty papers, and you can open a straight paper path in the back of the printer.
The HL-6050D is powered by a 200MHz processor, and you can expand the 32MB of memory up to 160MB to better handle a heavy network work flow.
The Brother HL-6050D turned in a lickety-split performance on CNET Labs' laser speed tests. It produced more than 18 pages per minute (ppm) of text and almost 17.5ppm on graphics, beating out many printers in its class and price range.
The HL-6050D's normal, 600dpi text-output quality looked good, but just barely. The letters in CNET Labs' text document were clear and readable but appeared dark gray rather than solid black. The graphics output, tested at default settings, was fair; our test document came out looking like a bad photocopy job. Areas of fine detail were mottled with clearly visible dots, and arbitrary vertical lines appeared within gradients and in dark areas. Line art looked fine, but even when we bumped up the resolution to 1,200dpi and printed again, the gradients were still unsatisfactory.
But once we installed PostScript page description language, the graphics looked good. When you install this printer's drivers, make sure to choose Custom and select the PS (PostScript Emulation) driver; the standard installation won't ensure adequate graphics printing, and the manual doesn't mention this.
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Unless you spend a lot of time pumping iron, you should enlist help to lift the hefty Brother HL-6050D out of its box. After that, installation is straightforward, thanks to a printed quick-start guide with easy-to-follow USB, parallel port, and networking setup instructions. On CD-ROM, there are helpful, animated Flash movies that illustrate all aspects of the initial printer setup, plus a detailed user guide with two pages of troubleshooting tips.
The Brother HL-6050D comes with a one-year limited warranty and a year of generous replacement service. If you encounter problems that can't be resolved, Brother will replace the printer and pay the shipping, as long as you return the defective unit within five days of receiving its replacement.
Brother offers toll-free technical support for your printer for its life, which is charitable. Support hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. ET. The online Brother Support Center offers answers to FAQs, and you can also e-mail or fax questions to the support staff. The second time we called the support number to ask about the graphics quality, we gave up after a 10-minute wait time.
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