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Brother HL-3070CW Color Wireless LED Printer review

Recently picked up the Brother HL-3070CW from Best Buy (a great sale at under $200).

I have to say, it’s probably the best printer I’ve ever owned.

I’ll begin by mentioning that I’m not going to focus on speed, color representation, or any of the other stuff that most printer reviews focus on. I’m a pretty regular guy when it comes to my printing needs. I don’t hundreds of pages per day. I’m not an artist. That said, I want a printer that works well and quickly the times I use it, doesn’t cause nightmares when shared over the network, and also isn’t going to cost me an arm and a leg in toner over the course of it’s life.

The Brother HL-3070CW fit the bill perfectly.

I should also mention that I’m the type to pay 3X more for a printer if toner/ink is cheap (or if it can be refilled through generic eBay toner/ink). Naturally, this means I’ve never bought a Lexmark and never will. This also means I used to buy Canon but never do anymore. You want to chip your printers? Have fun. I won’t buy from you. Ever. Brother’s one of the few manufacturer’s left that I’m willing to buy from.

In any case, with the Brother a seemingly good fit on paper, I’ll keep this short and give a few pros/cons:

PROS

  • Works great with the Mac. Whether plugged in directly to the computer through USB, through Ethernet, or via the Apple Time Capsule, Mac OS X (Snow Leopard) detected it and automatically downloaded drivers through Apple’s Software Update.
  • Can be configured through a web interface if you use it as a Network printer. Loads of options here too.
  • No draconian anti-refill measures put in. If you’re the type to buy refill toner from eBay, it’s a mechanical process to refill/reset the cartridge (no melting or chip required – just a couple screwdrivers), and it’s much easier/simpler than some other brands where you have to melt/glue/tape/rechip/etc.
  • Reasonably priced “Brother” toner. The cartridges seem to hit around $50 bucks a piece on Amazon, which is lower than most toner cartridges from other manufacturers. Since I buy eBay refill kit stuff this doesn’t really apply to me, but for those who don’t want the hassle of refilling their own cartridges, paying a reasonable price for the real thing is always good.
  • It’s nearly impossible for dust / pet fur / etc to make it’s way inside the printer. Paper tray’s hidden (and horizontal), and the output is horizontal also. Examine the picture – it’s impossible for junk to get in there and mess with the rollers over time.
  • Wireless. While I have it shared through the Time Capsule (USB), you can set it up wirelessly. Or, you can plug it in to a network cable. Either works.
  • Silent when not printing. After 5 minutes (the default time, you can change this in it’s settings), it goes to “sleep”. Lights go out, fans shut off, and it uses under 10W. It doesn’t randomly start up (like some other lasers I’ve had). Unless you look at the display you’ll think it’s off. I like it.
  • Starts up rather quickly from sleep. When I print from a computer in the other room, by the time I get to the printer, the pages are usually already coming out. This is in contrast to just about every other laser (and inkjet) I’ve owned where it seems to take a couple minutes of prep before it actually starts printing.
  • Low sleep/idle power consumption – it uses 7 or 8 watts as measured from the wall when in “sleep” mode. That beats the other laser’s we’ve had. While there’s always room for improvement (I’d love to see a printer hit < 1 watt at idle one of these days, matching computers in S3 mode), it’s still very reasonable.

CONS

  • Network setup – if for whatever reason you choose to do it entirely through the printer’s built-in interface (rather than the Brother software), it’s a nightmare. You have to be very knowledgable when it comes to DHCP, IP addresses, subnet masks, etc. You can’t do it entirely through the menu buttons on the printer either – you’ll use that for part of the setup (wired) and then log in to the web interface (to set up the wireless part).Really, you’re best just to use the built-in software to set it up on the network. The printer’s interface (and web interface) is sub-par when it comes to a wireless network setup. There was just enough effort put in to make it technically possible to do it that way – Brother really expects you to use their software to set it up on the network instead.
  • Large – You’ll start to get an indication as to how big this thing is when you see the box it comes in. In terms of size, having a completely horizontal design for paper output really doesn’t give them options in terms of width/length. It’s a tradeoff. You won’t have dust getting in there, and the paper will come out and rest nice and flat, but it’s going to take up a chunk of space on your desk. Personally, I think it’s a good tradeoff, but if you’re limited for space, you may have to make sacrifices and go with a vertical-style printer. However, the printer’s not very high, so if you want to put it in a shelving unit of sorts, it may be perfect.
  • Heavy – This won’t matter for most people. Most people will need a friend to help carry the thing to and from the car when they buy it, but once it’s at home and installed, it’ll sit there. However, if for some reason you need to move the printer often, this could be a problem for you. It’s bloody heavy and is easily the heaviest printer I’ve ever owned.

Really, it’s a solid printer, and I don’t have any regrets.

While other printers may beat the HL-3070CW in terms of initial price, the Brother comes out very well when you look at the overall long-term cost including consumables – particularly if you refill the toner yourself. Brother’s well known for their quality and service too, so you really can’t go wrong here.

If the built-in interface for setting up the network was a little more versatile/polished, and if power draw when idle dropped to 1-2W, I’d give this thing a 10/10. However, those are relatively minor things to nitpick about. It’s worth it’s weight at regular price, and at the sale price of under $200, it’s a steal.