Brother Color Laser/LED Printers
A decade ago, color laser printers were still expensive, elite machines meant for companies with willing to pay a rather large premium for in-house printing of impressive presentation documents. Today, color lasers have gone mainstream and cost a fraction of their former price tags. Brother’s color lineup begins under $300. Keep in mind that color consumables run considerably more per page than black and white because you’re employing three separate color toners in addition to the black cartridge. But when visual impact matters, color laser printing can make all the difference.
In comparing our two color laser/LED models, we see a fairly obvious difference in how Brother skews one toward the home office and the other toward small offices. The 3070CW uses LED technology rather than the conventional laser approach. In many ways, these two technologies are very similar. Both involve using light to create patterns on a rotating, static-charged, photo-sensitive drum. Whereas a traditional laser printer passes a laser over the drum, LED printers uses an array of thousands of LED lights that focus their light through an overlayed array of tiny lenses onto the drum. The net effect is the very similar, but time has proven that while LED might provide slightly sharper edges, there can be compromise on speed and component longevity. The 3070CW yields 17 ppm, which fairly slow in the laser world. (Again, keep the big picture in mind. Is 17 ppm suitable for a home office? Probably.) Some critics also argue that LED printers are more efficient when subjected to sustained use and that, as with repeatedly turning a light bulb on and off, frequent but sporadic LED printing can shorten component durability. Notably, the 3070CW specifies a maximum monthly duty cycle of 25,000 pages and a recommended monthly volume of only 300 to 1,500 pages. Moreover, Brother gives the 3070CW 64MB of memory while higher-end color models all receive 128MB. More memory can help alleviate bottlenecks, especially where large documents with color images are concerned. Obviously, though, a single home office user is unlikely to generate enough output to be a concern, and the 3070CW does allow for memory upgrades if needed.
Those caveats aside, the 3070CW still delivers excellent clarity with resolution of up to 2400 x 600. We really like that Brother equips the 3070CW with US 2.0, 10/100 Ethernet, and 802.11b/g connectivity. There’s a single-sheet bypass slot, 250-sheet input tray (up to legal size), Secure Print capability, and USB Direct support for printing directly from a flash drive with the integrated LCD control panel.
As with some of Brother’s other entry-level models, the 3070CW includes a “starter” set of toner cartridges to help keep the initial retail cost down. These starters are rated for 1,000 pages each. The standard color cartridges will output about 1,400 sheets while the black cartridge handles 2,200 pages. The drum unit is rated for 15,000 pages.
Duplex printing fans should know that Brother introduces automated, double-sided color printing with the $399 HL-4150CDN, but we prefer the somewhat pricier 4570CDW because it keeps Wi-Fi support in addition to USB and Ethernet, plus it leaps to a 60,000-page maximum monthly duty cycle. The recommended monthly volume is 750 to 4,000 sheets, or up to about 180 pages per business day. Not surprisingly, Brother’s consumables rise to the occasion, yielding 2,500 pages in black, 1,500 in color, and 25,000 for the drum unit.
Despite having the paper-saving benefits of duplexing, the 4570CDW increases paper capacity. The standard 250-sheet letter/legal tray is joined by a 50-sheet multi-purpose tray along with the option for another 250-sheet tray. To plow through all that capacity, Brother jumps to 30 ppm output performance backed by a 400 MHz StarSapphire processor.
We haven’t talked about energy efficiency previously. This is a facet of laser printers that doesn’t get much attention. Both of these color units qualify for ENERGY STAR, but if you look closely, you’ll see important differences. While printing, the 3070CW uses 480W while the 4570CDW sucks down 560W. However, most of a printer’s life is spent sleeping. In sleep mode, the 3070CW consumes 10W, but the higher-end 4570CDW sips a mere 0.7W. To put this in perspective, figuring 11 cents per kilowatt-hour, the 4570CDW’s sleep mode costs 61 cents per year while the 3070CW’s 10W costs $8.74. Even if $8 annually doesn’t move you, expect that perhaps $50 of the 4570CDW’s upgrade will be paid back in energy savings over its lifetime. (Obviously, this amount climbs as energy costs increase.) Most of all, we illustrate this difference so you can watch for even larger consumption gaps as you evaluate other printer options.