The Brother HL-4040CN is the first colour laser printer designed by Brother itself, rather than a rebranded model from another manufacturer.
It's a decent first effort, offering good overall speed and print quality for a competitive price. The Brother HL-4040CN sometimes falls short on ease of use, unfortunately.
The setup process is easy and thoroughly documented in a printed guide as well as in animated videos on the CD included with the Brother HL-4040CN. Find a friend to help you lift the printer, though - at about 29kg (according to Brother HL-4040CN's own specifications), it's heavier than most comparably equipped colour laser printers.
At default settings the Brother HL-4040CN prints competently. Its speeds - average overall - range from 19.3ppm (pages per minute) for plain black text to 4.2ppm for graphics. Text in all tested fonts looked perfectly crisp. Colour images erred on the yellow side; photos looked grainy, especially on glossy laser paper. Using the Brother HL-4040CN driver's "Fine (2400 dpi class)" setting improved images noticeably.
Brother deserves kudos for the software bundled with the Brother HL-4040CN, which includes a comprehensive, well-illustrated user guide (in HTML and PDF) and interactive help files, as well as a dynamic status monitor. The driver offers a good supply of printing options.
The Brother HL-4040CN's hardware, on the other hand, needs work. The control panel's LCD is great, as it can tilt 0 to 90 degrees, glows green when things are normal and red when things go awry, and communicates in plain English. But the menu buttons didn't always make sense to us. The up-arrow/plus button is for scrolling backward and the down-arrow/minus is for scrolling forward, while the "Go" button is also for pausing. The Brother HL-4040CN's 50-sheet multipurpose tray is unmarked and hard to find (it folds out from the front of the printer).
Most odd, the Brother HL-4040CN's toner cartridge bays are not keyed to prevent insertion of the wrong colour. Brother says that such a mistake will not damage the printer, and it didn't when we intentionally switched two colours. But the Brother HL-4040CN should, at least, have recognized the mistake at the start and refused to print. Instead it printed a bizarrely coloured page.
Cost per page (based on Brother's specs) is very good. The high-yield cartridges have a page capacity of 5000 for black and 4000 for each colour. Standard-capacity cartridges with shorter page lives (and thus higher costs) are also available.
The Brother HL-4040CN is designed to be, and is priced as, a low-end machine. Its only option is a networking add-on; shoppers seeking more features (such as additional paper capacity) might consider its higher-end cousin, the HL-4070CDW.