Brother has just brought out three new colour printers that make use of LED technology - a system that replaces a laser as the light source in the printhead with a light-emitting diode array that scans directly across the whole width of the drum. See also: Group test: what's the best printer?
This should mean less wear and tear on the printer and generally faster print speeds. We tested this on the mid-range Brother HL-3150CDW model.
The printer is a compact 410 x 465 x 240mm, although it still weighs a hefty 17.8 kg. Build quality feels solid. Styled in unassuming grey and black, it's designed to blend in well with other computer-related hardware without drawing attention to itself.
While you can admire the desire for ease and simplicity of operation, this has been taken too far with the control panel. Embedded into the left side of the top panel, the panel has no tilt facility and only a basic, non-backlit, 1-line, 16-character LCD display that’s difficult to read at almost all angles. Scrolling through the menus is slow work with just a handful of buttons tackling all operations.
As Brother openly targets this printer at small workgroups, the storage capacity of a firmly constructed 250-sheet base paper tray – plus a single-sheet manual feed slot above – should serve about right. Bearing in mind the cost-cutting with the display, it's perhaps unsurprising that there's also no front USB or memory card slots for non-PC printing although auto duplex does come as standard.
Brother HL-3150CDW: connectivity and printing costs
Connectivity is more generous, though, with ethernet, wireless 802.11b/g/n and USB 2.0 options as well as mobile linkage to Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print. We did note, however, that Brother's iPrint&Scan app had difficulty identifying the right device, while WPS recognition via the router was almost instant.
So how fast is this LED printer? Mixed A4 text and image documents were certainly emerging close to the claimed 18 ppm rate, with auto duplex text-only pages also matching the 7 sides per minute Brother claimed.
Black text quality is crisp and solid and web pages in particular appeared sharp and detailed even in small colour images. Brother has also maintained that LED printers are more economical in ink usage, and to reinforce that they have 2200-page high-yield toner cartridges for the cyan, magenta and yellow colours which work out at 3.4p each per page. Assuming an equal use of three colours per page, that equates to 10.2p per colour page. A one-size 2500-page black cartridge means black-and-white printing should be around 2.2p per page.