Brother HL-2170W

The Brother HL-2170W laser printer can be the perfect money saving sidekick to your existing inkjet, but don't expect it to handle even the most minor graphic jobs.


7.3
CNET Rating
7.7
User Rating

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The Brother HL-2170W laser monochrome printer provides a viable alternative to the bottomless money pit that has become today's inkjet printer. Modern photo, tricolour, and high capacity ink cartridges can cost anywhere between AU$20 to AU$100 per refill, so multiply that by your volume of prints and try not to balk at the true cost of owning an inkjet. As an alternative, supplementing a printer set up with an inexpensive black and white laser printer can cut costs in home offices that tend to cycle through black cartridges with text-only documents.

Although it's not without its shortcomings, such as cripplingly poor quality graphics prints, the Brother HL-2170W balances out with speedy text printing and 802.11b/g wireless functionality. We'd certainly recommend it as a secondary text-only printer if you already have a photo inkjet and have a little extra change to throw around.

Design
The HL-2170W has the same overall size and design as the HL-2140 (AU$149) but adds 32MB of onboard memory and an 802.11b/g wireless interface for an additional AU$100, boosting the total price to AU$249. As far as laser printers go, this little guy is more David than a Goliath at 17.05cm tall and 36.8cm inches wide and weighs just 6.8 kilograms. Designwise, it's unassuming and finished in the same matte grey found on most cubicle walls and the original Nintendo Gameboy.

The front lip folds down to reveal the toner port and like most laser printers, the paper tray is located on the face of the unit and can be fully removed from the body for refills. If you're the average home user, you probably won't need to refill too often considering the printer can hold 250 sheets of standard 8.5 inch by 11 inch paper. Also, there is a manual feed paper slot handles an assortment of different paper sizes including Letter, Legal, Executive, A4, A5, A6, B5, B6, and envelopes. We printed more than 150 sheets of paper during our lab testing and never experienced a paper jam or even the slightest delay.

The control panel is just as simple as the body of the HL-2170W itself, including one large all-inclusive "Go" button (error recovery, wake-up, job cancel, wireless on/off, manual feed) and three small LEDs for toner, drum, and error status. Other than that, this printer has few other features to brag about. The Brother HL-2170W isn't the prettiest pup in the show, designed with utility, not fashion, in mind. Design nerds will probably be more satisfied with the glossy finish and atypical footprint of the Samsung ML-1630.

Features
As we mentioned, the HL-2170W includes 32MB of internal memory, which allow you to queue more documents at one time and generally speed up the whole printing process. The Brother HL-2170W also comes with three options for connecting to your computer: USB 2.0, 10/100 Base-TX Ethernet, and wireless 802.11 b/g. Most monochrome laser printers don't come with same breadth of connection options. The printer is also Mac, Windows, and even Linux compatible.

Connecting the printer to our wireless network gave us a significant amount of trouble, but we were eventually able to connect it to our wireless router, an older D-Link DI-624. Brother's software walk-through gives you two options for installing the driver using either a wired or wireless setup — we went straight for the wireless option.

Unfortunately, it turns out that if you choose this option, the device will attempt to set up an ad-hoc network with your router to initiate the pairing. Because of that, we decided to deal with wires — at least for the duration of the installation — so that we wouldn't have to change the settings on our network preferences. We plugged in a network cable to the router and the printer and were surprised at how easy it was establish a wired connection and remotely configure the printer for wireless connectivity from there. The printer also supports SecureEasySetup, Wi-Fi Protected Setup, and AOSS, which automates the process even further if you have a compatible access point.

We're slightly disappointed that the HL-2170W cannot autoduplex, meaning it can't print automatically on both sides of a piece of paper. While we wouldn't normally expect this feature in a modestly priced device, we find it slightly ironic that a printer flaunting Energy Star compliance is lacking the potential to literally cut paper consumption in half. At the same time, autoduplexers add bulk to the back of the device and are typically an added bonus on more expensive printers, so it makes sense that this one wouldn't include it.

Performance
In our lab tests, the Brother HL-2170W emerged as one of the front-runners in terms of speed, shooting out an impressive 17.48 pages of black text per minute. Compare this with other similarly priced lasers below and you'll find that the Brother is fastest on most counts. In addition, printers usually need an average of four seconds to process a job before the actual printing begins, but the HL-2170W began to spool paper and print with only 2 seconds of lag time.

Speed test (in pages per minute)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Graphics
Presentation
Text
Brother HL-2170W
17.93
17.48
17.81
HP Laserjet 1020
12.61
11.66
12.52
Dell 1720dn Laser Printer
21.59
11.79
13.46

Of course, speed isn't everything and quality should never be sacrificed to quantity. The HL-2170w performed well in our text quality tests; the samples we printed on standard 20-pound paper with the quality set to "best" were evenly dark with clear fonts all the way down to two-point Times New Roman. The individual letters were also free from line breaks and fuzzy edges.

The graphics sample, however, didn't produce equally positive results. The gradient steps were so abrupt that a severe checkered pattern appeared where the printer obviously couldn't handle the transitions. The small photos we printed appeared fuzzy in the shadow regions in addition to the overall digitised effects. Finally, the HL-2170W also failed our 12-step shading test. Harsh banding quickly appeared at the 40 percent shading mark and continued to get worse as the percentage increased.

Overall, this printer would make the most sense as a secondary, text-only printer to save money on paper and ink in the end, but PowerPoint presentations, photos, and graphics-heavy newsletters should be saved for a robust inkjet printer with multiple colour cartridges and a nozzle that can handle precise detail. All-in-one printers are another practical alternative if space saving is a factor.

According to Brother, each standard toner cartridge will yield approximately 1,500 pages. Brother also offers a "high yield" toner cartridge that yields 2,600 pages. The combination toner and drum unit included in the box is a "starter" package that only yields a reported 1,000 pages.

Brother stands by all of their monochrome laser printers with a one year warranty in addition to offering telephone support. Customers can also visit the Web site for driver downloads, FAQs, and comprehensive support centre.

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FXA
1
Rating
 

FXA posted a review   

The Good:Cheap to buy

The Bad:cost way to much to buy

The Brother HL-2170W would be better used as a paper weight then as a printer. It needs a new toner every 2600 and a drum every 12,000.

Mercury71
9
Rating
 

Mercury71 posted a review   

The Good:Fast, works with Win7 Prof 64 Bit OS

The Bad:Fan is a bit noisy

My 2 year old Canon lbp 3200 had no driver support with Win 7 64 bit OS....very disapointing so this new Brother is the biz smaller faster and works, now just need to get my wife to stop printing text on the Inkjet now too many $$$$ in cartridges.

gdnow
8
Rating
 

gdnow posted a review   

The Good:Cheaper than running an inkjet printer for the same role.
Quick starts
Clear print

The Bad:Wireless setup is confusing unless printer is configured wired into router

Worls well in our home network mainly used for assignments

Hoffmanx2
9
Rating
 

Hoffmanx2 posted a review   

The Good:Easy to setup for mac and airport
Great size
Fast

The Bad:None known

Setup on Airport network - 2 macs, 1 pc. very easy. Setup ibook first to configure printer, then installed drivers on rest - as per instructions.

dad1
10
Rating
 

dad1 posted a review   

I have recently purchased a cheap brother laser printer (HL-2140 not the wireless model) and I'm very happy with it.
I purchased it for $98 from Harvey Normans, and it included 5 reams of cheap paper.
I expected a very crappy black and white laser, but I was actually quite surprised.

genyboy
9
Rating
 

genyboy posted a review   

The Good:Small foot print

The Bad:Nothing I can think of.

For this price, this machine has beeter specifications than other printers.




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User Reviews / Comments  Brother HL-2170W

  • FXA

    FXA

    Rating1

    "The Brother HL-2170W would be better used as a paper weight then as a printer. It needs a new toner every 2600 and a drum every 12,000."

  • Mercury71

    Mercury71

    Rating9

    "My 2 year old Canon lbp 3200 had no driver support with Win 7 64 bit OS....very disapointing so this new Brother is the biz smaller faster and works, now just need to get my wife to stop printing t..."

  • gdnow

    gdnow

    Rating8

    "Worls well in our home network mainly used for assignments"

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