Brother HL-2140: Low-Cost, High-Quality Laser Printer, PERFECT for Home or Small Offices!
May 5, 2009 (Updated May 7, 2009)
Review by mrkstvns
Rated a Very Helpful Review
User Rating: Excellent
Ease of Use:
Pros:Cheap, fast, great quality output, easy setup, plenty of features
Cons:No USB cable, high cost of drum replacement, minor wishes for feature enhancements
The Bottom Line:
Print quality this good at prices this cheap make lasers the slam-dunk candidate for dumping problematic inkjets with their EXPENSIVE ink costs.
Perfectly suited to home or small business use, the Brother HL-2140 is a printer that makes some tradeoffs in technology, but delivers outstanding value when it comes to the bottom line. Economy is the single best reason to love the Brother HL-2140, but the quality is equally impressive --- especially considering the low price of the unit. It's a well-built, well-designed, usable little monochrome laser printer that should cost the average user FAR less to use in light to medium duty situations than would even the cheapest inkjet printers.
Recommend this product?
Though the printer would do well in lighter duty situations, I wouldn't recommend the Brother HL-2140 printer for heavy-duty large office demands --- mostly because its drum life, while likely to last years in a light-duty application, is inadequate to the needs of high-volume shops. It's also just not built for high volumes because it lacks high-end features like true network capability.
It is a monochrome laser printer, and affordable color lasers are available that might be better buys for people who need to do color. But if black and white fills the bill, and you're printing a lot of reports, papers, or business documents, the Brother is a printer value that's tough to beat.
Here's what I like and dislike about the Brother HL-2140 laser printer:
The GOOD Stuff...
* The Price Tag
The Brother HL-2140 is the cheapest laser printer I've ever seen. It was cheap when I bought mine a couple months ago at Office Depot for $97. Now, I see it in Staples ads with an instant savings discount that brings it down to about $69. Brand new. A laser, NOT an inkjet! And the low price tags continue long after the initial purchase.
Because it's a laser and not an inkjet, the long-term costs stay FAR lower than inkjet printers. It's no secret that inkjet printers don't make money for their vendors on initial sales, the money is made off consumables: you know, those teeny tiny little ink jet cartridges that get used up in a blink of the eye but cost a whopping $30-50 to replace.
Lasers have toner cartridges that need to be replaced, but they last a LOT longer than inkjet cartridges. The low-yield Brother replacement toner cartridges last 1,500 impressions and the high-yield cartridges last 2,600. Both of those numbers can be substantially increased by setting your default print settings to lighter densities (or use the printer's built-in "Toner Saver" switch), plus you can squeeze a few hundred more copies out of a cartridge by removing the cartridge when it first starts streaking and rotating it around a few times (most laser printer users know about that trick --- because it works). A brand-new cartridge from Brother costs about $45 for the low-yield and $65 for the high-yield. Many office supply and remanufactured printer cartridge companies sell remanufactured high-yield Brother cartridges for about $29 on the after-market scale.
The only potentially high-cost "maintenance" item is a drum replacement which is scheduled for 12,000 impressions. Unfortunately, a drum costs more than the whole printer on sale at Staples, so I'll just throw away the printer when the drum dies in a few years. Not a very green attitude, I admit (except for the amount of green it keeps in my wallet). Ahem, I better talk about something besides what a STEAL OF A DEAL this great little Brother laser printer happens to be...
* Excellent Print Quality...
The HL-2140 has a resolution of 2400 x 600 dpi. This is, quite simply, outstanding quality --- not just FAR beyond what any casual home user needs, but really very close to what you'd get in a professionally printed book. At this quality level, photographs reproduce clearly and grey scales will be virtually indistinguishable from photo quality output to the casual eye. The quality is several times better than what you can expect from any inkjet.
* It's Fast...
Brother says the HL-2140 cranks out the prints at 23 pages per minute. What they don't tell you is that your actual speed may vary depending on how layout and graphics intensive your pages might be. In real-world usage, I'm seeing the printer do slightly faster than 23 pages per minute on pure text pages (like reports or school papers for the kids), and the slowest speed I've ever experienced was about 6 seconds per page on a very detailed, heavily illustrated PDF of a marketing document. No matter how you slice it or dice it, the performance is quite good and is far better than the inkjets I've had in my home office up until now.
* Ease of Use...
Most people using this printer at home will have fairly recent Windows or Mac X operating systems. For them, the drivers on the enclosed CD will have them up and running in minutes. The printer is very well documented with a simple, easy to follow getting started guide that was spot-on accurate for me. The only real gotcha is making sure to NOT hook up the USB cable until instructed...if you can do that, you're golden.
Once installed, using the printer is as simple as setting a default printer in your Control Panel and then switching on when ready. The big ready light glows a light blue when the printer is warmed up and ready (less than 10 seconds).
Although it's not quite as plug-n-play for Linux users as it is for Windows and Mac, Brother does support Linux with this release and drivers for major distributions are available on their support web sites (easy to navigate).
There's a lot of little things the Brother HL-2140 does that helps make it a great personal laser printer. It's got a good-sized 250-sheet paper tray, it's small (just a bit over 1-foot square) so it doesn't hog all the real estate on the desk, it's very quiet when printing (about the same amount of noise as a modern, small desk fan) and it's totally silent in standby mode. There's also a manual input tray that can be used for feeding in envelopes, heavy stock, or transparencies so it's a very versatile little printer, capable of doing many things a typical inkjet chokes on. Additionally, I've had no problems using this printer with any software that's in regular rotation on my home PC: which includes tax prep software like H&R Block TaxCut, word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation applications in OpenOffice.org (great replacement software for Microsoft Office, by the way), or professional quality graphics produced by SmartDraw. Oh yeah...and the occasional printout of a consumerly helpful Epinions review...
The NOT so GOOD Stuff...
I totally recommend the Brother HL-2140 for just about any home or light business user. Nonetheless, there are a couple of caveats and potential "gotchas" to be aware of (just in case you thought this printer was totally perfect in every way).
* USB Cable Not Provided
I like buying products that are as close to true "plug and play" as humanly possible. That means I don't like getting the box home only to find out that critical things aren't included. It's like getting an awesome new toy at Christmas only to find that "batteries are not included". What a let down! That's a bit how I feel with the Brother HL-2140 not including the USB cable. You can't use the printer without a cable, and even though most people buying this as a replacement printer will already have a cable handy, there exist plenty of new PC buyers who won't. For them, this point is an unwelcome hassle.
* Lack of High-End Features
Although very capable for almost everything a home or small office user would want to do, there are some applications for which the Brother HL-2140 is just not very well suited. It's reliance on the USB cable tells you that it's not really intended for individual workstation use --- not for use as a network printer, and it lacks any kind of communication interfaces, so forget about using it with a laptop over Wi-Fi. Similarly, it doesn't support PostScript, so high-end applications like Adobe Illustrator or the kinds of tools used by professional graphic designers are probably not going to play well with the HL-2140. However, you are not paying hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars for these capabilities, and in my opinion, the lack of high end features is a very fair trade-off for the outrageously low price tag,.
* Not High Volume
The Brother HL-2140 is not suited to customers who truly print massive volumes of output. Although the printer can be very economical when used with after-market remanufactured toner cartridges, it has a lighter print drum than true print power users would want. Toner cartridges will last you up to 2,500 pages, but the real killer on this printer is that the drum is rated at only 12,000 pages....so every 4 or 5 toner cartridges, you'll essentially need to throw away the printer and buy a whole new one (either that, or pay more to replace the drum than you paid for the printer new). Again, for home or small office situations, 12,000 pages is going to take you years to achieve. (And hopefully, at that time, you'll be buying color lasers for $50). Meantime, the Brother HL-2140 is dirt cheap to operate as long as you don't demand it to print out a copy of the AT&T Manhattan White Pages every day --- and most of us "normal folks" won't...
* Boring Old Black and White...
The HL-2140 is a monochrome printer. It is what it is. Nowadays, a lot of people want color for everything. Not me! If a monochrome printer can deliver sharp, readable output fast and at a rock-bottom price, I'm all about pocketing the extra money for something that's really IMPORTANT to me (like ice chests full of cold beer for the upcoming hot weather summer months...) I'm paying 1 cent per page. Have you ever figured out what it costs you to do color prints from your inkjet?? You could be paying as little as 10 times what I pay, but most likely it's a whole lot more...
The Value Proposition...
If you've EVER thought that the prices and aggravation of constantly buying inkjet cartridges was a headache you could do without, why not give laser printing a try. The Brother HL-2140 isn't going to suit every user's needs, but for the typical PC user without high-end professional office needs, the outstanding feature set of the Brother HL-2140 and it's enticingly low price tag is a VERY hard value to beat. I recommend this printer highly. It's proven much more capable than I'd dared hoped...great little laser!!
Amount Paid (US$): 90
Operating System: Windows and Macintosh
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