This is by far one of the best color laser printers I’ve reviewed for its price. It can give an inkjet printer a run for its money with regard to quality. The Brother HL-3170cdw uses the same technology found in professional production printers, an LED write unit and Corona wires for example, to produce crisp vivid images. And it can give other laser printers a run for their money with the features and cost. I’ve reviewed Black & White printers before and for monochrome printing they’re hard to beat. But for just a little more money, this color printer is hard to beat when it comes to color printing.
- 19 pages per minute
- TN-225x high yield toner cartridges rated for 2,200 pages
- TN-221x standard toner cartridges rated for 1,400 pages
- DR-221CL drum unit rated for 15,000 pages
- BU-220cl rated for 50,000 pages
- WT-220cl rated for 50,000 pages
- Recommended volume is 1,500 pages per month
- Automatic Duplexing
- 16.1w x 18.3d x 9.4h in
The BEST Color Laser Printer Under $500
Out of the box
There is some packing tape and materials that have to be removed before it’s ready to use. It isn’t any harder than a routine changing of supplies though. Actually I found the toner cartridges, drum units and transfer belt unit all come out easily compared with other printers I’ve worked on. The drum units did have a latch on either side so they stay in while the toner cartridge simply pulls out. They were clearly marked and intuitive to use.
After turning it on and selecting the language it is ready to print. Set up for printing was easy with the installation CD. It worked with wireless, wired Ethernet, and USB connection. The installation CD works for a Mac as well.
Speed and durability
The Brother HL-3170cdw has good speed and durability. It isn’t as painfully slow as 10 pages per minutes feels nor as noticeably fast 30 pages per minutes seems. At 19 pages per minute the Brother HL-3170cdw is more than adequate in most environments. It would be nice to see more than 64mb in a color printer but it is faster than a Dell C1760nw. The HL-3170cdw model comes with 128mb of memory and is slightly faster at 23 pages per minute.
The Brother HL-3170cdw supports 90 lb (163 g/m²) paper which reveals a durable fuser for this color printer. Which is also reflected in the 30,000 pages per month maximum duty cycle. I doubt many people will be running close to 30,000 pages per month through his printer. Though the feed system and fuser are more than capable of handling the recommended volume of 1,500 pages per month.
As I mentioned before the Brother HL-3170cdw has an LED write unit and Corona wire. All of the professional production printers I work on have Corona wires instead of charge rollers. Some have LED write units, others need multiple beam laser units to achieve the high quality output. The LED unit will produce crisp text and smooth half-tones, which means great quality output with its default settings on regular paper. For photographic quality, I found enabling the “vivid colors” feature on the print driver and using color laser paper achieved the best results.
Being a printer tech the first feature I noticed in the menu is the automatic color registration adjustment. To have the printer accomplish the color registration adjustment by itself is an awesome feature. Including this feature at this price range shows they aren’t going for the cheapest possible way to make a color printer but rather aiming for the best features in the smallest package.
I suppose an end-user might appreciate access to the Brother Creative Center website more than the auto color registration feature. Some manufacturers used to include some freeware with their printers but Brother includes access to their Creative Center website. They have templates for business cards, craft projects, and marketing materials. Being online means new ideas and templates are added regularly. Not as cool as the auto color registration, but I suppose access to an entire site dedicated to business and personal printing projects is good if you like that sort of thing.
The Brother HL-3170cdw has an automatic duplexer. This printer also comes in all-in-one versions if you need a document feeder or ability to send a fax. Did I mention the auto color registration feature?
This color printer has all the qualities I mentioned in my guide for selecting a laser printer. Great quality, supplies that won’t break the bank, auto duplexing and, of course, auto color registration. If you’re tired of ink drying out and looking for a color laser printer to replace your inkjet this is the one for you. If you’re looking to save money from outsourcing your color printing, this printer will be the one to handle your in house color printing needs.