If your small or medium-size business (SMB) doesn’t print a lot, you might find yourself wondering at the wisdom of springing for a relatively expensive single-function laser printer, especially considering all the (often less expensive) multifunction machines available these days that can print, scan, copy, and (in some cases) fax. Still, plenty of offices rely heavily enough on their printers, churning out hundreds, sometimes thousands of pages each month. In these heavy-use environments, these companies often can’t afford the downtime caused by the printer receiving the occasional fax or making copies now and then.
That’s where high-volume, single-function laser printers come in, like the subject of this review, Brother’s $399.99-list HL-L8350CDW color laser. All this machine does is print, but it does so quickly, with excellent overall print quality, and at a competitive cost per page, or CPP, compared to several other midlevel machines in this price range. However, a handful of high-volume inkjets using new or relatively new inkjet technologies, such as Epson’s new PrecisionCore-based WorkForce models and HP’s PageWide-based Officejet X machines have even lower CPPs. (So do a few office-centric all-in-ones with more traditional inkjet printheads, such as Epson’s WorkForce Pro WP-4590).
If, as we discuss a little later in this review in the Setup & Paper Handling section, you print a lot, your printer’s estimated CPP can be critical. If you’re willing to spend a little more up front for the printer, though, you can often reduce the cost per page significantly—thereby saving you or your company a good chunk of change over the life of the printer.
However, despite the excellent quality of many of today’s high-volume inkjet printers, some applications (for example, medical and some other agencies that do business with certain branches of the government) require laser printers, or laser-class LED machines. If for some reason your office or workgroup scenario requires laser-class devices, the HL-L8350CDW is a good choice.
Design & Features
Unlike a few single-function machines from HP, Brother’s laser-class printers aren’t especially pretty. But they are exceptionally well-built and substantive—built to churn out thousands of pages each month, year in and year out. Take the HL-L8350CDW, for instance, which is in the rough middle of the company’s range of single-function color lasers. (These run from the $249.99-list HL-3140CW up to the $699.99 HL-L9200CDWT.) Considering that all it does is print, this is a big machine, at 16.1 inches across, 19.1 inches from front to back, and 12.3 inches high, and weighing in at a hefty 47.5 pounds. It takes up considerably more surface space than the average small-office inkjet AIO, as well as considerably more electricity.
In terms of productivity and convenience features, though, the HL-L8350DW comes with about everything you’d need from a single-function printer, including the ability to connect to it via Wi-Fi or Ethernet, as well as to a single PC via USB 2.0. (Note: Because the expectation is that this PC will be networked, a USB cable is not included.) When it comes to â€œPC-freeâ€ tasks (which Brother calls “walk-up printing”), such as printing from USB thumb drives, though, your options are limited. You do get a front USB port for direct printing from keys; it’s at the upper left of the body…
Since the HL-L8350CDW is light on direct-print and like capabilities, it doesn’t need much in way of a control panel. As you can see in the image below, this very simple panel harkens back to the 20th century. It consists of a handful of buttons, a few status lights, and a small monochrome LCDâ€¦
Also, as we wrote this (in early July 2014), Brother announced that the HL-L8350CDW would, through a firmware update over the Internet, become part of the company’s Mopria-certified printers program. Brother and several other printer makers have joined the Mopria Alliance, which, among other things, provides Wi-Fi Direct-like mobile-device paring with the printer—except that Mopria uses your Wi-Fi network for the connection, whereas Wi-Fi Direct does not. (As the name suggests, Wi-Fi Direct establishes a one-to-one connection between the mobile device and the printer.)
Then, too, there’s Brother’s iPrint&Scan app for mobile devices, which you can install on a smartphone, tablet, or laptop to print directly from the device’s memory. It our experience, it works well.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.