Brother's HL-3070CW is a colour laser printer that sits above the entry-level HL-3040CN and adds support for Wi-Fi, which will be a welcome addition for many home office users.
Currently you can buy it online for around £200, which is very affordable by colour laser printer standards. So how has Brother managed to keep the price so low?
The cost of this model has been reduced by using an LED print engine instead of a traditional colour laser one. On normal colour laser models, a laser is used to draw the image onto the printer's drum, but this one uses a row of high-intensity LED lights instead. The upshot of this is that the print engine requires fewer parts to run than a traditional colour laser printer so it's cheaper to produce.
Another advantage of the LED print engine is that it has allowed Brother to make the chassis more compact. This model is still quite deep, measuring 466mm long, but standing 250mm high, it's much shorter than most traditional laser models. It would be easily accommodated in a home office.
Brother has also steered clear of the boring black or bland beige colour schemes that many other manufacturers use on their home office models. Instead it's used an appealing off-white for the side panels and a deep blue on top.
The control panel is mounted on the sloping edge at the front and is quite basic. It houses a simple, single-line monochrome screen. Unlike the cheaper HL-3040CN, the display on this printer has a backlight, so it's a lot easier to read. Next to the screen is a four-way control pad for moving through the simple menus. This is joined by Cancel and Go buttons.
There's also a secure print button. This allows you to send print jobs to the printer with a pass code attached. When the printer receives these documents, it will store them in its memory until the secure print button is pressed and the correct pass code is entered. It's a handy feature if you need to print sensitive documents that you'd rather others didn't see.
The main paper tray has a cassette-style design and can hold up to 250 sheet at a time. Sitting above this and behind a pull-down flap is a single-sheet feeder that can be used to feed in non-standard sized material, such as envelopes or labels.
Once the paper has been run through the print engine, it pops out of the top and into a tray that's slightly recessed into the chassis. As with the HL-3040CN, paper in this tray doesn't sit flat, but instead curves up and out onto a flat bit at the top of the tray. This tends to exaggerate the slight curling effect on the paper caused by the heat from the printing process. However, once the pages have cooled a little and are taken out of the tray, they do lie completely flat on a desk.
Setting up this model is very straightforward. Before you can start printing, you first need to install the four colour toner cartridges. The whole top of the printer rises up when you pull on a handle at the front to reveal the four slots that the cartridges effortlessly slide into.
Once you've got the cartridges safely in place, it's simply a matter of installing the software on your PC and choosing whether you want to connect locally via USB or across a network using either the Ethernet port or on-board Wi-Fi. No matter which method you choose, the installation wizard makes the whole process painless.
In terms of print quality, this model performs well with text documents, producing cleanly-formed characters that looked dark on the page. Even the toner-save mode produces decent results, although probably not good enough for documents that will leave the office.
When it comes to graphics, the results are mixed. It largely managed to avoid banding and detail levels were good. However, colours were very dark on the page and didn't look very accurate. As a result, this would not be a good option for people who need fairly good levels of colour precision, such as those who need to proof colour design materials.
Unfortunately, one compromise incurred to keep the price low is print speed. Our 10-page black and white text document took a leisurely 50 seconds to print, while a colour version of the same document took 56 seconds. Our 10-page business presentation was completed in 47 seconds, and it took 54 seconds to produce 10 copies of my colour graphics test. None of these times are particularly quick by laser printer standards.
The toner wells can be detached from the printer cartridges, so when the toner runs out, you don't have to replace the drum. Each drum lasts for 15,000 pages. The black toner cartridge can produce 2,200 pages, while the colour toner cartridge is good for 1,200 pages. Running costs are relatively high though. It works out at around 14.3p per colour page and 3.6p for a black and white sheet. These figures include 0.7p for paper costs.
Overall, for a model with such a low asking price, the HL-3070CW does a good job of producing crisp and clean print-outs. However, colours in graphics documents are often a tad too dark so it's not ideal for those who need reasonably accurate colours, and its running costs are quite high.