The Brother HL-5280DN is a mid-range monochrome laser printer that's designed to provide higher than average print speeds for its class.
It can print on both sides of a piece of paper and also has an Ethernet connection on board so you can hook it into your home network.
This model can be bought for around £285 online.
Design and features
The HL-5280DN is unusually petite for a laser model. It's not quite as small as the Dell 1130, but as it measures just 486x500x455mm, you should still have no problems accommodating it in a bijou home office. As with most laser models, the design is basically square in shape, but Brother has used a mixture of light and dark grey panels on the chassis to help it stand out from the crowd.
On the top-left hand side of the printer, you'll find the control panel, which juts out to the side slightly. This houses a single line, 16-character monochrome LCD screen, along with four buttons that allow you to navigate through the printer's easy-to-use menus. Beneath these are the Go and Print Cancel buttons. The screen is backlit and has three different coloured LEDs so it can light up green, amber or red to indicate the printer's status.
The control panel also has a Secure Print button. Via the printer's driver, you can send jobs to it that include a pass code. It will then store the print task until someone presses the Secure Print button and enters the correct pass code. This is handy for when you need to print off sensitive documents that you'd rather other people in your office didn't see.
The bottom houses a standard cassette-style paper tray that can hold up to 250 sheets of paper. There's also an optional tray that can be added at the bottom to double the capacity. Above the main paper tray is a pull-down flap that opens to reveal a second multi-purpose tray. This can take up to 15 sheets at a time and is handy for printing envelopes and other non-standard paper types.
There's sadly no Wi-Fi built in and it isn't available as an option. However, the rear is home to an Ethernet port, as well as the USB socket, so you can hook it into your network if you want to share it with other PCs.
Setting up the HL-5380DN doesn't take very long. The first step is to open up the belly of the machine and insert the two-part drum and cartridge into the slot provided. Once this is done you can load the drivers onto your PC and select whether you want to use the printer via USB or Ethernet.
Like a lot of smaller laser models, this one is slightly noisy in operation. However, this is partly due to its higher print speed. It zipped through our 10-page black and white text document in just 27 seconds. Although our black and white graphics test was a little slower at 40 seconds, it was still quick when it came to our business presentation, delivering this 10-page document in a rapid 28 seconds.
There's also a duplexer built-in, so you can print double-sided pages. It prints the first side and then sucks the page back into the body of the machine before doing the second side. It managed to print a double-sided version of our text document in 53 seconds, which is fairly impressive.
When it comes to print quality, the results are mixed. The biggest issue is that print-outs tend to look a little light, almost as if the printer were running out of toner. They're not exceptionally light, but they're noticeably lighter than most other laser models I've used.
Also, there was some banding in grey fills on our business presentation. However, text is very clean on the page and despite the slightly lighter print quality, it doesn't miss thinner details, such as tails in letters. Also, it did a good job of reproducing finer details in the pictures on our graphics test sheet.
The toner well on this model can be removed from the drum, so you don't have to replace the whole lot when the toner runs low. The drum is rated at 25,000 pages, while the high-capacity toner cartridge runs to 8,000 pages. Print costs are very reasonable for a model in this price range as it works out at around 2.8p per page, including 0.7p for paper costs.
On the whole, the HL-5380DN is a good little machine for those who need to be able to print off lots of office documents quickly. Its print speed is better than average and its running costs are also very reasonable. I wish its printed results looked a little darker on the page, but it's not excessively noticeable and, on balance, the pacey printing and low costs make up for it.