Friday, December 17, 2010

Brother HL-2170W Review

Over time I hope to review just about every piece of hardware I own, and at this point I've made it to my Brother HL-2170W printer, which I got close to a year ago. The main reason I didn't do a review earlier is because I haven't played with the wireless/wired features until now (I've been using a USB to connect it to my computer). But now that I've actually tried those features I can give a more comprehensive review of the printer. Also note that I'm going to be presenting this review from a mac oriented perspective, since it's my primary computer.

I'm just going to paste them from the original brother website.
Technology Mono laser
Print Speed Black-Max (ppm) 23
Print Speed Colour-Max (ppm) N/A
Memory (MB; Std / Max) 32 / 32
Max Print Resolution 2400 x 600 dpi (HQ1200)
Paper Capacity (Std / Max) 250 / 250 pages
Max. Paper Size Legal (8.5" x 14")
Print Languages PCL6
Windows® Drivers WINDOWS VISTA, XP, 2000, WINDOWS SERVER 2003
Mac® Drivers OS 10.2.4 +
Duplexing Manual
Interfaces USB 2.0, Ethernet, Wireless 802.11 b/g
Dimensions (cm; W x D x H) 36.8 X 36.1 X 17
Weight (Kg) 6.8
Warranty 1 Year limited exchange express warranty
Network Ready Yes
Wireless Network Ready Yes
First page out Less than 10 sec
Warm up time Less than 18 sec

A bit more detailed specifications list
Resolution Windows HQ 1200, 600 dpi, 300 dpi (same for mac)
Processor 181 mHz
Wireless network security WEP, WPA-PSK (TKIP, AES), LEAP
Power consumption
Printing Average 460W
Standby Average 80W
Sleep Average 5W

For the main touted feature of the printer, wireless printing, I have never gotten the wireless to work (I was using Mac OS 10.6.5). The network I have uses WPA 2 (WPA-PSK), and at first I didn't know whether it was AES or TKIP, I tried both. Still hasn't worked. My goal then was to see whether it actually worked. Right now I have it working via the ethernet cable where I have it connected to the router via ethernet. My laptop is connected to the router via ethernet as well.

It went flawlessly. All I did was connect it, and when I saw that the green light was on I went to printer and fax, in the system preferences. Went to "add printer," then under default I saw the brother printer's name, and said it was connected via Bonjour. Just note that after you connect up the printer you should go to software update, as there should be more drivers for brother printers. In fact, I recommend that you connect the printer via ethernet. Then all the computers in your network can use it, don't have to set up printer sharing, which is annoying especially between macs and PCs. Also, you wouldn't have to use overpriced USB cables (I really shouldn't have bought mine), but when I compare using USB or ethernet it gives the same experience, same speed, etc.

One thing I realized that was important was to update the firmware. When I first got the printer every time I would open up the print dialog the printer would go into standby, which I was not happy about at all. However, with the firmware update it no longer went into standby when I opened the printer dialog, only when I told it to start printing.

I find the printing speed to be average, it's not lightning fast but it suits my needs. One thing I had to do with the printer was covering up the holes on the drum, so that it wouldn't keep saying I was out of toner. In fact, from the time that I bought the printer to now I've printed more than 1800 pages, and I've never replaced the toner. However, if I don't cover up the holes on the sides it immediately says I don't have enough toner and doesn't let me print.

One thing that I realized I really needed was duplexing, and as it says in the specifications there's "manual" duplexing, which is pretty DIY (do it yourself). If you first print out the odd pages, put it back into the paper tray in a specific orientation and then print even pages (or vice versa), you'll have duplexing.

When I was trying to get the wireless to work I learned a couple of things from the manual. First of all, if you press the blue "go" button three times, it'll print out the printer settings page (which takes up three pages). I find it to be a very impressive overview. It gives you information about the resolution, sleep time, drum life, toner, total pages printer, when jams happened (at the specific page number as well). I'm just going to give a quick summary of my printer's history (just to reiterate I've had this printer for close to a year now). I've had 11 paper jams in total, 3 rear jams, 7 jams inside, 1 in the jam tray. I've printed out close to 1800 pages in the lifetime, and drum life is close to 85%. Toner it shows as 0% (but it still works). As well, if you want to enable or disable the wireless for the printer you hold the "go" button for 10 seconds. Then it'll print you a network configuration page and at the top it'll say whether the wireless is active or inactive.

Also, about the drum, initially when I got the printer the salesperson told me that the drum was separate from the toner to reduce costs, giving an example where for HP printers where the drum was included with the toner it would cost a lot more than this brother printer's toner since it lacks the drum. However, when it's time for the drum to be replaced it can be quite costly, ranging from $100 upwards (CAD). Though, even after printing for a year I still have roughly 85% drum life, so I don't view the drum lifespan as a detriment for this printer.

There is a pretty big power draw when the printer first starts up, and I usually can see the lights dim a little. I don't use a UPS, however, so can't give any viewpoints on that. Though, I think that the power draw is offset by the amount of time it takes to warm up. I know someone who has a samsung printer, and it takes forever to work up. For me, I don't mind about the power draw, as long as the warm up is quick.

So, in conclusion, I'm pretty satisfied with my purchase. I might try to play around with the wireless in the future, but I'm not overly optimistic. Having an ethernet port is still pretty useful though. I think if I was given the opportunity to choose a printer I would choose one that has auto duplexing, but given its price this printer is fairly good.

Edit: By the way, if it ever asks you for a password it's "access"

Edit 2: I just replaced my toner after 1984 pages printed. I was somewhat sad as when it forced me to replace it the pages were still very dark, and I personally didn't see a need to replace. However, I had no choice as even with the sensor blocked it wouldn't print any more pages. However, the blackness levels are far higher now that I have a replaced toner cartridge. I later realized that the problem was that the tape that I used to cover the sensor wasn't dark enough, I used some green tape and the toner light did not come back on. However, since I had opened a new toner cartridge I guess I'll have to replace it anyway.

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