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Why the Brother HL-2270DW Laser Printer Sucks Less

“I’m thinking printers,” said Tim Cook as he first took the reins as Apple CEO. “Laser, ink-jet, double-sided, color, black-and-white — the future of technology is in printers. I am absolutely convinced of that,” he said.

OK, not really. The above quote was actually taken from an Onion parody article written shortly after the resignation of Steve Jobs.

But all jokes aside, and despite the popularity of Joe Kissell’s “Take Control of Your Paperless Office, Second Edition,” we still need printers. While every other technology seems to have improved by leaps and bounds, printers are still as terrible as they were a decade ago. In some ways they’re even worse, with cartridges specifically designed for early failure, ink being nearly twice as expensive as Chanel No. 5 perfume, and most printers not even including a cheap USB cable in the box.

(TidBITS publisher Adam Engst tells me that printers in the early days of the Mac were actually pretty good, with dot-matrix ImageWriters being built like tanks, and a variety of excellent, if pricey, laser printers from Apple, HP, and others.)

When I purchased my first iPad in 2011, I thought I was done with printers. “I can just save documents on my iPad to carry with me, no printing required,” I thought. That worked great, until I needed to print a shipping label. You can’t tape an iPad to a package.

I got by for a long time by using one of the many laser printers in my office, but I lost that option when I started working from home. We had an old HP Deskjet 3050A multi-function inkjet (print, scan, and copy, though no faxing), which even supported AirPrint, Apple’s zero-configuration protocol for printing from iOS devices. I thought I was happy with the HP Deskjet 3050A, until a fresh black cartridge expired after a month and about 30 prints. That’s the problem with nearly all inkjets — fail to print regularly, and you’ll end up with dried-out cartridges and clogged print heads at the worst possible time.

That was the last straw. After what seemed like years of consideration, I broke down and bought a black-and-white laser printer: the Brother HL-2270DW (such a euphonious moniker!), which has long been recommended by the Wirecutter. When I purchased the Brother, it was on sale for $75, but even at its usual price of about $110, it’s a good deal.

To be brutally honest, like most printers, the Brother HL-2270DW stinks. But it stinks less than most of the competition, and it’s cheap. For starters, it’s noisy. Fire up the printer, and it will emit an annoying hum for several minutes until it goes back to sleep. The printing itself is slightly louder, but I expect that. The minutes of humming afterward grinds my gears. But once it’s asleep, it’s absolutely quiet.

As with most of its kind these days, the Brother HL-2270DW does not include a USB cable, which isn’t all bad, since it’s Wi-Fi enabled (it also has a wired Ethernet port). But my advice is to spend an extra $5 for a USB cable if you don’t have one lying around, as the wireless setup on the Mac is excruciating. I spent a couple of hours trying to get it to work, to no avail. However, after hauling my MacBook Pro across the room to connect it to the printer, re-running the setup application, and choosing the USB option, I was up and running in minutes, Wi-Fi and all.

Speaking of Wi-Fi, I should note that this printer sadly does not support AirPrint. Initially, I thought I might be able to work around this by plugging it into my AirPort Express base station and sharing it from there, but no, Apple hasn’t seen fit to layer AirPrint support on top of the AirPort base station’s wireless printer sharing. So if you frequently use AirPrint, the Brother probably isn’t the printer for you.

If you print only occasionally from an iPhone or iPad, you could instead run handyPrint (free) or Printopia ($19.95) on your Mac, either of which provides a virtual AirPrint printer that can route print jobs to your wireless printer. The downside of these options is that your Mac must be powered on whenever you want to print.

Like almost every printer, the Brother ships with a “starter” toner cartridge that prints only up to 700 pages. I don’t intend to print much, so I can live with this, even though it’s clearly a way of increasing revenues from the printer while maintaining a low list price. Replacement toner cartridges run about $45 and yield 2,600 pages, which is less than $0.02 per page. The drum unit, which transfers the toner to the paper, has a lifespan of about 12,000 pages. Given that the drum unit costs about $110, about the same as the printer itself, I’ll probably just buy a new printer when that day comes.

But what about printing itself? That’s where the Brother shines. Once the printer wakes up, it fires out sheets of paper at 27 pages per minute. Text is crisp, as you’d expect from a laser printer, thanks to its 2400-by-600 dpi resolution. It has a 250-sheet paper tray for letter or legal size paper, and a manual feed slot for thicker paper. Finally, the printer features a duplex mode that prints on both sides of a page automatically, but using it tends to result in slightly curled pages, so if you’re a heavy duplexer, this probably isn’t your printer.

What about color prints? I realized that I very rarely need to print in color. In fact, the main time I require color is for photos, something that inexpensive inkjets do poorly anyway. Sure, a high-quality Epson inkjet can print dazzling photos, but by the time you buy the printer, good paper, and Epson’s official ink (knockoff inkjet cartridges often work badly or not at all), the cost per page is excessive. My local Walgreens prints photos for pennies, and they’re ready to pick up in minutes.

For now, then I can recommend the Brother HL-2270DW monochrome laser printer for many people. Like every printer, it has its problems, but it’s wireless, fast, solidly built, and inexpensive to purchase and operate. Printers may not be sexy enough for Apple to revisit, but for millions of regular people, they’re a necessary evil.


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Comments about Why the Brother HL-2270DW Laser Printer Sucks Less
(Comments are closed.)

Charlie Hartley  2013-09-05 11:05
I've been using the HL-5370DW for several years with generally good results. Not sure if it is still available.
Vince Renyar  2013-09-05 20:29
I bought the bigger brother, yet small footprint 5470DW last year - runs like a charm, cheap to run - small office printer:
Printing up to 40 ppm,
Wireless 802.11 b/g/n, Ethernet, and USB 2.0 interfaces,
Automatic duplex,
Wireless printing from mobile device via: AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, Brother iPrint&Scan, Cortado Workplace, and Wi-Fi Direct,
300-sheet paper capacity, expandable,
High-yield 8,000-page replacement toner cartridge available
Geoff Canyon  2013-09-11 07:42
These two comments are what I expected. I don't know why anyone who has an iPad would choose a non-airprint printer. If this URL works, here's a comparison of the reviewed printer with three other brothers:
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-11 07:55
I've just never found a need to print from my iPad. AirPrint makes the Mac setup a lot easier, too, but for $75, I can't complain.
Frank Marder  2013-09-05 11:53
I have a 2270DW running wirelessly and have set it up that way for clients. I love it. It is fast, cheap and reliable. I have Printopia running on a Mac mini that is always on so I don't have any printing problems.
Gary Bloom  2013-09-05 12:07
HP Laserjet 1606dn. Prints without incident, wirelessly, from Mac, iPad, iPhone. Costs a bit more than the Brother, toner cost per page is higher, but a new drum comes with every cartridge.
Ed Vim  2013-09-05 18:08
I've had a HL-2220 for almost two years now and it's been a really reliable printer the whole time. Yeah it's a bit noisy when it's actually printing but it's dependable and the print quality is quite nice.
John Faughnan  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2013-09-05 18:46
Alas, the 22070DW is the ink jet of laser printers. A most unfortunate recommendation. There's a reason why it's so cheap.

My experience:

I gave it to a friend who prints about 10 pages a year. I bought the HL6180DW and I'm still on the "starter" toner.
Ian Eiloart  2013-09-06 03:11
I use a Kyocera-mita FS1200N. It's not available any more, but they have similar products.

When I bought it, it was hands down the cheapest printer to run, and not particularly expensive to buy.

The two distinctive features were a lifetime warranty on the printer drum (you buy toner cartridges, not integrated toner/printhead cartridges), and much lower power consumption than say HP printers. I hope other manufacturers have brought their power consumption down, but I think the lifetime print drums are unique.

It also has built in duplexing - essential if you want to save paper, and ethernet and USB, but not wireless printing.

Kyocera-Mita are not a well known manufacturer, but you really need to check out their printers before purchasing! Unfortunately, their web site does nothing to help you buy, but Google will.
furbies  2013-09-06 03:16
There's an iOS App from Brother that prints to the 2270DW
Fernando Rodrigues  2013-09-09 16:57
Thanks for sharing.
It's called "Brother iPrint & Scan", and a WindowsPhone version is also available.
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-06 15:28
Just a point of clarification: Wi-Fi works for me on this printer. The issue was with Wi-Fi setup. Once I set the printer up over USB, the Wi-Fi worked. Sorry for any confusion.
JohnB (SciFiOne)   2013-09-10 14:45
I switched to BnW Laser about 10 years ago for exactly the same reasons and I'm still using the same dumb HP1022 to print a couple of sheets a week. ...and thanks for the iOS print apps links. I'd been meaning to look them up in the iPad TC book but never got around to it.
G. Douglas Eddy  2013-09-16 08:09
I have an JL-2240D that I purchased a couple of months ago. Love it. It does not have wireless printing but I use it all the time. Print tons of documents every week and no trouble with it. The duplex is invaluable as I am often printing double sided. Never a problem with it. Supplies reasonable. I wish it had wireless but I highly recommend it. BTW, nice article. Very helpful.
Richard Rettke  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2013-09-16 23:00
I have 2 HL-2270DW's. Initially I had them running on Ethernet but in a cable reduction scheme I gave Wi-Fi a go and they work excellently.

As for the concern about the pages curling in duplex, and I do almost all duplex printing, I have never seen a curling issue. I expect that is really a paper quality issue. I use the least expensive Office Depot brand copy paper and have no issues. The other thing that I know can affect paper curling is humidity, the amount of moisture in the paper.

I have found these to be excellent printers, the cartridges are quite easy to refill, and the they just plain work. For years I ran two Apple 12/640 PS printers with Duplexer and hi capacity paper tray. Those printers sold for $6000. These Brothers for $125 ea. when I bought them outperform the 12/640 PS in ALL categories (as they should, they are 20 years apart).

I have also found Brothers website to be exceedingly useful and their tech support on the one occasion I needed them to be outstanding.
My LADY owns the Brother HL-2270DW. She used both setup methods you used and it was tedious and the printer was cranky about maintaining the connection.

I own a reconditioned Brother HL-5370DW ( and I LOVE IT ! ! ! ). When I first got it I called Brother Support and had them hold my hand while they walked me through the wireless connection setup and I was up and running in less than 10 minutes AND I have had NO connection issues since (almost 3 years).

Much quieter than the HL-2270DW.

PS: One day, while my Lady was at work, I called Brother Support and had them hold my hand while they walked me through the wireless connection setup and I was back up and running in less than 10 minutes and there have been no problems since (almost a year). Yes it is noisy but the printing costs are quite low in all Brother Laser Printers.

Brother Support is fantastic.
Oh and for the color printing issue I vote for the All-In-One Canon Pixma MX series.
Opinion: cheap and reliable laser printer.

Like the author, we too bought our Brother HL-2270DW for about seventy dollars, on sale. We've seen aggressive pricing on these machines for fifty bucks which is a tremendous price on a lightweight, functional laser printer for light to medium duty.

Generic replacement toner cartridges can be found for about nineteen dollars and sometimes less (there are lots of online tips for squeaking the full 700+ pages out of the "starter" cartridge).
For printing out volume classwork we had good luck using inexpensive indestructible Samsung laser printers for many years, but today the Brother HL-2270DW is the current winner in price and utility.

One negative not discussed: The single page "straight feed" for envelopes and heavy stock will print out skewed text unless you adjust feeding the media slightly out of square to the printer's feed door, but once you learn to make feed adjustments it works fine.
Arthur Maddox  2013-10-01 12:29
I've used my HL-2270DW for more than 2 years now, replacing a vintage HP laser printer. A good buy! ...even though I was an early adopter, paying over $100 at the time. It's kinda flimsy, compared to the HP behemoth, but it does the job well. Set-up was a pain (my network is both wireless & wired)...maybe the documentation has improved now? Toner is relatively expensive (though cheaper than inkjet). When the toner light comes on & images dim, removing the cartridge and shaking side-to-side yields a bunch more copies. The higher capacity cartridge can be found online much cheaper than the list price. All in all, excellent.
Larry B  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2013-10-04 10:06
Does anyone know what Brothers' record is as respects keeping their printer drivers up-to-date with the Mac OS?

I ask because Xerox discontinues support at about 6 years. I have two of their top-of-the-line printers (a Phaser 6200 and a Phaser 3500) that are quickly losing their functionality because Xerox will not keep the drivers updated, and are thus going to have to be replaced.

Before I invest in any new printer, I need some reassurance that the manufacturer at least intends to continue driver support.
I like my HL-2270DW, but it has some shortcomings. It doesn't do PostScript from the Mac. It curls duplex printouts (even on quality paper) quite noticeably. If you're picky, you'll discover that the top margin on the back of duplexed sheets is slightly different than on the front, even when the printer is brand new (it's not slippage), and tech support told me there's no adjustment for this.

I run it over Ethernet and it usually works, although sometimes it falls off the network and can be quite hard to get back. The manual feed is atrocious.

BTW, I didn't understand the statement in the article that it prints at 2400 x 600 dpi resolution. How do you do that? The highest res I see in any setting is 1200 dpi.

Anyway, despite its many annoyances, it's fast and cheap and the print output (for text, not graphics) is quite good. Overall I like it.