Review: Brother HL-2040
Inkjet printers are the undisputed champions of budget color printing, but ink costs can quickly mount up. Laser printers have been steadily falling in price, and budget models such as Brother’s HL-2040 are available for little more than a mid-range inkjet. They’re great for people who do mostly text printing with little need for flashy graphics or color.
I was really surprised when I unboxed this tiny 14-pound printer (it’s about the same size as many inkjets and is reminiscent of Apple’s old Personal LaserWriter 300), a far cry from the monstrous LaserJet 4100s I deal with at work. Included in the box is a driver CD, toner cartridge, imaging drum, and a power cable. You’ll have to provide your own USB cable.
HL-2040 (Paper Tray and Front Cover Open)
HL-2040 (Back Panel)
The HL-2040 features a 250-sheet paper tray, as well as a manual paper feed slot. I really would have liked to see a little indicator for the paper level, as many larger laser printers have, but it was probably omitted to keep costs down. On the back of the printer is a USB port and a parallel port.
The HL-2040 is not internally network-upgradeable, although an HP JetDirect print server should work with no problems (we haven’t tested it yet). If you want built-in networking, check out its sibling, the HL-2070N.
The top panel is quite sparse, with only four LED lights to indicate low paper, low toner, replace drum, and ready. There’s also a self-test/Go button. The power switch is on the right side, and can be left on, as the printer enters a sleep mode automatically, waking when a print job is sent to it.
Setup was quite easy, especially with the simple instructions provided. After five minutes, I was printing with no problems.
I was mainly concerned with the quality of text printouts, as most of my graphics work tends to stay on the screen. The printer’s maximum resolution is 2400×600 dpi. Text output is excellent, but graphics are more on the mediocre side (it’s comparable to many older laser printers). While the printouts would be acceptable for most student and personal work, but don’t expect to wow anyone with them. There’s a fair amount of posterization and dithering, but most printouts still look fairly good for a laser printer at this price.
At 20 pages-per-minute, the printer is quite fast. Also included is 8MB of memory, more than adequate for most print jobs. What we did notice was that pages tended to have a slight curl when they came out of the printer. This could be because the paper path is so small, but this didn’t really cause any problems in terms of jamming.
Worth noting is that the HL-2040 has a fan, unlike some budget lasers. This allows the printer to keep working when there are large print jobs, unlike many others that have to cool down before they can print. We thought this was a nice addition.
The toner cartridge is easy to replace, and the included one is rated at around 1500 sheets. Standard ones are rated at around 2500 pages and can be had for as low as $40. The imaging drum is rated at around 12000 sheets and is about twice the cost to replace. Fortunately, most users will probably replace their computer before they have to replace the drum.
The HL-2040 is a decent printer for anyone looking to enter the world of laser printing without spending an arm and a leg. It does a fantastic job with text, and an fair job with graphics. However, its main advantage is its price.
The One-Sentence Verdict™
The Brother HL-2040 is a great choice for budget printing, as long as you are aware of its drawbacks.
Pros: Compact, cheap compared to other lasers, fast printouts, sharp text output
Cons: Graphics quality not the best, papers get slight curl after printing