Mono laser printers are still the mainstay of many small and home offices. Although new models are more evolutionary than revolutionary, a reliable printer, producing good quality print at a reasonable price is still the core requirement of this type of use.
Brother’s HL-L5200DW is a medium-range, desktop laser printer aimed at individual or small group use and is the kind of machine that sits in a corner, quietly doing its job.
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Its dark grey and black case is unashamedly cuboid, with just a flip-over paper support at top front to disturb its lines. There’s a single-line LCD display, supported by a simple but effective control panel next to the paper output slot.
The main paper tray, which takes up to 250 sheets, slides out from the bottom of the front panel. There’s a multi-purpose tray, too, which can take a further 50 sheets of special media, such as envelopes, and folds down from above the main tray. Optional extra trays for 250 or 520 sheets are available.
Unusually, the paper level indicator set into the tray front is not that easy to read, as its colour is too similar to the rest of the case. Not a major problem, but a niggle, if your office prints a lot.
The two-part drum and toner cartridge slides in easily from behind the front panel and with the high capacity cartridge attached, should be good for 8,000 pages. The drum has a yield of 50,000 pages, so will probably only need replacing once in the life of the printer.
Software comprises the Brother Creative Centre, a status monitor and the driver, but you can separately download a wireless print app for iOS or Android devices, which spots the printer quickly and easily for a connection. NFC connection isn’t provided on the HL-L5200DW.
Brother claims a top speed of 40 ppm for the HL-L5200DW, but I found this a bit optimistic. Our 20-page long document returned a real world speed of 30.8ppm, which is still very respectable for a printer in this class. The more typical 5-page text test gave 18.8ppm, though this dropped to 13.6ppm on the text and graphics document.
This was slower than the 17.4 sides per minute we saw on the 10-page duplex version of our 20-side document. A 15 x 10cm photo took just 7s from a cabled PC, but twice that time from an Android phone.
Print quality, as is usually the case with Brother lasers, is pretty good. Text, at the default resolution of 1,200dpi, is crisp and clear, with no noticeable toner spatter. Business graphics are also clean and sharp, with enough variation in greyscales to show a good range of colours from an original. Photos are a little banded in places, but more than adequate for general use.
Noise levels peaked at 64dBA at 0.5m, which is no more than many inkjets and shouldn’t cause problems, even if the printer’s beside you on the desk.
Using the high capacity toner cartridge gives a page cost of 2.7p, including 0.7p for paper. This is good, without being exceptional. At the printer’s higher purchase price, you might expect a page cost closer to 2p.
There are quite a few printers similar to the HL-L5200DW, including Dell’s B3460dn (which I have yet to review), which is a bit more expandable and has a front panel USB socket, though no wireless connection. It’s rated marginally faster, but also costs around £70 more.
There’s also the Kyocera FS2100DN, which is again more expensive to buy, at around £255, but costs considerably less to run, at 1.4p per page, thanks to its lifetime drum. Like the Dell, it has a front panel USB port, but no wireless connection.
The Brother HL-L5200DW is a capable mono laser for small office use and can be used as an individual desktop printer or easily shared within a small workgroup. It’s quick, quiet and reasonably inexpensive to run.
Unlike several of its rivals, it provides wireless connection, which increases the range of devices it can print from. Maintenance is easy and its relatively high yield consumables mean it should only be occasional. It’s definitely worthy of inclusion on any shortlist of convenient SOHO mono printers.