Brotherâ€™s HL-5150D is a conventionally designed laser printer with a built-in 250 sheet paper tray that slides in from the front of the machine and sits underneath it. Just above this drawer is a multi-purpose tray which folds down from the front and can take a further 50 sheets of paper or envelopes.
The whole front panel of the printer folds down for access to the cartridge and drum. Although supplied as one unit with the printer, you can replace the toner cartridge separately several times with either of two different capacities, before the 20,000 sheet drum needs changing.
At the rear of the printer, a further cover folds down to provide a paper-up tray and to provide access to rectify any jams. The Brother has a built-in duplexer and when duplex printing, feeds the paper to the tray in its top cover without quite letting go. It then takes the sheet back in, to print the second side.
Controls on the HL-5150Dâ€™s top surface include four indicator lights for toner, drum, paper and print status, as well as two buttons to start a print job and to stop it immediately, even when partway through. This second button is particularly useful when you suddenly realise you there are errors in a big print job.
Software installation is straightforward with the necessary drivers loading directly from the supplied CD. You can connect the printer via parallel or USB sockets at the rear, while the driver provides good control of the duplex function, the facility to reduce page size and print several pages to the sheet â€“ page imposition.
Brother doesn't provide any application software to complement its print drivers, but does include BR-Script, its own PostScript emulator, as well as PCL 6. There's very little this printer can't print, from Windows or MacOS. You can even download Linux drivers.
The Brother produced our 20 page text document in less than a minute and a quarter, which is close to its rated print speed. Since the document includes text in several sizes and fonts, this is a pretty good result.
Since the HL-5150D can print on both sides of the paper (duplex), we tried printing the same document as a 10 page, duplex job and produced a time slightly quicker than double the single side result. This is also impressive, as you have to allow for the feed out and reverse times between printing each side.
The five-page mixed text and graphics task completed in under half a minute and the five by three greyscale photo in an impressive 13 seconds. Print quality for text was clean and dense, though there was some banding in the greyscale photo sample.
Perhaps the Brotherâ€™s only true fault is its noise level, though itâ€™s not alone in this. When printing we measured a peak noise output of just over 60dBA, well above the 50dBA that Brother quotes and quite obtrusive in even a fairly noisy office environment. Youâ€™d find it difficult to conduct a phone conversation with this printer working on your desk.
Taking Brother's consumables usage figures and typical costs produces a running cost of 2.4p a page, using the 3,500 page toner cartridge. This reduces to 2.0p per page if you buy the more expensive, but more economical, 6,700 page replacement cartridge. These costs are about average for a laser printer in this price bracket and overall the Brother HL-5150D represents good value for money.
The Brother performs well and has reasonable running costs. It represents good value especially considering its built-in duplexer. You might like to think about positioning it somewhere where the noise level will cause least annoyance though.