- Review Price: £329.10
Brother is now the number two supplier of laser printers in the UK, second only to HP, and provides a wide range of machines from the personal through to the departmental. Its HL-6050D is at the workgroup level, is rated at 24ppm and has duplex printing built in.
It’s somehow comforting to see a new printer decked out in good old office cream; so many have resorted to greys, blacks and silver. This is a moderately-sized laser printer, though it does have a 500-sheet paper tray at the bottom and the facility for a second tray of the same capacity as an option. There’s also a 100-sheet multifunction tray which folds down from the front. All pages feed to a depression in the printer’s top surface.
The control panel consists of a 16-character LCD display, with a dual-colour – orange and green – backlight to indicate correct working and any waiting or error conditions. There’s a four-way wheel to control menu navigation and three buttons marked Go, Job Cancel and Reprint. Each of these last three has its Braille equivalent below the printed label.
The Reprint button does pretty much just that, printing the last document to be sent to the printer, without having to send it again. This is handy if you first send a proof sheet, check it through at the printer and then want to go ahead with a number of copies. This facility would be even handier, though, if it was combined with a USB socket on the front of the machine, so you could walk up and print confidential documents.
Fold down the whole of the front cover and you have access to the two-part toner and drum cartridge. The toner cartridge plugs into the drum cradle and has a service life of 7,500 pages. The drum itself should manage 30,000 pages. This is very straightforward from a maintenance point of view and the two sockets at the rear, for USB 2.0 and parallel cables, provide standard connections. Both Ethernet and wireless adapters are options.
Software installation for a local connection is simply the printer driver, which includes both PCL 6 and PostScript Level 3 emulations.
A rating of 24ppm puts the HL-6050D in the middle of the speed range for a mono laser, but printing our five-page text print took 18 seconds, with a further 21 seconds warm-up, if the printer is in sleep mode. This equates (without the warm-up) to 16.7ppm, but if we increase the file length to 20 pages, which the printer completes in exactly one minute, we get somewhere near the stated speed, at 20ppm.
This is all printed single-sided; if you switch to duplex print, the same 20-side document takes 1:58, or 10.17ppm. Even so, Brother’s duplex print is pretty efficient, page following page with very little delay.
Quality of black text print, the main use for a mono laser, is very good, with clean cut, densely-black characters, even in small point sizes. There’s little sign of any toner spatter and when you move into business graphics, print continues to be sharp and well-formed, even at the default 600dpi.
There were some slight anomalies, though, in the greyscales in the header of our text and graphics test piece. Basically, they were either black or white. Trying ‘system’ rather than ‘printer’ greyscales made no difference, but clicking on the ‘Improve grey printing’ checkbox in the Advanced tab of the driver forced the machine to print proper greys.
There were similar problems with the photo test piece, which printed much too dark and with little variation in its greyscale output. Click the ‘Improve grey printing’ box and it starts to behave normally, so we suggest you keep this box ticked, unless all your print is plain text.
Brother claims noise levels of around 52dBA for the HL-6050D, but we measured peaks roughly 10dBA higher than this in normal printing. Most of the noise is typical laser printer paper feed rollers, but there are a couple of ‘clunks’ when the paper is picked up, which are a bit startling when you first hear them.
Replacing both drum and toner requires only removal of the single, combined cartridge. This makes maintenance easy and the pricing of the consumables gives a cost per page of 1.80p. This sits in the middle of the range for mono laser printers we’ve tested recently, and the range is quite small, from around 1.7p to 2.0p.
Brother’s HL-6050D is a worthy competitor to equivalent machines from Canon, HP, OKI and Ricoh, with useful extensions like the reprint button, but lacking walk-up print facilities via USB stick. Such features would elevate it above the plethora of competition, but even without them it’s still a very competent offering.
Score in detail
Print Speed 8
Print Quality 8
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