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The Brother HL-L3220CWE colour laser printer is compact, quiet, and reasonably quick – especially when printing in colour. It produces decent prints, too. However, while home office users are unlikely to mind that it has no wired network port, its lack of duplex printing is more of a problem. Add in very steep running costs, and this printer isn’t an especially appealing package overall.


  • Quick at this price
  • Compact for a colour laser printer
  • Decent print quality


  • No network port or duplex printing
  • Could be expensive to run

Key Features

  • A single-function colour laser printerChurn out pages quickly in a busy home office.
  • Wireless networkingYou can connect and share this printer over a wireless network.


Brother has recently refreshed its range of home and small business laser printers, and the Brother HL-L3220CWE sits reasonably close to the bottom. It’s a colour laser, able to print up to 18 black, colour or mixed pages every minute. It’s aimed at home and home office users who need something a little faster than the typical small office inkjet, and in some ways it’s well suited to the job.

In others, not so much. Printer spotters might raise an eyebrow that the ‘E’ in this printer’s model name doesn’t denote wired Ethernet networking. That’s not a show-stopper given it does have wireless support, but it’s also missing automatic duplex (double-sided) printing – a must if you want to save paper and produce more professional looking results.

Design and Features

  • A little underspecified
  • Small by colour laser printer standards
  • Expensive to run

The HL-L3220CWE is a compact printer, sitting almost perfectly square and taking up about the same amount of space as a mid-sized inkjet. In black and white plastic it looks every inch the office device – there’s no great design flair on show here. On its top panel you’ll find a small control panel comprising a backlit, single-line display. There are a few buttons to help you navigate the menus and, although it can be a little fiddly, everything is quite easy to understand.

This printer's control panel. The display is illuminated and displays 'sleep'
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

You can push this printer quite far back against a wall or partition, and completely up against a wall on its left side. At the right there’s a fan outlet, though Brother has cleverly moulded spacers above and below it to prevent it being blocked off in a tight space.

Strictly speaking this is a laser-class printer, rather than a laser. The light used to form an image during the printing process comes from LEDs, but otherwise the two technologies are interchangeable. The HL-L3220CWE is quite keenly priced for a colour laser, coming in well below £200, but even so it feels just a little underspecified.

I’m not bothered about its modest 18 page-per-minute (ppm) print speed. Laser printers have a habit of getting closer to their stated speeds than inkjets, and 18ppm is plenty for moderate use among a handful of people. The lack of network port isn’t likely to be an issue either, at least not in home and micro offices where most devices will be connected wirelessly anyway.

This printer does feel a bit limited when it comes to paper handling, though. Aside from the lack of duplexing, its 250-sheet cassette is supplemented only by a single-sheet multipurpose slot on the front panel. While that’s useful, it’s less flexible than a tray, and condemns you to a bit of manual paper shuffling whenever you want to print on different media, such as headed paper or card.

Front picture showing the basic multipurpose feed
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Brother ships the HL-L3220CWE with black, cyan, magenta and yellow toners rated for only 500 pages – that’s pretty measly for a laser. The standard replacements cover only 1,000 pages, and even the high-yield alternatives are rated for only 3,000 black pages, or 2,300 for each colour. Using these, print costs work out at a very hefty 14.2p per full colour page – about as expensive as laser printers get to run. It’s unlikely that this printer’s target users would print enough that they needed to replace its other consumables, but factoring them in lifts the cost per page to 14.8p.

Like many other modern printers, the Brother HL-L3220CWE is compatible with a toner subscription service: in this case, Brother’s EcoPro. This lets you choose from four subscription levels covering 100-700 monthly pages, and priced at £13-39 per month. This equates to a cost per page starting from 13p, and decreasing to a best of 5.6p. However, as with all ink subscriptions, this is the best-case. In practice you’ll pay more unless you print all of the included pages.

Inserting the Cyan toner in front of the black. The yellow and magenta cartridges are removed.
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Print Speed and Quality

  • Speeds true to Brother’s claims
  • Appreciably quieter than many other lasers
  • Quite good print quality all round.

We time printer performance from the moment we click Print, to when the final page drops into the output tray. That means we include the time taken for the host PC to prepare and send the job. While that’s a more realistic measure of the speeds you’ll encounter, it does mean that printers struggle to match their makers’ claims – particularly on short jobs where the preparation time has quite an impact.

Despite this, the HL-L3220CWE performed quite strongly across our tests. It took 21 seconds to deliver a first page of black text, and went on to print five pages at a rate of 8.8ppm. This increased to 14.8ppm over 20 pages, and 17.2ppm over a 50-page document. 

We’ve tested fast inkjets that can rival the HL-L3220CWE’s text speeds, but it left all but the best in the weeds when it comes to colour. This printer hit 9.1ppm over five pages of mixed text and graphics, and 14.6ppm over 20. It even managed 14.4ppm on a much more heavyweight colour graphics job.

Windows screenshot of the Brother print driver
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

These are good speeds at this price, but still this isn’t a very fast printer by laser standards. That can be a good thing for a home office, as fast printers can often make much more of a racket. In fact, the HL-L3220CWE is exceptionally quiet – Brother says that was one of the design goals for its refreshed lineup.

I wouldn’t normally expect perfect print quality from an affordable colour laser, but prints from the Brother HL-L3220CWE were surprisingly good. Black text was predictably strong and sharp, while graphical prints were generally quite punchy. I could spot a small amount of banding – distinct but subtle horizontal stripes – in some light colour fills. I also felt that the tone of some prints was a little too dark and desaturated. Generally, though, this printer is more than up to printing everyday office documents.

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Should you buy it?

You want swift and quiet

This is one of the faster colour printers you’ll find at this price. It’s also fairly quiet and compact, which could make it easy to live with in a cramped small office

You don’t want something expensive to run

Unless you can make the most of Brother’s EcoPro toner subscriptions, this printer will prove very expensive to run

Final Thoughts

There’s quite a bit to like about the Brother HL-L3220CWE printer’s quiet, rapid performance, and the generally good quality results it delivers. Unfortunately, though, I can’t strongly recommend it. While it’s keenly priced, it’s missing duplex printing, which we generally recommend for office-focused devices. More significantly, if you’re buying your own consumables it will prove very expensive to run, each ream (500 pages) of full-colour printing potentially costing a whopping £74/$79.

If you want an office colour printer that’s much cheaper to own, consider Canon’s MAXIFY GX5550 inkjet, which also has much more impressive paper handling. And if that doesn’t take your fancy, check out our Best Printer Guide instead.

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How we test

Every printer we review goes through a series of uniform checks designed to gauge key things including print quality, speed and cost.

We’ll also compare the features with other printers at the same price point to see if you’re getting good value for your money.

Measured the time it takes to print with various paper

Compared print quality with other printers

Tested printing with monochrome and coloured ink


What does ‘HL’ stand for in Brother printers?

Brother printers that begin ‘HL’ are all single-function lasers. The letters after the model number tell you more about the features: C means colour, D means duplex (double-sided) printing, and W means wireless networking.

Brother’s MFP model numbers usually start with DCP, or MFC if they have fax capability.

Are Brother toners interchangeable?

Not fully. Printers within the same family will often use the same series of consumables, so for example you can use toners bought for the MFC-L3760CDW with the HL-L3220CWE reviewed here. However, they wouldn’t necessarily be suitable for other Brother lasers, and models near the bottom of the range may not accept the highest capacity options – it’s always important to check. You can find which consumables to buy for a printer via the manufacturer’s product webpage, and it’s often visible on a label next to the toners themselves.

Trusted Reviews test data

Energy consumption
Printing A4 mono speed (single page)
Printing A4 mono speed (5 pages)
Printing A4 mono speed (20 pages)
Printing A4 colour speed (single page)
Printing A4 colour speed (5 pages)
Printing A4 colour speed (20 pages)

Full specs

Quiet Mark Accredited
Size (Dimensions)
Release Date
First Reviewed Date
Model Number
Ink Cartridge support
Printer Type
Ink Type

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