Laser Printer Recommendation?

I’m really fed up of my ink-jet printer. It’s slow and the cartridges cost a fortune. I really don’t know what I was thinking when I bought it because before that I had a HP LaserJet (don’t remember which model) which was actually pretty good only that one day it stopped working.

So I want to replace my ink-jet printer with a new printer. I’ve got these requirements (in this order):

  1. Mac-compatible. Of course, if it’s a Windows-only printer it would make no sense at all.
  2. Fast text printing. I very rarely print graphics, but a lot of text (as you would expect from a writer)
  3. Laser. I think that’s pretty obvious because it seems that fast text printing and ink-jet are mutually exclusive.
  4. Doesn’t make me buy new cartridges after printing just half of my novel.
  5. Small. My desk is already pretty crowded, so I don’t want anything to waste more space

What I don’t need is colour or super high resolution (text only printing, see above).

I really don’t care if the printer isn’t the cheapest, as long as it’s fast and small.

I’m posting my question here becaue I figured that almost everybody on this forum must have a Mac and prints a lot of text. So if you have any recommendations (a LaserJet again?) I would be really grateful.



I’ve been using the Brother HL-2040 for about two years now, and I like it a lot. To address your points:

  1. Plays well with Mac.

  2. With text-only, I get about 15-20 pages per minute.

  3. Laser, yes.

  4. I think you’ll find this in common with most inexpensive laser printers: the cartridge they ship with is lower capacity than the replacement one. That said, I have printed maybe 2500 pages without replacing the toner.

Toner cartridges are available online in the $50 US range.

  1. This is relatively small: 15 x 15 x 7 inches ; 20 pounds.

The great thing about this printer is that it’s very inexpensive – in many cases, you can find it online for under $100 US. In fact, as I was looking for a cheap replacement toner cartridge online, I ran into a couple of deals that had them at $50 after rebate. Search around.

You will find some complaints on Amazon about paper curling, but this has never happened to me. I tend to print on 24 lb. laser paper, and have never had an issue.

An odd phenomenon you’ll find in cheap laser land: the printers themselves seem like loss leaders for the companies, in that replacement supplies cost virtually as much as a new printer. You will, after the first 2500 pages, be asking yourself, “Why not just get a new one?”

Went to the Brother site because I wanted to see if I could print a statistics page for my own edification. It was easy to do. The results:

2874 pages printed on the original toner cartridge.

The drum unit (another “consumable” that’s supposed to last something like 12,000 pages) is at 76% remaining life.

Not bad.

I’ve been completely happy with the HP Laserjet 1320 that I got a few years ago. For some reason, I got it ridiculously cheap. It was on sale, and had a $100 mail-in rebate. So in the end I only paid about $150 for it. It gets 22 pages per minute, and starts up very fast, is 1200 dpi, and has an eco mode which only prints every other line, using half the toner it would ordinarily use to print a page. This mode is legible enough to use for proofs. The lines are very close together. You’d have to squint up close to see them. Works great with a Mac, too. No problems there. It came with a driver disk, but if I remember right OS X found it just fine. It has a USB2 connector, but can also be set up as a wireless printer if you buy an optional thingy.

The guy in the store told me that the cartridge was only a starter, and that I would need to buy another one right then and there. He really seemed to be pressing the issue too hard though (considering I walked out with a printer for $200 less than the retail, selling me a cartridge was probably the only way they would have made any money that day!), so I just took it home and started using it. Turns out, two years later I’m still using the “starter” cartridge. Doing the math, it looks like it will last until 4,200 pages. So the salesman was flat out lying. I’m guessing this is the standard 2,500 cartridge you can buy from HP (they also sell a 6k). I use eco-mode a lot though, which is why I’ll be getting nearly double out of it in the end.

But, when the time comes, cartridges are about what Sean said $50-$60 range. Although, with the 1320 the drum and the cartridge are the same unit. So you replace both at once. Thus, it is not recommended to use refill kits, as you’ll probably exceed drum life.

Overall, no problems with it. And yeah, forget ink-jet. That whole technology is such a waste of money, even for people that want to print out colour pictures. It is nearly always cheaper to take the files down to the local 1-hour photo and get digital prints. The quality will be much better, too. With this laserjet having 1200 dpi, I can print out reasonably good quality black and white images, which is all I need for non-art printing.

If you hunt around, you might find a deal like I did. Otherwise, it retails at $300-400. Even without the sale, I would have spent around that for the faster pages per minute. Since most of what I print are huge documents, any increment in speed will save a lot of time in the end. The eco-mode really sold me too.

We use them at the office and home because:
they are reliable and have excellent warranty and tech support
are very green - consumables are recyclable and long lasting
the FS 1020D I use at home has auto duplex (huge savings on paper) and is relatively small

They just don’t seem to wear out. They are a little more expensive than specials from HP and others BUT their consumables costs are consistently amongst the cheapest.

Give them a good look.

I too am using a Brother HL 2040.

It’s cheap & cheerful and goes like a jet. Admittedly, the cartridge costs as much as the printer here, but quite frankly, I don’t mind. It’s cheaper to run than my previous ink jets. I’m still on the original cartridge and I’ve had it for about 12 months, I think.

I was going to get a comparable HP at the time, but discovered that there weren’t Mac drivers for that particular model (how is that even possible?).

I highly recommend the Brother HL 5250DN laser printer.

I chose the 5250DN over the 2040 because the 5250DN offered duplex printing, faster printing, more memory for multiple font use and graphics, and network printing. I discovered that it came with the standard toner cartridge (3,500 pages) rather than starter cartridge (1,500) and that the drum would last twice as long. Text is excellent, toner saving option excellent.

The HL 5250DN and HL 2040 occupy about the same space on desktop, but the former is 3 inches taller.

Check out Amazon,, for plenty of user ratings and recommendations.


I have a Brother HL-1435, the HL-2040, and an HP 1220. All are good, but I prefer the Brothers because they don’t run as hot as the HP. I have the 1435 on an Airport Express and all the computers in the house can (and do) print to it using Bonjour. (That includes Win XP systems.)

I’ve had the 1435 for at least two years and it’s never given me a bit of trouble. The 1220 I’ve had for four or five years and only use it intermittently because it runs so hot, I will get condensation on the underside of a tray above the output tray. I’ve also had paper curl in it, but never in the two Brothers.

(The 2040 is only a few months old, so can’t give a longevity report on it. So far, though, it runs great.)

I agree with what others have said - the toner lasts a long long time (and I print out a lot).

Thanks for the suggestions so far! It seems that I was right in assuming that writers must have a pretty strong opinion on printers :wink:

arashi, you have a good point about duplex printing. I like saving paper with printing double-sided, two pages on one side.

So far it seems that the HP Laserjet 1320 and Brother HL-5250DN are pretty good options (slightly biased towards HP because it’s a little smaller, though slower). I will let you know when I finally decided and have my first impressions. (Of course that’s not to say you have to stop suggesting!)

About the prices… It really makes me wonder. I’m living in Germany and keep reading in the press that the Euro is oh-so-strong. So why is that they never lower the prices for electronics from overseas? The Brother HL-5250DN for example is $227.99 on On it’s 326.08€. That’s $450! (That reminds of a story about Steve Jobs. Once asked why Apple charges so much more in Europe than in the US he replied “Just make the Euro stronger!” That was at a time when 1€ = $0.80. Today it’s almost at 1€=$1.40 but don’t dare to think that Apple has lowered the prices…!)

Whatever… I never was one to understand global economics too well.



It’s ridiculous, but sadly more common than you’d expect. On the bright side, you often don’t need the driver. The HP inkjet I recently bought doesn’t have Mac drivers, but that doesn’t stop the Mac from finding it immediately and printing perfectly :slight_smile:

You’re right. At work we run a Windows network. I sometimes bring my MacBook. And guess what? Thanks to Bonjour it’s easier to find and hook up the printers here than it is with a new Windows machine.

That’s exactly what I like to do. Sometimes I’ll even go 4-pages per side if the original source has large enough type. I forgot to mention the 1320 has fully automatic duplex. That is very nice. The printer I had before this one (an ancient HP LaserJet 4) you had to manually feed the pages through to print the reverse side. Oi.

One thing that I do not like about the 1320 is that the front loader does not have a paper support, and is only single-load. So if you do a lot of heavy stock printing, that might be a deal breaker. I rarely use the front loader though, so it doesn’t come up much.

I’ve wondered about the price of electronics in Europe, too. I wonder if it is tariffs or something? It seems to universally be the same number or even a greater number, no matter what the exchange rate is. Or maybe it is just the commerce culture. Over here they sell pretty much all hardware at cost, sometimes even at a loss, in the big stores, hoping to make up for it in service contracts and consumables. It shouldn’t simply be import fees, because we both get the bulk of our electronics from manufacturing plants in the Asian markets.

Sometimes, however, prices only seem to be higher because (at least in Germany) prices are always including tax. That greatly confused me when I was in the US and always had to pay more than was printed on the price tag because they add the tax afterwards.

But the tax of course doesn’t explain a difference of almost 100%. Perhaps it’s because there are more discounters in the US? It’s only in the last ten years or so that huge electronics superstores are trying to take over the market.

Use the printer at work.
Or failing that get a friend to print out at work.

They often have colour laser printers which cheer you up knowing an entire Inuit village has drowned to give you your print out,


I got a Brother MFC 4800 two years ago, because it is also a fax and copier and has a small footprint, been very happy with it. I have heard good things about Brother & Mac compatibility.

Back in the '90’s I had good luck with the cheaper cartridges, but recent experience indicates they are now a bad bargain… I would up having to replace the drum before my printer was right again, so only get the brand name stuff now.

The dynamic with printers and supplies is the same as it is with razors and razor blades. Companies use the printer as a loss leader, because then you are locked into buying their supplies. That’s where the profit is.

Thanks to PDF technology I’ve found I don’t print out as much as I used to, so the fact that the smaller printers, like mine, don’t hold a whole ream is not a serious drawback, but it’s something to consider in the decison process if you will be needing printed manuscripts in the higher page counts.

I also rely on print shops if I need something Postscript, that’s another thing that’s great if you need it, but overkill if you don’t.

Yeah,i agree with this word"Use the printer at work.
Or failing that get a friend to print out at work. " :smiley:

I’d like to throw in the Samsung ML 1510 (might not be the Samsung up-to-date built, though) I’m very happy with. Toner-save-mode makes cartridges last for a year or so, is still very readable. Hooking a printer up to an airport express and keep it away from the desk is also a good idea. I fell much less cluttered with no USB-cable on my powerbook and the printer sitting in a shelf at the other end of the room.

Like Arashi I highly recommend the Brother HL 5250DN laser printer :slight_smile:. It’s by far the best printer I’ve ever had and I’ve had quite a few.

So here’s a question about printers in general and the Brother 5250 in particular.

What’s the difference between a toner cartridge and a drum unit?

The reason I ask is I went online to our usual office supply store and looked for toner cartridges for the Brother just to price them. It came back only with the drum unit, which costs over $200 (although it says it’s good for up to 25,000 pages, which is a pretty good cost per page deal.)

Anyway, it seems drum unit and toner cartridge are similar, maybe it’s a brand thing?

Laser printers and conventional copiers both make the image the same way. They use light to expose a photosensitive drum: exposed areas become conducting, unexposed areas hold a static charge. The toner powder–usually a very fine plastic–is attracted to the static charge, creating an image pattern on the drum. Transferring to paper, then heating to melt the plastic forms the copy that you see.

So the drum and the toner cartridge work together to create the image. The toner is a consumable, obviously: it gets used up when making copies and eventually you need to add more. (Inkjet printers don’t have drums, so they only need ink replacement.)

The drum may also be a consumable. That really depends on the design of the system. A less expensive drum may drive the overall system cost down, but wear out and have to be replaced periodically. Or a more expensive drum may last for a long time, requiring no user attention. (Although nothing lasts forever. Even print shop scale copiers eventually need drum replacements.)

For color copiers and printers, an additional wrinkle might be that you might have four (or more) different toners and four different drums, each of which would wear out at a different rate depending on usage.

The long and short of it, though, is that each system designer decides what the user replaceable component should be. It might be just the toner, it might be a complete drum/toner unit, or it might be the toner and the drum separately on different replacement intervals. Read the manual. The important number, as you’ve deduced, is the lifetime of the component and the resulting cost per print.

Hope this helps,