All but identical in its core features to the Brother HL-3075CW ($300 street), the Brother HL-3045CN ($270 street) offers essentially the same combination of fast speed, acceptable if unimpressive output quality, and paper handling suitable for a micro, small, or home office. It’s also less expensive than its near twin, which helps make it a good choice. However, it leaves out some extras you’ll want to make sure you won’t need, given that you can get them with the HL-3075CW for only a small additional cost.
The two printers are built around the same LED engine. (LED printers work the same way as lasers, except that they use LEDs rather than a laser to draw the image of each page on a drum before printing.) Having the same engine gives them the same raw speed, at a rated 19 pages per minute (ppm) for both color and monochrome output.
Sharing the same engine also gives them the same paper handling, with a 250-sheet tray, which should be ample for most small offices, and a 1-sheet manual feed, so you can switch to a different kind of paper for a given print job without having to change the paper in the tray. In both cases also, Brother doesn’t sell any additional paper handling options, so if you need automatic duplexing for printing on both sides of the page, or you need a higher capacity, neither will be the right printer for you.
Probably the most obvious feature the HL-3045CN lacks that its near twin has is WiFi support. It also lacks a built-in printer language, which means your computer has to rasterize each page rather than handing the job over to the printer. (The HL-3075CW supports both PCL6 and BR-Script3, Brother’s PostScript clone.) This isn’t usually an issue, but there are still some applications that work better with a given printer language than with a host-based printer. For desktop publishing, for example, you’re generally better off with a printer that includes PostScript.
Also unlike the HL-3075CW, the HL-3045CN can’t print from PictBridge cameras or USB memory keys. Both capabilities could come in handy in, say, a real estate office that needs to print photos easily. However both are also usually more important for home than business use, so most offices can easily do without them.
Setup and Speed
As it’s built around the same engine as the HL-3075CW, the HL-3045CN also has the same size and weight. At 9.8 by 16.1 by 18.3 inches (HWD) it’s relatively easy to find room for, and small enough so you can put it on your desk without it towering over you. Given the 41.9-pound weight, however, you might want some help moving it into place.
I connected the printer to a network and ran the tests from a Windows Vista system. Setup was absolutely typical. The results were not. On our business applications suite, I timed the HL-3045CN at an effective 6 ppm (using QualityLogic’s hardware and software for timing). That makes it effectively tied with the HL-3075CW, with both printers faster than anything else in their price class. The Editors’ Choice Dell 1350cnw Color LED Printer ($299 direct, 4 stars), for example, came in at 4.9 ppm. Both were also faster than the much more expensive Editors’ Choice Dell 2150cdn ($399.99, 4.0 stars), at 5.5 ppm.
The HL-3045CN’s output quality is good enough for most business use, but not a strong point. In fact, it’s a touch below par for text, graphics, and photos.
Being slightly below par for text isn’t much of an issue in real world use, because par text quality for lasers is so high. Unless you have an unusual need for small fonts or you need a printer for high quality desktop publishing, you should be perfectly happy with the text output.
Our graphics tests, unfortunately, showed some real problems, with minor banding, uneven fills for large areas of black background, and a general sense on many of our test samples of muddy colors—or dark color in terms of a hue-saturation-brightness color model. Overall, the graphics are good enough for any internal business use. Depending on your level of perfectionism, you might consider them good enough for, say, PowerPoint handouts. However, I’d hesitate to hand them to an important client or customer I was trying to impress with my professionalism.
Photos were also good enough for most business use. The printer can turn out recognizable color photos from a Web page, for example. On the other hand, the photos were also grainy and showed obvious shifts in color. Depending on how much of a perfectionist you are, once again, you may or may not consider them good enough for client newsletters or the like.
As with the HL-3075CW, finally, unless high-quality output is your main concern, the Brother HL-3045CN’s fast speed and good paper handling make it a good fit for a small or micro office. If there’s any chance you might need one of the extra features the HL-3075CW offers, it’s worth paying the small extra amount to get them. But if you’ve narrowed your choices down to these two, and you’re sure you won’t miss the extras, you can save a little money by getting the Brother HL-3045CN instead.
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