At a Glance
We like a lot of things about Brother's HL-4200CN, but its prints of photos had some problems, and print speeds were a bit slow. Color graphics looked dark, with noticeably muddy colors and some loss of fine detail, while gray-scale photos looked grainy and lacked detail. Text also appeared too heavy and slightly shadowy in places. We've seen more-attractive text and color graphics from less-expensive models, though most of them failed to print line art as sharply as the HL-4200CN did.
The HL-4200CN churned out monochrome text at 16 pages per minute. That's slightly faster than the average of recently tested color lasers--and probably fast enough for most situations. It printed color graphics at 2.2 ppm, which is 1.5 ppm slower than our test-set average.
The HL-4200CN ranks especially high on user experience. Its control panel has up, down, left, and right arrows, so you can't get lost navigating the LCD's menus, especially with the help of its clear prompts. Brother includes two drivers: PC World tested output quality and performance with its PostScript driver; but Brother includes its own driver as well, and this one provides some unusual and useful features missing from the PostScript version. For example, Brother's driver gives you the ability to reduce an image and print 4, 9, 16, 25, or 36 copies of it on a page--a handy trick for printing business cards, place cards, or other small items. Another unusual and useful driver feature is Margin Shift, which lets you tweak the placement of an off-center page without changing the original document. Taking a lesson from user-friendly ink jet printers, Brother also designed the driver to warn you and offer to correct your mistake if you choose conflicting settings, such as trying to produce booklets without turning on duplex printing for double-sided prints. One slightly weak spot in Brother's user experience is documentation: The HL-4200CN comes with an informative printed setup guide and a thorough on-screen manual, but you have to wade through a blizzard of miscellaneous printed items that should have been part of a main manual.
The HL-4200CN's mechanical design makes maintenance easy. The large door on the front end completely exposes the paper path and offers wide access to potential paper jams. The imaging drum slides on grooves so you can't misalign it when removing or reinstalling it, and the four toner cartridges drop vertically into slots accessible through the top door. Handholds run the length of each side, providing enough room for two people to get their hands underneath and lift the printer without risk of tipping it over--and that's a good thing since it weighs 77 pounds with the toner cartridges installed. It measures 17 inches wide by 24 inches deep by 17 inches high.
The base HL-4200CN costs $1999 with a 100-mbps ethernet interface and an internal duplexer. The standard 500-sheet main tray and 100-sheet auxiliary tray let you keep plenty of plain paper and letterhead loaded for a small office, and you can add other paper-handling options: An extra 500-sheet feeder costs $549, and a 1000-sheet feeder will set you back $999. If your IS staff wants to install a hard drive in the printer to store fonts, forms, or other frequently used data, that option costs $700.
In PC World's page-yield test, the HL-4200CN used up 10 cents' worth of toner per page of color graphics. Only the Kyocera Mita Ecosys FS-C5016N turned in a lower cost per page, at 6 cents.
The HL-4200CN has a lot of features, is easy to use, and can be expanded without much ado--but offers only so-so print quality.