The Brother HL-5140's compact footprint and low price ($200) make this model a good fit for the crowded workspaces and tight budgets of many small offices. If you need high-quality output produced at reasonable speeds, this Brother may be a perfect match.
Like most of the small-office units we've seen recently, the HL-5140 holds 250 sheets in its main paper tray. You can add a second 250-sheet paper drawer, but it costs about $140, nearly three-quarters of the price of the one-drawer printer. Legal-size paper has to run through the manual feeder--a hassle if you use this paper type a lot.
The bin on top of the printer can handle up to 150 pages of face-down output. A rear output tray folds down at the back to provide a straight path for thicker media, such as envelopes. Printing a lot of envelopes or transparencies can be inconvenient, though, because you have to feed them through the pull-down bypass tray one at a time.
In our subjective tests of print quality, the HL-5140 performed superbly. Even small text looked sharp, with closely spaced, clearly separated bold characters. Though we noticed a little banding in the narrow parallel lines of our line-art test, diagonals appeared crisp and solid. Our photo test showed a few dithering artifacts in textured areas, and we spotted some minor banding, but the photo print looked good overall.
We clocked the HL-5140's text printing speed at 12.8 pages per minute--about average--but its graphics printing speed of 7.9 ppm was very good for a small office printer. We connected the HL-5140 to our test PC using its USB 2.0 port.
When we reviewed the HL-5040 (this model's predecessor) last year, it failed to complete one of our standard printing tests due to insufficient memory (8MB). The HL-5140's stock configuration has doubled the the older version's memory to 16MB, and you can upgrade it to as much as 144MB if you expect to print very large documents.
A chart on the front page of the printed Quick Setup Guide serves as a table of contents, leading you through the different installation and usage options. The full User's Guide, included on the software CD-ROM in PDF format, is more detailed. This printer does not support an internal networking adapter, so if you want to share the HL-5140 with colleagues, you'll have to network it through Windows or buy an external printer server (Brother sells its own print servers, both wired and wireless, on its Web site, but some third-party servers cost less).
The Brother HL-5140 distinguishes itself with crisp text and respectable graphics. For the price, it can't be beaten.