For a networked workgroup printer, the Brother HL-5060DN is remarkably compact--and affordably priced at $650. Its double-sided printing can lower paper costs and reduce the bulkiness of your larger documents. But its print speed may not be fast enough for some business users.
The HL-6050DN is a bit slow compared to other workgroup laser printers: We timed it at 11.6 pages per minute for text and 6.5 ppm for graphics. On the other hand, it produced some of the best text and line art we've seen. Small fonts and the fine edges on italics looked very sharp, while large characters showed dark, even ink coverage. Slender lines in the line art sample looked crisp, but we were puzzled by some banding we saw, extending out of the narrow horizontal lines (where we often see it) into areas of narrow vertical lines. Our grayscale photo print showed some light banding, moire patterns in fabric textures, and flatness in skin tones.
The main paper drawer of the HL-6050DN has a 500-sheet capacity. In place of a proper secondary paper drawer, you get a fold-down multipurpose input tray. This can hold up to 100 sheets of paper, but Brother recommends that you stack no more than three envelopes at a time, which could be very inconvenient if you're preparing a large mailing. You can add a second 500-sheet drawer for $250, but you can't feed envelopes from it. Only 250 sheets can collect face-down in the output bin on top of the unit; the fold-down rear tray accommodates another 50.
Unlike most workgroup printers we've seen recently, the HL-6050DN has separately replaceable toner cartridge and drum units. The toner cartridge has a relatively low 7500 page life (at the standard 5 percent coverage rating), so you'll replace the drum less frequently (approximately every 30,000 pages). Even so, the cost of consumables for the HL-6050DN is higher than that for most of its competitors.
Hooking up the HL-6050DN to our ethernet network was easy. The letter-format Quick Setup booklet has a flowchart on the cover that guides you through the configuration options, referring you to the pages inside for the detailed procedures. A full-size user guide for the printer and a network user guide are included on the software CD-ROM.
The control panel's backlit LCD display simplified navigating the menus, even in a darkened corner of the PC World Test Center. Administrators will like the set of printer management utilities, including those accessed from your Web browser.
Plenty of features, including double-sided printing, make the Brother HL-6050DN a good value for a small workgroup. Print speeds are relatively low, but text printing is clean and solid.