At a Glance
Brother has another winner on its hands with the HL-5250DN. Its low price tag and compact footprint make it a good fit for the tight budgets and crowded workspaces of many small offices. Yet this attractive monochrome laser also produces top output quality at outstanding speed, can print on both sides of the paper, and hooks up easily to your network.
In addition to a standard 250-sheet paper tray in the printer's base, the front panel folds forward to reveal another tray that can feed up to 50 sheets of alternate media. You have to use this secondary tray to feed envelopes, and though you can stack them only three high, that's better than other printers that take only one at a time. The printer lacks a rear exit to provide a flat paper path, so there's some chance of creasing the edges of your envelopes. However, the advantages of a built-in duplexer at this price should outweigh that risk. You can attach up to two optional 250-sheet paper trays to the bottom of the printer, but at $200 each, they aren't exactly a bargain.
The control panel to the right of the HL-5250DN's 150-sheet output bin consists of just two buttons and four lights. Even without LCD-based menus for entering network parameters, the printer is easy to install, thanks in part to Brother's efficient, if not colorful, setup booklet. You get no other printed documentation, but the software CD-ROM includes a video to illustrate the initial setup and the User's Guide as a PDF document. You can download Brother's useful set of network administration tools at no cost from the company's Web site.
Replacing the toner cartridge is easy enough, but you have to pull the drum assembly out from the front of the printer before detaching the cartridge and attaching a new one. Out of the box, the HL-5250DN comes with the standard-size toner cartridge rated by Brother (according to the industry standard of 5 percent page coverage) for 3500 pages. You can save money by buying high capacity cartridges rated for 7000 pages for $100. When you factor in replacing the $189 drum assembly every 25,000 pages, your cost of consumables would be a reasonable 2.2 cents per page.
Our panel of judges positively glowed about the HL-5250DN's print quality. Text looked crisp and sharp, with just a few oddities visible in the shape of some characters. Although our line art sample was a little light, its nicely distinct close parallel lines and barely perceptible banding made it one of the best samples produced by a monochrome laser printer. Even our challenging grayscale image looked good--it was a little dark and showed some strong moir
In our speed tests, the HL-5250DN printed text at 21.6 pages per minute, which is competitive with lasers costing several times as much. At 9.6 ppm, graphics also emerged faster from the HL-5250DN than from the other models we tested this month.
With fast printing, quality output, easy networking, and a built-in duplexer, the Brother HL-5250DN would be a great choice for a small office.