Brother has introduced a range of new laser printers for the SOHO market promising "affordable, compact and reliable" printing. The range includes standalone printers and all-in-ones, with RRPs ranging from just £90 (around $140, AU$165) to £251 (around $390, AU$460) including VAT. The MFC-L2740DW is the flagship of the range, and its low RRP is already being undercut: at the time of writing it's available online for £207 (around $325, AU$380) including VAT. That's very little money for an awful lot of features.
The MFC-L2740DW can print, copy, scan and fax, offers double-sided printing, connects via USB, Ethernet or WLAN, and has 64MB of on-board memory. It delivers speeds of up to 30 ppm (pages per minute), has a 250-sheet paper tray, a 35-sheet automatic document feeder and a single-sheet media tray. It also supports GDI emulation, PCL6 and BR Script 3 and is operated by a 6.8cm touchscreen.
The device looks really ugly in photographs – if Darth Vader had laser printers on the Death Star, we suspect they'd look rather like the MFC-L2740DW – but it's less frightening in the flesh, although it's never going to win a beauty pageant. Then again, you don't buy business printers on the basis of their looks.
Controls are kept to a minimum: in addition to the touchscreen there's a power button and hidden illuminated Home and Back buttons.
Once installed the driver gives you a range of print options including toner save mode, the ability to reduce paper curl, and to select the print output quality (600dpi is the default but you can choose 300dpi or the HQ1200 mode, which delivers up to 2,400 x 600 dpi). There's also the option of printing double-sided. The printer provides PIN-protected Secure Print as well, which won't produce the document without the PIN you specify.
Setting up the printer's wireless functions is simple enough, if a bit fiddly on the touchscreen – it's just a matter of choosing the network and entering the password, or using Wi-Fi direct.
The Web section enables you to use one or more cloud services including OneNote, OneDrive, Brother's own BR-Docs, Box, Google Drive, Evernote, Dropbox, Facebook, Picasa and Flickr. Enabling these services requires a trip to the Brother website to use the Brother Web Connect service, which provides a temporary (24-hour) 11-digit ID that you enter in the printer to access your chosen cloud service. It's fiddly unless you have small fingers, but it isn't as fiddly as trying to enter normal usernames and passwords would be. You can also PIN-protect cloud access on a per-service basis.
Once you've connected the appropriate cloud service you can both upload (by scanning) and download (by printing). We successfully printed Office documents, PDFs and images with no problems.
The MFC-L2740DW takes a while to get going – on a wireless connection sending a single page letter took 13 seconds from hitting print to seeing it in the out tray – but once it's running it chomps through print jobs at a claimed 30 ppm. In our tests we achieved 29 ppm, which is close enough. Scanning and copying are quick too: an A4 scan took seven seconds from start to finish.
Like the other printers in the range, the MFC-L2740DW produces crisp, sharp text, images without obvious banding and decent blacks, although if you opt for the toner saving mode the output may seem a little light. Printing and scanning are reasonably quiet, and aggressive energy saving cuts the power after a short idle, resuming instantly when you send a print job.
Like its smaller, cheaper siblings the MFC-L2740DW can use Brother's high capacity TN-2320 toner cartridge, which delivers 2,600 pages at the standard 5% coverage. Prices vary widely: at the time of writing the cheapest genuine Brother cartridges we could find were £47 (around $75, AU$85) and the most expensive £79 (around $125, AU$145). That works out at 1.7p per page and 3.0p per page respectively. The printer can also use low capacity TN-2310 cartridges, which average £35 (around $55, AU$65) for 1,200 pages (2.9p per page). Don't forget the double-sided printing capability too – if you set that as a default it should cut your paper bills considerably.
The printer's drum unit (DR-2300) has an expected lifespan of 12,000 pages and an average price of £52 (around $80, AU$95), which works out at 0.4p per page.