This modest grey box prints at high speed and can hold enough paper and toner to keep a small office running smoothly. Add some extra paper cassettes and it will serve a larger workgroup just as efficiently.
Impressive print speed
Many upgrade options
Toner for 12,000 pages in box
NFC for touch-to-print
No front USB host port
Quite noisy in operation
Images appear dark
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The Brother HL-L6400DW is a compact mono laser printer with a very fast print speed and a high capacity for paper and toner. It’s a high volume print-only device aimed at the busy small office, but with all the upgrade options, it could easily grow with your business to support quite a large workgroup. At £587 (around US$780 or AU$1,081) it may seem expensive for an A4-sized black and white printer, but it comes with some impressive specifications and a generous amount of toner, enough for 1,200 pages in fact. And the price we have quoted here, which includes tax, is the one from Brother’s own website and you can find this model selling for considerably less elsewhere.
At a claimed 50ppm (pages per minute), it’s even faster than it’s little brother, the Brother HL-L5100DN and not much slower than the more expensive Kyocera Ecosys P3155dn. With plenty of accessories and expansion units to support it, inbuilt NFC for secure pull printing and a very economical operating cost it certainly looks promising on paper. So let’s load some and see how it actually performs.
Design and build
The pale grey plastic helps this unobtrusive printer blend into the background when not in use, as any good printer should. It is quite small, given the deep paper tray, and it feels sturdy and well put together. The controls are located on top where the left side bulges out a little. It has a tilting touchscreen interface, which is quickly becoming an essential feature for any upmarket printer, although we have to say that this is probably the smallest touchscreen we have ever come across.
The front flap folds down to reveal the multi-purpose tray, which is where you can load envelopes, labels and up to fifty sheets of paper. The whole front panel behind it hinges open to reveal the toner cartridge inside.
At the rear are connections for a gigabit Ethernet cable and a USB data cable (not included). There’s also an access flap at the rear to pull out any trapped paper — not that we experienced any paper jams during the test.
Features and specifications
Here are the full specs of the Brother HL-L6400DW:
Type: Mono laser printer
Consumables included: Black toner for 12,000 pages
Connectivity: USB, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, NFC
Data storage slots: none
Print speed: 50 ppm
Paper capacity: 570 sheets
Print quality: 1,200 x 1,200 dpi
Scan quality: NA
Apple AirPrint: yes
Google Cloud Print: yes
Dimensions/Weight: 400 x 396 x 288 mm (WxHxD)/13.4kg
The Brother HL-L6400DW data-sheet compares favourably with other mono printers at this price point. It can auto duplex of course, and Wi-Fi is built in, allowing you to access it from a mobile device using Brother’s companion app for iOS and Android. This makes printing from the cloud very easy. It also has an NFC touch-to-connect sensor which is more unusual and potentially very useful. With NFC touch-to-print you have a secure way of pulling down sensitive print jobs at the printer, just by touching it with your NFC-enabled smartphone.
50ppm is an impressive print rate by any standards and with room for 570 sheets of A4 paper (520 in the main tray + 50 in the multi-purpose tray), it’s one of the more capacious compact printers around. The setup cartridge contains enough toner for 1,200 prints, which is particularly generous, and when you’re ready to replace it, Brother’s ultra high-yield cartridges can mange a whopping 20,000 pages.
There are other printers that can hold 570 sheets of paper, but the Brother HL-L6400DW has more upgrade options than most. You can add drawer units that boost the capacity by 250-sheets, or 520-sheets, or a stand that adds four draws and a stabiliser giving you a total paper capacity up to 2,650 sheets. There’s a four-shelf mail-sorter and staggerer available too. This is a printer that fits into a small office, but one that can also grow with your business.
Setup and operation
To get started, you’ll need to first remove all the transport packaging, and that means extracting the toner cartridge from behind the front flap. This is fairly straight-forward and the quick setup guide is very clear and helpful.
The rest of the installation can be done using the touchscreen interface. This is all fine, except that the tiny screen makes inputting your Wi-Fi password rather fiddly. It took us multiple attempts.
The Brother HL-L6400DW is easy to use and quite quick to respond. The first page out time is prompt and consecutive duplex are thrust into the out tray at a remarkable rate. Our measurements concur well enough with Brother’s quoted 50ppm figure for simplex printing. In duplex mode, however, that rate drops to just below half ( around 24ppm). It is also rather noisy in operation, but at least it is silent in standby.
As well as printing quickly, the Brother HL-L6400DW also prints particularly well. All of our test pages appeared crisp and sharp with very fine detail clearly visible. Pages of text look bold with each character well contained and delineated, even at point sizes that call for a magnifying glass for inspection.
Black and white photos benefit from this attention to detail and the Brother HL-L6400DW is very good at revealing nuances missed by similarly priced laser printers. But that’s not to say we would recommending it as a photo printer. Like all lasers, it suffers from banding (where gradual shading changes in steps) and you can make out unwanted horizontal lines in the image. It also has a tendency to make photos look too dark when you’re using the 1,200dpi setting.
At the setup stage you can chose 1,200 x 1,200dpi rather than the default 600 x 600dpi, which gives superior print quality, but will also slow you down slightly. On this machine, it takes quite a few button presses to toggle between the two and we would recommend the higher setting.
This unobtrusive pale grey printer is something of star when it comes to churning out crisp bold pages at 50ppm. It’s worth noting that the duplex speed is only 24ppm, but that’s still pretty fast and the high capacity for paper and toner means that the Brother HL-L6400DW will be able to keep up with a very high workload. The inclusion or a touchscreen interface, NFC connectivity and 1,200 pages worth of toner all go to justifying that premium price tag.
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Jim is a seasoned expert when it comes to testing tech. From playing a prototype PlayStation One to meeting a man called Steve about a new kind of phone in 2007, he’s always hunting the next big thing at the bleeding edge of the electronics industry. After editing the tech section of Wired UK magazine, he is currently specialising in IT and voyaging in his VW camper van.