Only slightly more expensive than the Brother HL-3140CW that I recently reviewed, the Brother HL-3170CDW offers a lot more for the small step up in price. Like the HL-3140CW, it delivers fast speed, a paper input capacity suitable for a typical micro or small office, and Wi-Fi Direct for easy printing directly from smartphones and tablets. It also adds both duplexing (for printing on both sides of a page) and an Ethernet connector. The combination makes it a much better fit as a shared printer in a micro office or small workgroup.
Of course, if you never print documents on both sides of a page, having a duplexer won’t matter. But with a shared printer on the other side of the office, automatic duplexing is a lot easier than doing it manually. And although both Brother printers can connect to a network by Wi-Fi, the HL-3170CDW’s Ethernet connector lets you connect without a Wi-Fi access point on the network. That lets you both share the printer and take advantage of its support for printing through the cloud, without having to worry about Wi-Fi related security issues.
In many ways the HL-3170CDW is a slightly faster, more capable variation on the HL-3140CW, starting with its being built around a similar LED engine. (LED printers work just like lasers except that they use LEDs instead of a laser to draw the image of each page on a photosensitive drum.) It’s also the same size, at 9.5 by 16.1 by 18.3 inches (HWD), but a touch heavier, presumably because of the duplexer, at 39.0 pounds. It’s the size and weight, more than anything else, that makes the printer more appropriate for a micro or small office or workgroup than for a home office.
In addition to the duplexer, the HL-3170CDW offers a 250-sheet drawer for paper handling plus a 1-sheet manual feed. This should be enough for most micro and small offices, but if you need more, you’ll need a different printer, since there aren’t any paper handling upgrade options.
Setup and Speed
Setting up the HL-3170CDW on a network was absolutely standard. For my tests, I connected it using the Ethernet port and installed the drivers on a Windows Vista system. As with the HL-3140CW, the speed is a strong point.
Brother rates the printer at 23 pages per minute (ppm), which is a bit faster than the rating for the HL-3140CW. In both cases, the rated speed is what you should see when printing text documents or other files that need little to no processing. On our tests, however, there wasn’t much of a difference.
On our business applications suite, (using QualityLogic’s hardware and software for timing) the HL-3170CDW came in at 6.8 pages per minute (ppm). That translates to a statistical tie with the HL-3140CW, at 6.7 ppm. As another point of reference, however, it’s significantly faster than the Editors’ Choice Samsung CLP-415NW, at 6.0 ppm.
Output Quality and Other Issues
Output quality is the one area that drags down the HL-3170CDW’s overall score, with par quality graphics, but sub-par text and photos. The good news for the text quality is that even though it’s well below par, it’s still better than the worst text I’ve seen printed by color lasers and LEDs, and even the worst isn’t all that bad. Unless you need a printer with text suitable for high-quality desktop publishing or you have an unusual need for small fonts, you shouldn’t have a problem with the text.
Par quality for graphics translates to output in my tests that was more than good enough for any internal business need, and potentially good enough for PowerPoint handouts and the like, depending on how critical an eye you have.
Photo quality, unfortunately, is not only below par, it’s in the same range as what I expect to see from a mono laser. The quality is good enough to print recognizable images from Web pages, but I wouldn’t use it for anything more demanding than that.
Despite the shortcomings in output quality, and particularly photo quality, the Brother HL-3170CDW offers a lot to like, with fast speed, good paper handling, and support for mobile printing, including printing through the cloud. If the photo quality were even a little better, it would be a potential contender for Editors’ Choice. As it is, if output quality is a key concern, you’ll probably prefer the Samsung CLP-415NW, with better-looking output across the board. If reasonably good text and graphics is all you need, however, and you don’t much care about photos, the Brother HL-3170CDW can be a good fit.
|Direct Printing from Cameras||No|
|Maximum Standard Paper Size||Legal|
|Rated Speed at Default Settings (Mono)||23 ppm|
|Rated Speed at Default Settings (Color)||23 ppm|
|Color or Monochrome||1-pass color|
|Technology (for laser category only)||LED|
|Connection Type||USB, Ethernet, Wireless|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc