When it comes to producing great-value laser printers, it seems that, at least in this group test, Brother can’t be surpassed. Its HL-5240 walked off with the award for best budget mono laser, and its colour sibling – the HL-4040CN – is just as good.
It isn’t the cheapest machine: $556 places it firmly in the middle of the pack, but you do get an awful lot for your money. As well as high-resolution (2,400 x 600dpi) colour printing, this printer has network connectivity with a built-in web server for monitoring consumables and changing settings remotely. It also has a tilting LCD screen, allowing quick diagnosis of network problems, and a USB socket on the front panel, which lets you print documents and images directly from a thumb drive without having to use a PC or laptop.
But it isn’t just features this printer has in abundance. It’s also very quick – quicker in fact than every other colour printer in this group: in our tests, it delivered 50 colour pages in a mere 2mins 43secs, just one second slower than it produced 50 pages of mono text. It’s even more impressive when dealing with more complex pages, producing the photo-montage test from Photoshop in the quickest time of 48 seconds.
Running costs are good, too. Not only is there a generous allocation of toner out of the box – 2,500 mono pages and 1,500 colour pages – but our analysis shows that the longer you own this printer, the cheaper it becomes. Overall, it’s the cheapest to run in this section.
It isn’t quite perfect, though. In terms of output quality, we found that colour accuracy using the default settings wasn’t very good: flesh tones looked yellow, and other colours were washed out. It isn’t poor, though, by any means and good scores for text quality and detail meant it was still among the better colour machines on test. If speed and low running costs are your main priorities, the Brother is the natural choice.