The first half year of 2011 has already given us a number of ravishing mono laser printers costing in the region of £80 to £120. Joining the likes of the Samsung ML-1865W and the Epson AccuLaser M2300D comes this efficient and trouble-free text churner from Brother, the Brother HL-2130.
In looks, it certainly nods less towards the chic design of the Samsung, and more towards the chunky and functional appearance of the Epson. Low in height, it measures a mere 183mm from bottom to top. Otherwise, it looks remarkably like a more compact version of Brother’s standard range. Grey and adorned with a number of unsightly labels, it does at least seem fairly robust, and few users would take it for a sub-£90 model.
The design of the Brother HL-2130 is relatively simple, but this does make it very straightforward to service. The combined toner and drum unit can be replaced within seconds, and we were able to have the entire printer set up and installed in less than five minutes.
Paper is fed into the substantial 250 sheet tray built into the base of the Brother HL-2130 before dropping neatly into the recess at the top of the printer. In contrast, the Samsung can take only 150 sheets, while the Epson marginally exceeds the Brother’s capabilities.
The Brother HL-2130’s output tray can take 100 sheets before overflowing, which should be sufficient for most tasks. It’s also relatively discreet, making far less noise than the Epson, for instance.
You don’t get much in the way of features. The only method of connection is through the USB port, there’s no provision for wired or wireless networking, and there are no memory card slots nor auto-duplex facilities built-in.
Should you want auto-duplexing, you’ll have to stump out an extra £30 for the Brother HL-2240D. The paucity of features places it slightly behind the Samsung (which does have Wi-Fi), and the Epson with its auto-duplexing, although to be fair the Epson does cost around £30 more.
However, as a basic printer the Brother HL-2130 is fine. And its software drivers cover a good range of platforms, taking in generic PCL as well as Linux.
Crucially, the Brother HL-2130 prints well, at least in text. In its fastest 300dpi mode, it hit an average speed of 16.7 pages per minute (ppm) during testing.
Admittedly the output was a touch fuzzy, if pleasingly dark. However, the 600dpi mode drops the speed to a still impressive 15.8ppm, and the output here is clean and crisp, able to accurately reproduce lettering down to a font size of just 2pt.
The HQ 1200dpi mode of the Brother HL-2130 adds little, although it also takes no longer than the 600dpi mode. Producing stronger text overall than the Samsung, it’s also a good match for the more expensive Epson M2300D.
Graphics output isn’t such a triumph though, with the Brother HL-2130 rather lacklustre when it comes to photos. The range of shades lack distinction, and it was hard to discern fine detail in photographs.
In fairness to the Brother HL-2130, this is a mono laser, and you wouldn’t expect to buy it for printing photographs. It’s certainly adequate for office presentations and the like, but the Samsung is a better model if you want to be able to produce the odd black and white photo print as well.
One of the disadvantages of buying a laser printer at this price point is that you have to pay more in the long term to keep it stocked with consumables.
The Brother HL-2130 is typical here, and its running costs work out at around 3p for a page of text. But while this doesn’t look good when set against more expensive models like the £174 Kyocera Mita FS-1320D with its 1.4p a page costs, 3p isn’t too pricey for a sub-£150 model.
Indeed, it’s still considerably cheaper than the Epson’s 3.2p a page, and roughly the same as the Samsung’s 3p. And even the £135 Oki costs around 3.6p. Given those comparisons, the Brother HL-2130 fares pretty well on operating costs.
The Brother HL-2130 isn’t rich in features, and its ability to print graphics is limited. However, if you’re after a straightforward text-churner, the Brother is fast and extremely effective. Given that it’s available on the street for not much more than £80, that makes it a very impressive deal.