Gone may be the days when you couldn't find a laser printers for much under £300. Even so, the £59 Brother HL-1110 looks astonishingly affordable even by today’s standards.
That's doubly so given that the latter is actually a rather smart little device. Very little, in fact, and it boasts a space-saving design that gobbles up only a modest amount of your deskspace. When the printer isn't in use, its footprint is sufficiently modest to allow it to fit onto a shelf.
Input and output trays can be quickly pulled out and dropped into place in a clever design that brings to mind those craftily-conceived compact BA in-flight meal packs. Luckily, the Brother HL-1110 packs rather more bite, and the input tray can hold up to 150 sheets – a not insubstantial amount for a modestly-priced model.
What you do miss out on are added features. The Brother's rather spartan exterior – a brace of LEDs and a power button are the only adornments – is no deception, and there isn't really a great deal to the HL-1110 other than reliable printing.
The USB 2.0 port is the sole connection, so there are no wireless or ethernet interfaces. Given the low price, businesses could afford to buy several of these models, and have them connected directly to machines rather than through a network. Neither is there support for USB drives or memory cards. When it comes to features, then, the HL-1110 feels a little as though it has stepped through a time warp.
Provided all you want is reliable printing, though, that's unlikely to be an issue. The HL-1110's clever design aims to keep paper jams down, and we experienced no problems while testing this model. That's quite an important consideration if you're looking at this price level, as some of the sub-£100 competitors have shoddy mechanisms that end up churning workloads.
Admittedly, the monthly suggested print volume only stretches to 250 to 1800 pages, so you won't be wanting to use this model for sizeable jobs. For capable everyday prints, though, it makes a lot of sense.
Noise can be an issue as well, and this is one of the loudest models we've tested recently. In a noisy office situation, though, that's less likely to be a concern of the finance officer.
The speed is fairly good, and we achieved 16.4 pages per minute in real-world testing. This made it slightly faster than the (now discontinued) Pantum P2050. Surprisingly, it also placed it marginally ahead of Brother's own HL-3140CW.
The 600 dpi resolution is adequate, and text characters are surprisingly well-rendered, with plenty of depth and relatively crisp lines. It's maybe not so good for graphics, lacking a versatile palette, and with imperfect rendering of blocks and shading.
The 1 MB memory would also be a bar to anything too complex. However, as an occasional text-churner, the Brother will be both fast and effective.
There's no auto-duplex, so you can't save paper costs here. In fact, the Brother is slightly expensive to run. There's only one choice of toner, and that offers 1000 sheets at a cost of around 2.7p a page. That makes it more expensive to run than, for instance, the HL-3140CW, at 2.3p a page, or the Pantum, at 2.4p a page. Nonetheless, the running costs are by no means extortionate, especially given the low purchase cost.
You aren't going to be using the Brother for massive quantities of printing. Neither is it overladen with features. But for the occasional text print job, it'll prove a very willing accomplice. You're getting a very reliable model for an extremely low price point, and that makes it a highly commendable no-frills choice.