The HL-3140CW may not be the most exciting product we've ever reviewed, but it does represent a tidy conglomerate of many of the features and figures that rate highly in the current world of sub-£150 colour lasers. It starts as it means to go on, teaming well-sized dimensions with an inoffensive colour scheme that combines cream and grey to discreet office-friendly effect.
The control panel is standard laser-fare, with a simple text LCD and four button navigation process letting you run through the useful menu options without much faffing. The SecurePrint button is a nice touch, allowing the Brother to hold confidential files, and then print them only when the recipient is physically by the HL-3140CW and ready to receive them.
Sub-£150 models are often hampered by poor paper handling - when you have speed and performance at your fingertips, it seems a shame to compromise that by forcing you to refill the printer every few minutes. However, the HL-3140CW's 105gsm 250-sheet input tray (along with a one-sheet manual feed) is substantial and long-lasting, ensuring you can get the full convenience from the laser technology. Or, to be precise, LED technology, as the Brother uses LEDs rather than lasers to construct the image. It works just like a laser, but the LED technology does allow Brother to cut costs slightly.
The 64MB of memory isn't vast, although it's not inadequate, and the Brother will be able to handle decent-sized office loads. One potential hitch is the lack of wired ethernet - many offices use ethernet as the main network, so a number of otherwise interested companies will be deterred by this faintly surprising omission. Not that you're without networking, and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi is fully supported. Indeed, connectivity is otherwise very good, with cloud support offered through the wireless networking, and additional features letting you hook up to smartphones and mobile technology - our Android connection worked beautifully.
In printing, the Brother got very close to its stated speed of 18 pages per minute, turning out 15.9 pages - this was just 0.1ppm faster than the Oki C110 that has been such a chart-stalwart. However, the HL-3140CW is much better equipped than that machine to handle high volume colour, putting out 8.6ppm - a vast improvement over the Oki's 2.5ppm. Brother models don't always have the most vibrant of output, but we very much liked the dark and sharp text pages churned out at speed by the HL-3140CW.
Colour too, is very good at this level. Inkjets remain the best choice for truly glorious colour at the sub-£150 price point, but the HL-3140CW's output is still invigorating and faithful to the subject matter. Faint banding slightly mars the effect, but overall we were impressed with the quality. One feature we did miss was auto-duplexing - given the high speed of this model, a good duplexing feature would have been the cherry on the cake.
If there is one thing that stops the Brother from being a searing buy, it's the colour consumables. There isn't a high yield version of the black toner, but this doesn't prevent the Brother from offering a very reasonable 2.3p a page for mono text. Indeed, in this respect, it's very much ahead of the competition - our sub-£150 mono lasers can't get down to this level. Colour, though, is another matter. Even with high yield toner, the costs come to 11.1p a page. This is pretty eye-watering, and makes it one of the more expensive colour models we've seen in the last twelve months.
The Brother is almost an exceptional machine. The colour is well-produced and fast, but it is rather expensive in terms of running costs, so you may want to use colour less frequently. Black text is strong for the level, and running costs and performance are good here. Auto duplexing would have made it better, and we suspect a few offices will miss the presence of ethernet - although Wi-Fi and good connectivity otherwise offers compensation. For the user whose needs are compatible with the Brother's strengths, this is a fantastic buy.