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Brother’s new LED colour printer, HL-3040CN, shines at secure printing but not so much on Total Cost of Printing

Issue #0935/1 – In wanting to follow up on the previous article, which focused on ultra-low-end colour laser printers (), and look at the low end of the business colour laser market, it turned out that there are any number of different ways of cutting the market and still ending up with a group of devices that can be considered to be competitive. We look at a group of low-end colour printers that are based on single-pass technology, offering around 16ppm print speed, and are network-ready out of the box.

Because the intention was to consider machines suited to general office use, every model in the selection had to be network-ready out of the box but did not necessarily have to have built-in page processing capability. In other words, they could be host-based rather than featuring PCL or PostScript.

Perhaps the area of greatest uncertainties was whether to allow four-pass machines to sit alongside single-pass and at what point to determine that print speed is mismatched.

Brother HL-3040CNBrother HL-3040CN

One of the key machines we wanted to include was Brother’s new HL-3040CN because it is a first for Brother in that it is built on LED technology rather than Laser technology. This approach has two major implications. Firstly, an LED-based machine costs less to build than a laser-based machine and, secondly, LED arrays are inherently more reliable than a Laser scanning assembly because there are no moving parts in the LED array.

However, there are only five other printers that provide a close direct comparison – and this includes two models from one manufacturer! Ricoh’s SP C220N is the most direct match, being host-based and also being a 16/16ppm print engine like the Brother HL-3040CN. Oki’s C3450n has the same 16ppm colour print speed but a faster mono print speed, at 20ppm. Similarly, Xerox’s Phaser 6140n is also a close match, having an 18ppm colour print speed and a 20ppm mono print speed. With one machine printing 16ppm in mono (but 12ppm colour print speed) and another printing 16ppm in colour (and 20ppm in mono), Dell straddles the HL-3040CN with the 1320cn and 2130cn.

  Purchase Price
(Median Street Price)
Print speed
(mono/colour)
Brother
HL-3040CN
€263.35 16/16 ppm
Dell
1320c network
€199.00 16/12 ppm
Dell
2130cn
€289.00 20/16 ppm
Oki
C3450n
€288.95 20/16 ppm
Ricoh
SP C220N
€178.05 16/16 ppm
Xerox
Phaser 1640n
€233.35 20/18 ppm

Hardware Purchase Price

Low-End, Single-Pass, Networked Colour Laser Printers


Widening the scope, there is then a group of four-pass printers with mono print speeds ranging between 16ppm and 25ppm but with colour print speed of only 4ppm or 5ppm. Although some fall in a similar price bracket to the HL-3040CN, there are others that cost a great deal less to buy.

Also slower when printing in colour (and in mono) are the 12/8ppm single-pass printers from Canon and Hewlett-Packard that, based on colour print speed, seem to be rather too slow to compare directly. Moving in the other direction, we then find printers that have mono and colour print speeds in the 20ppm to 24ppm range but where purchase price can easily be comparable to the HL-3040CN – while others are significantly more expensive to buy because they are in a completely different league (e.g. Kyocera FS-C5100N).

The table and chart below shows how these printers from other manufacturers straddle the Brother HL-3040CN in terms of both print speed and purchase price (Median street price, sourced in Germany).

  Purchase Price
(Median Street Price)
Print speed
(mono/colour)
Canon
LBP 5050n
€190.50 12/8 ppm
Samsung
CLP-310N/315N
€195.90 16/4 ppm
Lexmark
C540n
€238.87 20/20 ppm
Hewlett-Packard
Colour LaserJet CP1515n
€242.19 12/8 ppm
Konica Minolta
magilcolor 1650EN
€246.12 20/5 ppm
Samsung
CLP-610ND
€256.12 20/20 ppm
Brother
HL-3040CN
€263.35 16/16 ppm
Epson
AcuLaser C2800N
€372.25 25/20 ppm
Epson
AcuLaser C1100N
€373.81 25/5 ppm
Hewlett-Packard
Colour LaserJet CP2025n
€379.00 20/20 ppm
Konica Minolta
magicolor 4650EN
€430.84 24/24 ppm
Kyocera
FS-C5100N
€451.01 21/21 ppm
Canon
LBP 7200cdn
€462.90 20/20 ppm

Hardware Purchase Price

Single-Pass, Networked Colour Laser Printers

So, as indicated, the models selected for comparison are those that offer around 16ppm print speed, in either mono or colour, from a single-pass engine. In addition, they are all 10/100 Ethernet-ready out of the box – a basic requirement for businesses operating more than one computer.

This does eliminate printers like Lexmark’s C540n and Samsung’s CLP-610ND, which are both faster and cost less to buy than the HL-3040CN, and could easily prove to be less costly to run in the long term. However, with a colour print speed that is becoming significantly higher than the HL-3040CN, they are not included for the purposes of this particular comparison.

Dell 1320cDell 1320c

In terms of specification and features presented to users, there is relatively little to differentiate the selected printers. With Brother’s HL-3040cn running at 16ppm in both mono and colour (together with Ricoh’s SP C220N), Dell’s 1320c is the one machine that is slower, offering just 12ppm in colour on top of 16ppm in mono. All of the other machines offer a slightly higher 20ppm in mono but with colour print speeds largely in line with the HL-3040CN. In the case of the Xerox Phaser 6140n though, the colour print speed is a little higher, at 18ppm.

Xerox Phaser 6140nXerox Phaser 6140n

This means that the highest performance comes from the Xerox and the lowest from Dell’s 1320c but that the majority of the competing models are largely level-pegging.

Also very much standard between models is paper handling capabilities. Although two, Dell 2130cn and Phaser 6140n, have the ability to accept a second 250-sheet paper feed, the basic paper capacity of all machines is 250 sheets. The same two printers (not surprisingly because they are built on the same Fuji Xerox engine) offer auto-duplex units as options and PCL 6 emulation.

Dell 2130cnDell 2130cn

Fuji Xerox has reserved the slightly higher colour print speed for the Xerox branded model, which also adds Adobe PostScript and allows manual duplexing from the basic model. Most of the other machines also allow manual duplexing but Dell des not specify one way or the other for the 2130cn.

Putting these factors together, the primary differences between models in the group are the ability of the Fuji Xerox engine to: handle PCL, all others being host-based; accept a second paper feed; offer that little extra print speed; and to handle a higher maximum monthly page volume if required.

Brother
HL-3040CN
Print speed
Languages
Paper input
Max paper input
Duplex
Supplies
Shipping supplies
Duty cycle
16/16 ppm
Host-based
250 sheets
250 sheets
Manual
K – 2,200 pages; C, M, Y – 1,400 pages
K, C, M, Y – 1,000 pages
15K pages per month
Dell
1320c network
Print speed
Languages
Paper input
Max paper input
Duplex
Supplies
Shipping supplies
Duty cycle
16/12 ppm
Host-based
250 sheets
250 sheets
Manual
K, C, M, Y – 2,000 pages
K, C, M, Y – 1,000 pages
35K pages per month
Dell
2130cn
Print speed
Languages
Paper input
Max paper input
Duplex
Supplies
Shipping supplies
Duty cycle
20/16 ppm
PCL 5e/6 emulation
250 sheets
500 sheets
Optional auto-duplex unit
K, C, M, Y – 2,500 pages
K – 2,500 pages; C, M, Y – 1,500 pages
40K pages per month
Oki
C3450n
Print speed
Languages
Paper input
Max paper input
Duplex
Supplies
Shipping supplies
Duty cycle
 
20/16 ppm
Host-based
250 sheets
250 sheets
Manual
K, C, M, Y – 2,500 pages
K, C, M, Y – 500 pages
35K pages per month
Average 500-2,500 pages per month
Ricoh
SP C220N
Print speed
Languages
Paper input
Max paper input
Duplex
Supplies
Shipping supplies
Duty cycle
16/16 ppm
Host-based
250 sheets
250 sheets
No
K, C, M, Y – 2,000 pages
K, C, M, Y – 1,000 pages
Max 30K pages per month
Xerox
Phaser 6140n
Print speed
Languages
Paper input
Max paper input
Duplex
 
Supplies
Shipping supplies
Duty cycle
 
20/18 ppm
PCL 6 emulation, Adobe PS3
250 sheets
500 sheets
Manual
Optional auto-duplex unit
K – 2,600 pages; C, M, Y – 2,000 pages
K – 1,000 pages; C, M, Y – 1,000 pages
Max 40K pages per month
Recommended 2,500 pages per month

It is when we look at supplies capacity (colour toners) that we find significant differences. While all of the black toners involved deliver at least 2,000 pages per high capacity cartridge, and up to 2,600 pages (Xerox Phaser 6140n), colour toner capacity ranges from 2,500 pages per high capacity cartridge (Dell 2130cn and Oki C3450n) to just 1,400 pages (Brother HL-3040CN). In fact, Brother’s HL-3040CN is the only printer to have a colour toner capacity of less than 2,000 pages.

In fact, this rather summarises the positioning of the Brother printer. It is a low-end device designed to push Brother’s presence in the colour market down to an entry level for small businesses. It does not, however, go far enough to hit the ultra low-end of the market but does help to fill the space between Brother’s extensive ink jet range and the very effective 20/20ppm colour laser devices (HL-40×0 and MFC-9000 series).

Having said that, despite its low mechanical specification Brother has added some features into the HL-3040CN (and the wireless-ready HL-3070CW) that are more typically found in more highly specified machines. The most significant of these has to be secure printing and SSL printing – as described in .

Although secure printing is not a unique feature by any means (mainly in MFPs though), to find it on such a low-cost device, especially a printer, is highly unusual. What is completely unique at this point in time is the SSL printing feature, introduced by Brother in 2007 and being rolled out across most of its range of laser devices. This encrypts the printing data stream so that print jobs cannot be intercepted by hackers during transmission from the computer to printer. No other printer manufacturer currently offers SSL printing in office desktop printers.

This one feature sets this printer apart as highly desirable for any environment where information sensitivity is an issue. By combining the two features, any printed document can be deemed to be totally secure: a) because it cannot be hacked while being sent from computer to printer and; b) because it cannot be viewed by an unauthorised party because it is only physically printed when the document owner enters the necessary security code on the printer’s control panel.

Other features found on the HL-3040CN that would normally be associated with higher-level machines include: n-up printing; poster printing; booklet printing using manual duplex feature; and Linux printer driver (Xerox’s Phaser 6140n is the only printer in this group to offer Linux compatibility).

Where Brother does come slightly unstuck with the HL-3040CN is that its supplies are on the costly side, pushing nominal CPPs above the levels of all the other printers in the group. So, with a hardware purchase price that is also at the high end, long-term Total Cost of Printing with the HL-3040CN is never going to be a low-cost option.

Ricoh SP C220NRicoh SP C220N

Also at the high end of the cost scale is Ricoh’s SP C220N. What is worrying about this model is that it costs least to buy but works out second most expensive in the long run simply because its toners are expensive. With Brother’s nominal CPP in both mono and colour actually being higher than the nominal CPP from Ricoh, one would have expected the overall cost of the Brother to be higher, given its high purchase price. But, the HL-3040CN has a nominal CPP that is, if anything, artificially high – caused by the presence of separate drum and belt units that won’t need to be replaced by many users, thus keeping the actual Total Cost of Printing down. By contrast, Ricoh does not have these extra items, just the very expensive toners!

Total Cost of Printing

Low-End, Single-Pass, Networked Colour Laser Printers


With almost identical nominal CPP and overall Total Cost of Printing (at 500 pages per month), the Dell 1320c, Oki C3450n and Xerox Phaser 6140n rather set the benchmark in this group.

Oki C3450NOki C3450N

Users looking for a low cost entry to colour printing will find a more attractive option in the Dell 1320c, with its purchase price that is only a fraction higher than the Ricoh SP C220N, than in the Oki C3450n, which has the joint highest purchase price along with Dell’s 2130cn. In Dell’s case, the high purchase price is justified by its high specification whereas the Oki’s is not. It is Xerox’s Phaser 6140n that combines high specification with middle-of-the-road purchase price and also middle-of-the-road Total Cost of Printing.

Without doubt it is Dell’s 2130cn that takes the ‘low-cost’ title here and positions itself as the best value for money because it has a high specification (not quite as good as the Xerox) but also has a low long-term CPP, despite its high initial purchase price.

Total Cost of Printing

Low-End, Single-Pass, Networked Colour Laser Printers


Once we look at the overall situation across a range of monthly page volumes, we find that the Dell 3120cn is indeed the best value regardless of the volume of paper put through it. At one point it is as much as 17% cheaper to run than the nearest competitor and 33% cheaper than the most expensive printer (Oki C3450n at 300 pages per month and Brother HL-3040CN at the higher end of the volume range).

Where Brother’s HL-3040CN does begin to come into its own, on the long-term costing front, is at very low monthly page volumes (less than 250 ages per month), especially where security is an issue.

So, a purchase decision depends very much on what individual needs are involved, immediate out-of-pocket budget and long-term budgetary goals. For:

  • Lowest capital entry – Ricoh SPC220N
  • Low capital entry with middle-of-the-road long-term Total Cost of Printing – Dell 1320c
  • Lowest long-term Total Cost of Printing with high specification and performance – Dell 2130cn
  • Highest specification and performance with middle-of-the-road entry cost and long-term Total Cost of Printing – Xerox Phaser 6140n
  • High security environment, with high level of printing features, and where print volumes are low – Brother HL-3040CN

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