Introduction, Design Features
Often, printer makers release incremental versions of a product with different feature sets (sometimes very different), but with small differences in price. In those cases, you have the potential to get a great bargain if you spend just a little more—or, conversely, you can give up a lot in trying to save just a little bit of cash.
Such is the conundrum presented by today’s review subject, the $349.99-list Brother HL-L8260CDW (and its $399.99-list sibling, the Brother HL-L8360CDW). The printers have MSRPs/list prices that are $50 apart, and depending on the online seller, real-world selling prices that were between $50 and $75 apart at this writing.
Now, $50 to $75 is a fair bit of money, in a relative sense, when you are talking about a $350 product. But what you give up for that money, in this specific equation, is substantial. (In addition, the more a printer costs, the less relevant $50 or $75 is.)
It’s situations like these, where, by dissipating the marketing smokescreen, as analysts we can help you in your role as IT decision-maker for your home office or small business—or in your everyday life. If, that is, we do our job correctly. And here, with confidence we think the extra money for the HL-L8360CDW, for most buyers, will be money well-spent.
The HL-L8260CDW is part of a multi-product launch of Brother laser printers in mid-2017, with this model being the lowest-end of the bunch. One step up from an actual entry-level color laser, such as the Canon ImageClass LBP612CdwHP Color LaserJet Pro M452dw. Both models come with higher input capacities, higher monthly duty cycles (the number of pages that the manufacturer says you can print each month without overtaxing the printer), and input-tray expansion options that the entry-level models don’t offer.
The next model up from the HL-L8260CDW, the HL-L8360CDW, has a higher-still duty cycle (60,000 pages, versus 40,000), greater input-capacity expansion (1,300 versus 1,050 sheets), and access to higher-yield toner cartridges. The last, in turn, deliver lower running costs. In fact, the HL-L8360CDW has one of the lowest costs per page for a color laser in this price range that we know of. In contrast, the HL-L8260CDW’s running costs are, as we’ll detail later, closer to average for this class.
Even so, the HL-L8260CDW is a fine printer on all fronts, including print speed and output quality. You could choose it over its higher-capacity, more expensive sibling, of course, if you know for certain that you’d never need its expanded input capacity, higher duty cycle, and access to higher-yield toner cartridges. That said, it’s tough to get past the higher-yield model’s lower running costs—especially if you’ll be printing thousands of pages each month. (And if you’re not, either of these printers is overkill.)
At 12.3 inches tall by 17.4 inches across by 19.1 inches from front to back, and weighing 48.1 pounds, the HL-L8260CDW is about an inch shorter and a few inches lighter than its HL-L8360CDW sibling. In contrast, both Brother models are a little bigger and a few pounds heavier than the HP LaserJet Pro M452dw. Our Brother review unit is also about the same dimensions as (but much lighter than) the HP PageWide Pro 452dw, a somewhat pricier print-only inkjet that’s marketed as a laser-printer alternative.
The HL-L8260CDW’s connectivity options consist of Wi-Fi, 10/100/1000BaseT Ethernet, connecting to a single PC via USB, and Wi-Fi Direct. Wi-Fi Direct is a peer-to-peer wireless protocol for connecting the printer to mobile devices outside the confines of a wireless network. Other mobile-connectivity options supported here include Google Cloud Print, Apple AirPrint, Cortado Workplace, Mopria, and Brother’s own iPrintScan mobile app. The last is a free app that enables you to print from your iOS (iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad) or Android device, as well as use your local wireless network to connect your mobile device to your Brother printer or all-in-one. There is a fair amount of overlap among these various mobile solutions.
Unlike the company’s higher-end printers and AIOs (including the HL-L8360CDW, which has a tablet-like color touch screen), the HL-L8260CDW’s control panel comprises a small monochrome LCD and a handful of buttons. From the control panel, you can set configuration and security options, monitor toner use, and access and print the machine’s various reports.
Like on most laser and other business-oriented printers, the same options are also available from the printer’s browser-based Web server interface…
Finally, both the HL-L8260CDW and its costlier sibling have a USB 2.0 port located in the upper-front corner of the chassis. The port allows you to print directly from a USB thumb drive…
Aside from it being heavy, and ungainly to wrestle out of the box, the HL-L8260CDW isn’t hard to get up and running. Unlike models that come ensconced in tape and other packing material, setting this one free was a snap. We did encounter some plastic clips and seals embedded in and around each cartridge, as shown here…
Getting that all out wasn’t difficult. Besides, detailed instructions are printed on the other side of paper strip you see above, running the length of the drawer holding the four toner cartridges.
You don’t have to remove the cartridges, shake them, or remove any seals. The printer comes with a set of standard-yield cartridges (rated for 3,000 black pages or 1,800 color pages). High-five to Brother for that; that’s much better than the low-yield “starter” toner cartridges (good for just a few hundred pages) that we have often seen included with several other competing models.
Cost Per Page
When it comes time to replace those cartridges, Brother provides two choices: standard-yield or so-called “high-yield” cartridges.
The standard-yield black cartridge sells on Brother’s site for $79.99 and is rated at 3,000 pages. The three standard-size color cartridges (for cyan, magenta, and yellow) also sell for $79.99 each and they’re good for, when combined with the black toner, about 1,800 pages as a set. Using these advertised prices and yield estimates, we calculated the cost per page for the standard black toner cartridge at 2.6 cents, and the color cost per page at 15.8 cents. These prices, especially for monochrome pages, may not seem high, but mind that we’re talking about a $350 printer here.
You can reduce these running costs by purchasing Brother’s high-yield cartridges. The black high-yield cartridge sells for $83.99 and is rated for about 4,500 pages, while the three high-yield color cartridges run $134.99 each and are rated at 4,000 pages as a set. Using these numbers, we calculated the black cost per page (CPP) at 1.9 cents per page, and the color CPP at 12.1 cents.
That monochrome CPP isn’t bad (and most companies print more monochrome pages than color pages), but down the line, by the time you factor in the additional costs for the image drum (good for between 30,000 and 50,000 pages), the belt unit (good for 50,000 to 130,000 prints), and the waste toner box (50,000 pages), that number jumps to 2.5 cents per black page. Unfortunately, these mono and color numbers are, of all the printers discussed here, the highest.
Look at the sibling model. In total, factoring in the costs of its own drum/belt/waste box, the Brother HL-L8360CDW’s running costs are 1.9 cents for black pages and 10 cents for color ones. That amounts to a 0.6-cent difference for monochrome pages, per page. As for competing units, the HP Color LaserJet Pro M452dw’s ongoing per-page costs are 2.2 cents per monochrome page and 13.6 cents per color page. Lower still, HP’s PageWide Pro 452dw inkjet-based “laser alternative” delivers running costs of 1.4 cents for black pages and 7.3 cents for color ones.
As we’ve said many times before, keep in mind that for each cent of difference in cost per page, every 10,000 pages you print will cost you an additional $100. Granted, chances are that you aren’t (and you shouldn’t be) planning to print 10,000 pages per month on the HL-L8260CDW. But, for argument’s sake, let’s say that you own the printer for, say, five years. During that time you print 150,000 pages (that’s 2,500 pages per month, 500 pages lower than the HL-L8260CDW’s recommended print volume). Choosing the HL-L8260CDW over another model with running costs 1.5 cents (or even 2 cents) lower could cost you—take a deep breath—as much as $15,000 over the life of the printer.
Imagine how many printers, or vacations, you could buy for that. From that perspective, paying an additional $50 (or even an additional $500 or $600, for a higher-volume model) doesn’t seem like that bad of an investment, does it?
The HL-L8260CDW’s default paper-input capacity is 300 pages, split between a 250-sheet main drawer you load from the front…
…and a 50-sheet multipurpose tray, also on the front…
Printed pages land on top of the printer, in a recessed area that doubles as a 150-sheet output bed…
If an input capacity of 300 pages from two separate sources is not enough, you can add up to three optional 250-sheet trays ($179.99 each), for a maximum capacity of 1,050 sheets from five separate sources. These stackable trays are pictured below. That said, if you plan to do that much printing, the step-up HL-L8360CDW model comes with the same 300-sheet capacity, expandable to 1,300 sheets from four separate sources.
As with every Brother printer we’ve tested over the past few years, the HL-L8260CDW’s paper path worked fine in our tests. We printed hundreds of pages, including many two-sided ones, without any jams, misfeeds, or any other problems.