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Best monochrome laser printers for small and medium-size offices

For small businesses that need text printing of about 20,000 pages per month or more, midrange monochrome laser printers are inexpensive to buy and less expensive per page than either an inkjet printer or a color laser printer. Many printers in this range come with higher-capacity input and output trays or offer them as an option. Built-in Ethernet networking and automatic duplexing (for two-sided printing) are common features. Most small-office printers will fit on a countertop, but would be a tight squeeze on a desk. For businesses that do a lot of in-house printing, some small-office printers can be upgraded with larger input trays and duplexing units, which can in turn compete with larger laser printers.

The Canon imageCLASS LBP6300dn (*Est. $220) is a good choice if you need a monochrome laser printer for a small office. The LBP6300dn is a little too large to sit on your desk comfortably, but with its fast printing speed, it works well as a shared workgroup printer. The printer can be connected to computers via a USB 2.0 port or networked via Ethernet.

The LBP6300dn prints on plain and heavy paper, transparencies and labels, as well as on index cards, postcards and envelopes. You can add an optional 500-sheet tray (*Est. $200) to supplement its 300-sheet regular paper tray, enough for the printing needs of most small offices. Robin Morris of PC Advisor calls the text quality "crisp and beautifully defined," and other reviewers agree that the text quality is suitable for desktop publishing. They also say, however, that the graphics quality is at the lower end of the monochrome laser printer range.

Receiving 4 out of 5 stars from PCMag.com, the LBP6300dn loses out on the Editors' Choice award solely because of its high running costs (calculated at 2.6 cents per page), a statement that is disputed by the reviewers at U.K.-based Expert Reviews, who say they consider the costs "reasonable" and call the printer a "bargain for home or office." (They calculate cost per page at about 2.4 cents or 1.5 pence.) The editors at TopTenReviews.com question the LBP6300dn's suitability for use in an office as it has only a 25,000 pages per month duty cycle print capacity, though this should be sufficient for a small office.

For midsize offices and workgroups with heavy black-and-white printing needs, reviewers recommend the Oki B710dn (*Est. $525) , the high-end model of Oki's 7000 series. At 15.9 inches by 16.6 inches by 18.3 inches, this model is too large to put on your desk, but it has a numeric pad so you can control access to the printer and assign PIN numbers to stored print jobs. Its fast speed and its large paper capacity of 550 sheets in the main tray plus 150 sheets in the multipurpose tray make it an excellent printer to share in an office. Its auto-duplexing capability makes running two-sided prints a snap, though Melissa Riofrio of PCWorld says that the best speed and output quality are obtained by using postscript fonts instead of the more common PCL language.

Tony Hoffman of PCMag.com says the Oki B710dn's text and graphics are slightly sub-par, but he says that the quality is good enough for everyday business printing. As with most monochrome laser printers, the quality of photo printouts leaves something to be desired. Set-up of the Oki B710dn is straightforward but you must manually enable the auto-duplexing mode, something that is not covered in the documentation. Riofrio praises the B710dn's quality of construction and the ease of access to its toner and drum. Networking connections are through a USB port and the Ethernet, (as well as rarely seen parallel and serial connections), and the printer also has a top USB port for walk-up printing from a USB drive.

Another alternative is the Dell 3330dn (*Est. $400) , which has a "reasonable balance of features… and [is] impressively fast for its price" according to M. David Stone of PCMag.com. The 3330dn monochrome laser printer is recommended for a busy small or medium-size workgroup or office. Stone reports that the overall print quality is "reasonably good." He says that the graphics quality is comparable to most other monochrome laser printers, with some imperfections of banding and a limited range of mid-grays.

Awarding it a score of 3.5 stars out of 5, Jon L. Jacobi and Riofrio of PC World praise the 3330dn's compact footprint, auto-duplexing feature and impressive speed and print quality. The printer's physical set-up is standard for monochrome laser printers, but Stone finds the list of different drivers available for the printer to be confusing and not explained in the documentation. One drawback to this printer is that the main paper tray and multipurpose tray hold only a total of 400 sheets of paper, not enough for this printer's speed. With a duty cycle of 80,000 pages per month, this printer is made for heavy duty use and can be networked through an Ethernet connection or by parallel port.

Personal printers

If you don't need to print 25,000 pages per month, you can spend less on a monochrome laser printer with a lower duty cycle. Personal laser printers fit on a desktop (some are only 10 inches high) and have duty cycles of 5,000 to 20,000 pages per month. Speeds (according to the manufacturers) range from 10 pages to more than 20 pages per minute and continue to improve, along with quality. Many of these models are marketed for use in home offices or for students.

The HP LaserJet Pro P1102w receives our Best Reviewed recommendation for a personal monochrome laser printer. It has a faster-than-average speed which, when coupled with its high quality printing and Wi-Fi capability, allows home or small office users to share the printer and produce clear and crisp text documents. Both professional and user- reviewers report, however, that the quality of graphic printing is somewhat rough-looking, with M. David Stone of PCMag.com calling its appearance "grainy."

The small size of the Pro P1102w printer -- 7.3 inches by 13.7 inches by 9.4 inches -- allows it to perch comfortably on the corner of a desk or table. Customer reviewers at Amazon.com and at Newegg.com report that the output tray feels light and flimsy, although the rest of the printer is said to be solidly built.

The Pro P1102w has a maximum monthly duty cycle of 5,000 pages, which limits its use to occasional printing of relatively small documents. Its standard paper tray holds 150 sheets, so it will need to be frequently refilled if several people are sharing the printer. On the upside, its 10-page capacity multipurpose tray allows for printing of different types of paper, including legal, executive and postcard sizes, without having to remove the regular paper from the standard tray. Although the Pro P1102w printer doesn't have an auto-duplexing feature, Melissa Riofrio of PC Advisor reports that useful and clear screen prompts allow for easy manual two-sided printing.

Various printing speeds for the Pro P1102w are reported by reviewers. The testers at PCMag.com report that this printer prints faster than its advertised speed of 19 pages per minute, while Riofrio says she clocked the speed at about 14.6 ppm. The user reviewers at Amazon.com seem to be happy with this printer's speed. A widespread complaint on many review sites, though, is the high cost of the toner cartridges (*Est. $65) for the Pro P1102w. In addition, several reviews say that the included toner cartridge runs out faster than the manufacturer says it will.

One of the runners-up in this category is another HP printer, the HP LaserJet Pro P1606dn (*Est. $160) Coming in fourth place in CNET's review of the top five printers, the HP LaserJet Pro P1606dn is described by Justin Yu as a "bare-bones laser printer with bare-bones controls," suitable for personal use or for small offices. With a compact size of 15 inches by 11 inches by 9.5 inches, and weighing only 15 pounds, it fits easily on your desk. The set-up of the Pro P1606dn is straightforward, thanks to HP's Smart Install software, and the drivers and software are stored on the printer itself. Not especially noisy, this printer has a quiet mode, though the print speed is reduced when this is used.

The Pro P1606dn's standard paper tray holds 250 sheets of paper, which is reasonable for a printer with an 8,000-page maximum monthly duty cycle. This model has USB and Ethernet connections, though no cables are included with it in the box. In CNET's tests, the Pro P1606dn consistently approached its claimed speeds of 20 pages per minute while printing text, graphics and presentations. The text quality is very good, though testers noticed banding in the grayscale graphics. Buyers should be aware, however, that the starter toner cartridge included with the printer is not completely filled.

On an environmental note, the HP LaserJet Pro P1606dn is Energy Star-compliant, powering down to an energy-saving sleep mode when not in use and waking when it receives a print command.

Also in this category, reviewers consistently praise the Brother HL-2270DW (*Est. $150) as a good choice if you'd like something with Wi-Fi -- handy for use on a home or small office network. The HL-2270 earns 4 out of 5 stars and an Editors' Choice award from PCMag's Stone. Called "reliable and easy to use" by CNET's Yu, the HL-2270DW printer has a robust and simple design, with just one button marked "GO" on the minimalist control panel.

With a monthly duty cycle of only 10,000 pages and a printing speed of about 18 pages per minute, this printer is suitable for home use or an office with low volume black-and-white printing needs. The paper feed tray holds 250 sheets, and the auto duplexing capability allows for two-sided printing. Reviewers say the quality of the text printing is clear and suitable for everyday needs, though not of a high enough quality for desktop publishing. As with most monochrome laser printers, the HL-2270DW's graphic printing quality falls behind in reviews.

User reviewers at Amazon.com and Newegg give high marks to the HL-2700DW, with a majority of reviewers on each site awarding the maximum 5 stars. Users say it prints fast enough and well enough for their needs, and enthuse about the automatic duplexing function.

Professional reviewers agree that the installation process and setup of the Brother HL-2700DW monochrome laser printer is straightforward, and Riofrio of PC Advisor says that the process is well-documented. While user reviews at Newegg.com support this view, several first-time wireless-printer users say they have problems when setting up the printer on their Wi-Fi network. On the downside, both professional and customer reviewers note that the HL-2700DW printer comes with only a starter toner cartridge, which did not last for the advertised number of pages, because it's not completely filled.

A previous pick in this category, the Samsung ML-2851ND (*Est. $105) , continues to receive a number of favorable reviews as a value choice for a small office. PCMag.com's Stone is very impressed with this unit, calling it a "bargain." Stone confirms that the ML-2851ND, rated by Samsung at 30 pages per minute, is significantly faster in PCMag.com's tests than competing laser printers. He also praises its paper handling; a built-in automatic duplexer is standard. Beyond that, the Samsung ML-2851ND lacks advanced features like Wi-Fi connectivity -- it must be hooked up to a router for wireless networking.

Reviewers also extol the Samsung ML-2851ND's print quality and economy. Although it can be set to 1,200-dpi resolution, Peter Piazza from About.com finds results from the default setting of 600 dpi are indistinguishable from prints at 1,200 dpi, and this model's toner-saver setting also produces good-looking results. He estimates running cost at around 1.8 cents per page, while Stone and CNET's Yu both calculate the cost at around 2 cents per text page.

Brother's HL-5300 series, including the HL-5340D (*Est. $130) and HL-5370DW (*Est. $225) , also receive some good reviews. The Brother HL-5370DW was previously a Best Reviewed pick for small-office laser printer with Wi-Fi, and it is now a firm runner-up.

In an older review, PCMag.com gave the 5300 base model, the Brother HL-5340D, an Editors' Choice rating, citing its speed, uniformly good text output and good paper handling. Brother's HL-5370DW is basically the same printer as the HL-5340D, with the same key specifications. However, this monochrome laser printer adds wireless networking. The HL-5370DW also has room for expansion: While the printer starts with a 250-page input tray and 32 MB of RAM, extra trays and memory can boost its specs to as many as 750 pages and 512 MB. Simon Williams of TrustedReviews.com also gives the Brother HL-5370DW a high rating, highlighting its "good speed and well above-average print quality." Williams says, "Black text from this machine is especially crisp and clear, giving a very professional look to documents, almost as if they are letterpress printed."

One of the least expensive monochrome laser printers, the Samsung ML-1865W (*Est. $60) receives a high rating from Simon Williams at TrustedReviews.com. Because of its low cost and very small footprint of 13.4 inches by 8.8 inches by 7.2 inches, Williams says that this is an ideal printer to pair with a laptop and is good for occasional high-quality black and white printing. Robin Morris of PC Advisor also gives the ML-1865W high marks and likes its practical design, with tucked-away input and output trays that are both flexible and sturdy, and easy access to the toner and the drum.

Both reviewers recommend this printer for general home or small-office work, even though it lacks an auto-duplexing capability. The ML-1865W's toner saver mode produces excellent quality text and does not affect the speed of printing. The standard paper tray holds up to 150 sheets, and the test speeds are close to the manufacturer's claim of 19 pages per minute. The wireless WPS button on the control panel is dedicated to wireless setup, which works effectively and quickly.

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Samsung ML-2851ND Network-Ready Monochrome Laser Printer
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Brother HL-5370DW Laser Printer
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Brother HL-5340D High Speed Laser Printer with Duplex
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Canon 3550B014 imageCLASS LBP6300dn Monochrome Laser Printer
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from Amazon.com
New: $499.00 $289.95   
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Brother HL-2270DW Compact Laser Printer with Wireless Networking and Duplex
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New: $149.99 $89.99   
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HP LaserJet Pro P1606dn Printer (CE749A#BGJ)
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New: $264.70   
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Samsung Electronics ML-1865W Wireless Monochrome Printer
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Oki Data B710dn Digital Mono Printer Series (42ppm), 120V, (E/F/P/S)
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New: $775.00 $739.95   
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