Brother HL-L3270CDW review: Great value for the undemanding

A wealth of features at an amazing price – although high colour costs mean it’s best for occasional printing

Price
£132 exc VAT
  • Smart design
  • Slow duplex print speeds

From the price tag you would be forgiven for assuming that Brother's HL-L3270CDW was a simple consumer-grade printer. Yet this colour LED desktop unit offers a 24ppm print speed in both mono and colour, a built-in duplexer and both wired and wireless networking - not to mention top-notch mobile device and cloud support as well.

It looks the part too, with a flip-up 6.8cm colour touchscreen and an integrated NFC sensor for tap-to-print mobile operations. Capacity is spread across a single sheet multipurpose tray and a 250-sheet lower tray, which is long enough to take 14in legal paper as well as regular A4.

As usual, you can't use both wired and wireless networking at the same time, but whichever you choose the HL-L3270CDW is simple to configure. The printer connected to our wired network without a hitch, and immediately found and downloaded the latest firmware with a couple of button presses.

Driver installation is nicely handled, too. The Windows installer software loads Brother's iPrint&Scan desktop app for quick local printing, while the iOS mobile version expands printing facilities to cloud accounts, web pages and stored photos, and even allowed us to print directly from our iPad's camera.

Cloud support is a real strength: getting set up with Dropbox was a simple case of visiting Brother's Web Connect portal, registering our Dropbox account, entering the unique 11-digit code at the touchscreen and setting up a PIN. With this done, we were able to browse and print cloud documents directly from the printer's touchscreen, and Google Drive, OneDrive, OneNote, Evernote and Box are supported, too.

Another feature we've always liked is Brother's Secure Cloud Print portal, which lets you send PDFs, images and Office documents to the printer from any web browser. To use it, you simply visit a custom URL, select a file to print, upload it and release it within 24 hours at the printer using an automatically generated six-digit PIN.

For more general access security, Brother's Secure Function Lock 3 lets you create local user lists and decide which print services they can access. The printer supports 100 function profiles, with each covering permissions for mono and colour printing, page counts and access to online features.

While the feature set is strong, print speeds are a mixed bag. Our sample Word document was turned out at 24ppm at both Normal and Fine quality - but switching to double-sided mode pulled that down to just 9ppm.

Performance was also erratic with our colour DTP document: the printer paused several times while processing the job, delivering an overall print speed of just 8ppm. We've seen this before with Brother LED printers, and it seems to be down to a lack of onboard horsepower. When we switched from the standard PostScript driver to the GDI version (which relies on the host PC to do all the rasterising legwork), colour speeds shot up to the promised 24ppm in both quality modes.

Print quality is impressive for such a low-cost printer, too. Even 6pt text is pin-sharp, and mono photos come out with a fair amount of detail, even in the murkiest areas. Reports with large colour graphics were suitably eye-catching as well, and our colour test chart showed smooth transitions across complex colour fades. Photos show good contrast, vibrant colours and very little cross-hatching.

There's just one catch with the HL-L3270CDW: while the purchase price looks like a steal, running costs are relatively high. The drum units, belt and waste toner box will probably last the life of the printer, but even if you use high-yield cartridges, you're looking at 3p for a mono page and 13.5p for each side of colour print.

That makes the HL-L3270CDW printer best suited to small businesses that only need to run off the occasional print in colour. Still, it scores highly for output quality, access security is tight and it won't be beaten for cloud and mobile support.

Featured Resources

Four cyber security essentials that your board of directors wants to know

The insights to help you deliver what they need

Download now

Data: A resource much too valuable to leave unprotected

Protect your data to protect your company

Download now

Improving cyber security for remote working

13 recommendations for security from any location

Download now

Why CEOS should care about the move to SAP S/4HANA

And how they can accelerate business value

Download now

Recommended

Canon i-Sensys LBP664Cx review: A great choice for small businesses
Hardware

Canon i-Sensys LBP664Cx review: A great choice for small businesses

18 Nov 2020
Epson WorkForce Pro WF-C529RDTW review: A flexible business-class printer
managed print services

Epson WorkForce Pro WF-C529RDTW review: A flexible business-class printer

11 Nov 2020
Brother HL-J6100DW review: An excellent choice - if you’re not in a hurry
peripherals

Brother HL-J6100DW review: An excellent choice - if you’re not in a hurry

4 Nov 2020
Kyocera Ecosys M5526cdw review: A sensible small-office MFP
peripherals

Kyocera Ecosys M5526cdw review: A sensible small-office MFP

28 Oct 2020

Most Popular

Cisco acquires container security startup Banzai Cloud
Security

Cisco acquires container security startup Banzai Cloud

18 Nov 2020
macOS Big Sur is bricking some older MacBooks
operating systems

macOS Big Sur is bricking some older MacBooks

16 Nov 2020
46 million Animal Jam accounts leaked after comms software breach
Security

46 million Animal Jam accounts leaked after comms software breach

13 Nov 2020