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Brother HL-L3210CW review: Affordable but a little basic

5 Mar 2021
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
245
inc VAT

A colour laser printer that’s fast and reasonably cheap to run but it’s very basic

Pros 
Fast
Cost-effective colour prints
Well priced
Cons 
Basic one-line display
No automatic duplex printing
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Brother produces a good range of colour laser printers and the HL-L3210CW is one of its most affordable. It’s nothing special to look out – essentially a large white box that can churn out a lot of prints at a rate of knots – but it’s reasonably priced and doesn’t cost the Earth to run.

There are no frills here – features are limited and there are barely any creature comforts on offer – but if your budget is constrained, it might just tick enough boxes.

Brother HL-L3210CW review: What do you get for the money?

Once you’ve removed the Brother HL-L3210CW from its box, you just need to unseal the four colour toner cartridges. They’re already in the correct place; all you need to do is pull out the tray, take each cartridge out and remove the protective seal, then pop them back in place again. It’s a slightly more fiddly setup than with some lasers we’ve come across but it’s a one-time job and quickly dispensed with.

Otherwise, it’s an unremarkable thing: it has a 250-sheet capacity pull-out paper input tray on the bottom that feeds prints out onto a tray at the top. It measures a reasonably compact 410 x 461 x 252mm (WDH), connects via USB or Wi-Fi, and prints at a resolution of 600 x 2,400dpi.

There is a display but it’s a very basic one-line affair and it’s fiddly to use. It can’t display enough information on screen at one time to let you work out what’s going on without going back and forth using the buttons.

There’s no duplex printing, either, which is disappointing given the price, although if you’re desperate to print on both sides, you can manually feed paper in from a slot on the side.

Brother HL-L3210CW review: What’s the print quality like?

Print quality is a mixed bag. Black text came out slightly lighter than on other laser printers I’ve tested, which might save toner, but it means prints aren’t quite as bold as I would like.

When printing photos I found this lighter touch was generally to the printer’s benefit, especially when printing lighter flesh tones. However, darker areas and black weren’t particularly deep and in larger areas of colour, such as a clear blue sky, some light banding was evident. You do need to look quite closely to see that, though.

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Brother HL-L3210CW review: What about speed and running costs?

Mono prints work out to around 3p each, which is about average for a colour laser printer in this price bracket. If you want cheaper prints, you’ll need to look at a mono-only printer like the HP Neverstop, whose prints run to a paltry 0.3p per page.

The Brother HL-L3210CW’s colour prints are better value, at 12.8p per print, although this is still a lot more expensive than printing on an inkjet.

In our speed tests, the HL-L3210CW, like most laser printers, was slow to deliver its first page, taking 16 seconds to get going. However, it soon picked up speed, printing our 25-page monochrome test document at a rate just shy of 16ppm (pages per minute), which is pretty good. Print speeds fell slightly in our 50-page marathon test, to 15ppm.

The Brother proved to be nippy for colour prints as well, again reaching a speed of 15ppm. It wasn’t quite as fast to produce six 6 x 4in colour photos, taking 28 seconds, and it took 27 seconds to produce a pair of 10 x 8in photos, which is miles ahead of most inkjets on these larger prints.

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Brother HL-L3210CW review: Should I buy one?

The Brother HL-L3210CW is fairly basic but there’s still a lot to like about it, particularly its affordable price and (for a laser printer), its speed and it’s relatively low cost per colour page.

However, the lack of duplex printing and the awkward, single-line display mean you’d be better off spending a little to get the more user friendly and flexible HP Color LaserJet M255dw.