Graduate student printer that is not a Brother
September 13, 2017 2:59 PM   Subscribe

I need a printer that prints double sided automatically. Primarily for black and white articles, but occasional color for craft projects. I am extremely sick of the Brother printer I have and do not want another one.

Most previous questions on this subject overwhelmingly suggest Brother printers. My current printer is the Brother MFC-J435W and I hate it with a burning passion. Reasons:

1) It turns on randomly every couple of hours and makes a bunch of noise. I have no idea what it's doing but it's so annoying that I've taken to unplugging it when not in use. Sometimes I forget and it starts doing it and I am across the room and I scream. "Are you printing something?" is a regular call across the house. The answer is usually no.
2) It regularly screws up the print job in really weird ways. Like, it'll randomly print half of the page a third of the way down the sheet, or the first third of the page on the first sheet, and then a quarter on the second sheet, and then the rest on a third sheet--if I'm lucky, and it doesn't just lose it all together. It took me 4 tries to print a 3 page document and achieve enough properly printed pages to have the full document. Every single page was pulled from a different print job because no attempt had more than one properly printed page.
3) I've had to change computers/hard drives a couple of times and every single time it's a massive pain to reconnect the printer. I always have to look up and download the drivers myself, and sometimes it just says "printer installation failed" for no reason.
4) It stops printing when there's plenty of ink left, and absolutely REFUSES to print any more than that. Not even an inch.

Number 4 is the biggest reason I don't want another Brother printer. Maybe all the others are just specific to my one, solitary printer, and the next Brother I get works flawlessly. But Internet research leads me to believe that refusing to print with ink left believe is a universal problem with Brother printers. Yes, I can trick it with electrical tape, but I'd rather just not have a printer that's trying to cheat me out of my ink.

1) Automatic double-sided printing
2) Will function well if I am primarily using it for B&W and color is only used a couple times a year (and when it's used it will be for things that don't need to be super high quality--think Christmas gift tags, not wedding photos)
3) Lets me print until I can actually VISUALLY tell I'm running out of ink because print jobs are faded
4) Scanner (a little flexible on this because phone scanner apps have gotten pretty good)
5) Doesn't scream at me randomly or make me scream

Please. I need something simple and reliable, I don't expect high quality print jobs--just consistent ones. I just want to be able to print my articles and the occasional flower pattern in peace, without screaming, random misprints, or gluttonous begging for more ink.
posted by brook horse to Technology (13 answers total)
I own 2 Canons, an MX860 and and MX 870. They're workhorses that meet all your requirements. I can't speak to newer models but these are pretty darn good & don't have any of the problems you're having with your Brother.
posted by 6thsense at 3:03 PM on September 13, 2017

How hard a requirement is having it be able to print in color? My experience with the oft-recommended Brother Laser printer is that it ticks all of your checkboxes except it doesn't have a scanner nor can print in color. The toner lasts much longer than the comparable inkjet cartridges and it is overall much more pleasant to run. And laser printers in general have a much lower cost-per-page than inkjet. The occasional color print needs I have are adequately served by going to a local copy shop.

The Wirecutter review I linked also includes options from other brands, like a Samsung MFC and an HP color laser printer, if you want to completely avoid Brother printers. Unfortunately, as far as I have been able to tell, inkjet printers are pretty universally terrible, and I don't think switching to a different brand will cure that.
posted by Aleyn at 3:15 PM on September 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

Honestly, multi-function printers are just not that good. They never have been. Also, inkjet printers are mostly garbage as well. No wonder you hate a multi-function inkjet!

I agree that you should really reconsider the need to have color printing and scanning. If you're just doing a few sheets of color, you can email the files to your local FedEx Office, UPS Store, or mom-and-pop copyshop very easily. I agree that scanning with your phone is also a great substitute for a scanner.
posted by radioamy at 4:12 PM on September 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Nthing that most ink jet printers suck. The recommendation you see here is a for a Brother laser printer, which is a completely different beast. I had Canon inkjets before my current Brother laser, and they worked fine for several years. They don't sell those particular models anymore, but I would generally trust the brand if the reviews were good.
posted by cnc at 4:28 PM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Get an HP color laser. I have an older version of this printer and the duplex printing has stood up to printing entire manuals for four of my dad's DSLR cameras without me having to do a thing.
posted by xyzzy at 4:55 PM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

You didn't list a price, so... I've been really happy with an HP Color Laser Jet Pro.

I picked it up at Costco on the grounds that if I hated it, it'd go back. We kept it. We'd had a cheaper printer and it made us scream for essentially your list of reasons plus the ink melted when it got wet, and, as I was starting a program that required a good printer, we decided to throw money at the problem. I'd be willing to buy another random laser printer from Costco after this one. Although the initial cost was high, the quality of life factor was significant.

It DOES randomly turn on and make noises but not that often. It sits about a foot and a half away from me, if it weren't right in my ear, I might not even notice. It's not that often that it happens.

It scans well. It prints well. It complains about low ink but has an option to keep printing indefinitely despite the warnings. I have yet to have a need that it couldn't meet, and I've gone through some heavy printing and scanning in the past two years. It hasn't caused a peep of a problem. It's the least troublesome printer I've ever had.

The only flaw I've found on it is that photos printed out on it look too dark. But, if you want to print in color that's not a photo but more like a cartoon - like your Christmas tags - it'd be fine. If you want colors that are album or frame quality, you'll still have to go to shutterfly or a local printing place.

It's possible toner is expensive. If that's a factor for you, you might want to look into it. I have magical fairies that replace the toner when it's low (or maybe it's my husband?) so I'm not sure. No one's left me a note to conserve printing, and when we had a color inkjet, I got notes on that all the time.

This printer has not screwed up a print job yet. I have absolute confidence that I can send it 200 pages and it'll just work its way through. I've gotten spoiled, because now the heavy duty office printers at work keep ticking me off. Even cat hair has not bothered it. (No, I don't know how that cat got wedged in it.)

It prints double sided but I don't know what you mean by automatic. I set it in chrome or word and it stays doublesided until I change it. It doesn't make me feed the paper manually to get the double side, it spits it out and sucks it back in to do it.

(As a rule of thumb, if I need a $thing but don't want to do a million hours of research on which particular one to get, Costco has yet to do me wrong. Their returns policy seems to mean they do the research for me. Realizing this has saved me uncountable hours in spreadsheet generation.)
posted by arabelladragon at 6:53 PM on September 13, 2017

For what it's worth, your #4 is fixable on many Brother printers (definitely the current laser printers they offer). There is something called "Continue Mode", I think. The process to set it to keep on printing past their ideal varies from model to model. It's a matter of pressing the right sequence of buttons in the menus, not taping things up.

I recommend getting a black and white laser printer, and taking the occasional color jobs to Fedex/Kinkos or wherever if you can. I know you stipulated no Brothers, but I'm guessing you have an inkjet now, and the laser printer is a whole new world of "things just work". I'm very happy with my Brother DCP-L2540DW, for what it's worth. Mine has a scanner; if you don't need that, the model linked by Aleyn should be great. I print until documents are quite faded, at which point I print a bunch of graph paper, which I like to be faint, and then put in the new toner.
posted by ktkt at 8:06 PM on September 13, 2017

I've been happy with my Canon Pixma printer. It scans, faxes, prints double-sided if you check off Duplex Printing in the Print Setup Dialog box. Probably best of all, each color has its own "tank", so you don't have to replace an entire cartridge when one color runs out.
posted by Soliloquy at 8:41 PM on September 13, 2017

I would strongly suggest that having an inkjet printer is the root of all your troubles. I've had an older model of that "oft-recommended Brother laser printer" for 3+ years, and I absolutely love it in spite of its minor flaws.

Yes, you do have to switch it to "continuous" mode to get more use out of the toner cartridge, but that is not a hassle at all, and I'm pretty sure I only had to do it once, years ago (the fact that I can't remember speaks to how much of a nonissue it is for me). You absolutely do not need to tape over any sensors.

It's not super great with photos, but that's never been a problem for me. I think maybe once or twice I've gone somewhere else when I needed a perfect, high-resolution photo. I never personally need to print anything in color, but if you only need to do it a couple times a year, there is no need to get an inkjet printer that will make you miserable (as all inkjet printers tend to do). The cost and hassle of occasionally printing at a store is far less than the hassle of having an inkjet printer (IMHO).

I think it's cheaper than an inkjet printer, too. I print thousands of pages a year, and I don't even have to replace the toner or the drum all that often. Per page, it's very cheap.

Plus, there's even a model that has a scanner attached. Honestly, though, I think you're probably better off buying the standalone printer and a separate scanner, because when it comes to printer/scanner combos, I think the size of the scanning bed is too small. That might just be my personal preference because I scan a lot of large-ish books.

It's not that I'm loyal to Brother, but honestly, this is the best printer I've ever had. I really only ever think about it when I pick up a new print job off the tray. That is as it should be with a printer.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:48 AM on September 14, 2017

I am responsible for a lab with multiple printers. We have Brother b/w laser and HP color laser machines. The ink cost per page on the HPs is literally 5-6 times that of the Brothers, even for B/W printing on the HP, and numerous HPs have been less reliable than any of the Brothers we have had over more than a decade. Printing b/w text with a color laser printer is very expensive.
posted by spitbull at 4:31 AM on September 14, 2017

N'thing that all my own printers are Brother, and I wouldn't buy anything else for a personal laser printer to churn out text pages anymore. They are so cheap to operate and reliable.

Most modern laser printers can duplex print.
posted by spitbull at 4:33 AM on September 14, 2017

Reliability and quality comes with cost, whether it's a Brother or somebody else's. In our office we have a Brother MFC-9970CDW and a MFC-9340CDW and both are color, duplexing, scanning, copying, faxing workhorses, I would recommend either model to anyone. The 3940 can be had for under $400. nthing that inkjet is likely your problem. That noise you're experiencing is probably the inkjet cleaning its heads so they don't dry up and it's ready to print right away.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:17 AM on September 14, 2017

Hmm, I can buy that maybe the problem is inkjet and not Brother (especially if later models let me bypass "low ink!!!" without feeling like a bad hacker in a teen spy film). I still hesitate to leave color printing to the copy shop because I can't drive, and when I do print for crafts I usually need to print things, adjust them, print again, etc. multiple times to get the right size/shape/whatever. Are the Brother color lasers any good? Again, not in terms of print quality, but in terms of reliability/toner cost?
posted by brook horse at 11:31 AM on September 14, 2017

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