Thursday, September 30, 2010

Article: The Carrier's Rebellion

If you are interested in smart phones -- or more accurately, if you are interested in the marketing of smart phones, read this blog article, The Carrier's Rebellion, by the MondayNote.com.

MondayNote.com#150

This is an insightful and well-written article

Excerpt:
by Jean-Louis Gassée

"Before the Steve Jobs hypnosis session, AT&T ruled. 

Handsets, their prices, branding, applications, contractual terms, content sales…AT&T decided everything and made pennies on each bit that flowed through its network.  --Then the Great Mesmerizer swept the table. 

Apple provided the hardware, the operating system, and “everything else”: applications, music, ringtones, movies, books… The iTunes cash register rang and AT&T didn’t make a red cent on content.

"In the eyes of other carriers, AT&T sold its birthright. But they didn’t sell cheap. The industry-wide ARPU (Average Revenue Per User per month) is a little more than $50. AT&T’s iPhone ARPU hovers above $100. Subtract $25 kicked back to Apple, and AT&T still wins. More important, AT&T’s iPhone exclusivity in the US “stole” millions of subscribers from rivals Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile—more than 1 million per quarter since the iPhone came out in June, 2007.

The article continues with:
To the industry at large, the damage had been done. Jobs disintermediated carriers. 

Consumers woke up to a different life, one where the carrier supplied the pipe and nothing else. Yesterday’s smartphones became today’s mobile personal computers and carriers devolved into wireless ISPs, their worst fear.

Enter Android....
Full article here: MondayNote.com#150

Also of interest: This financial link

Monday, September 20, 2010

Brother HL2170W Printer in Perpetual Sleep

Issue:  Brother LaserJet (HL2170W) printer is in Sleep mode and does not wake up.  Printer does not print.  Printjobs stacked in queue. 

Other symptoms:
  • Printer Control Panel shows the printer is "offline"
  • The Printer Control Panel does not offer an option to put the printer "Online"
  • Power On/Off does not resolve the issue
  • Printer replies to a DOS PING test
  • BRAdminLight utility responds and can see the printer
  • Using BRAdminLight to reset to Factory defaults or to re-configure the printer, does not help
  • Diagnostic printing (from printer's configuration pages) works properly; pages print
This article assumes you are using Network Printing (and not a USB cable).


Diagnostics:

Follow these diagnostic steps to confirm the printer is talking on the network.

a.  From a DOS Prompt:  Ping 192.168.200.250   (where your IP Address may vary).  Ping responds in xx milliseconds; the printer responded to the PING properly.

If the printer does not respond to the expected IP Address, it's assigned address may have changed via "DHCP".  See the end of this article for a discussion on how to fix this.

b.  Using BRAdmin Light, confirm you can see the printer's configuration screens.  (BRAdmin is the utility used for configuring the printer when it was first brought online and installed in your network.)

If BRAdmin shows a different IP Address than the one you were expecting (see also, Printer Control Panel, PORTS, illustrated below), the printer is being re-assigned a different address via DHCP and this will confuse the printer control panel.  See the end of this article for recommended steps.

c.  Using a Browser, type the printer's URL (e.g. 192.168.200.250  (your address may vary)).  This should open the web-based configuration screens.  If prompted for login credentials, use  "admin" and "access" or the password you set when first configured.

These diagnostics show the printer is alive and well, talking on the network without problems.


Likely Solution:


In the workstation's Printer Control Panel, the TCP/IP port has likely changed.  Confirm the address is an IP Address and not some other type of port-setting.  In the illustration below, my printer had an "ADW" port, followed by a GUID ID.

If an IP Address is displayed, confirm the address (illustrated below as 192.168.200.250) matches the expected IP address used above in the PING test. 

Details:

1.  Open the Windows Control Panel, "Devices and Printers"

2.  Locate your printer:  Illustrated "Brother HL2170W series Printer"

a.  "Other-mouse-click" printer
b.  Choose "Printer Properties"  (do not choose Properties)
c.  Click the [Ports] tab

d.  Scroll down the list.  Confirm printer is setting on a real IP Address.

In my case, the printer was on a port named something like "ADW {EF6012...."  (followed by a GUID number).  It should be pointing to an IP Address, such as 192.168.200.250.  Your address may vary. 



If the Port is not an IP Address or is the wrong IP Address, continue with these steps (Windows 8 / Windows 7 similar):


e.  Click button: "Add Port"
     You will be adding a "Standard TCP/IP Port"


f.  Choose "Add a printer using TCP/IP address or Hostname"
g.  For the Port Address, type the IP Address of your printer.

Once setup, pending print jobs in the spool should immediately begin printing.


Bad Ports:

In my case, I am unsure how the printer's original TCP/IP port changed to a corrupted "ADW" value.  Using BRAdmin, I kept seeing the printer's status as "Sleep".  In fact, this is a red-herring.  During normal operations, the printer will always be in a Sleep mode when no jobs are pending.  Some sites recommend disabling Sleep; this is not recommended because of the power and wear-and-tear on the fuser assembly.


Followup Notes:

Once re-configured, you may find two Brother Printer icons in the Printer Control Panel.  The "real" printer will likely be marked as default.  You can safely delete the older printer icon.

DHCP Printers:

If you are finding the printer's IP address changes, especially after a power failure or after rebooting the printer, the printer is configured improperly -- using DHCP for its network address.  It should be using a Static (fixed) IP address.  Likely, you accepted the default settings when the printer was first configured and you likely used the installation CD that came with the printer.  DHCP addressing is a poor way to configure printers.  See the Keyliner article for proper steps:  Setting Up a Brother Wireless Printer.  Use these steps for both wired and wireless printers.

Related Articles:
Setting up a Brother Wireless Printer
Brother Wireless Printer fails after Power Failure
Brother Wireless Printer fails after a New Router
Extending Brother Printer Cartridges

Brother Printer Toner Cartridge

Howto: Getting more life out of a Brother Toner Cartridge. The toner light may light up sooner than it should. This article is a compilation of other blogs on this topic.

Contents:
  • Getting more life out of a Brother Toner Cartridge
  • New Cartridges and Old Drums
  • Resetting the Drum Counter
  • Toner LED solid Yellow
My Brother printer ran out of toner and instantly stopped printing -- even though it printed perfectly well earlier in the day. When this happens, you can coax more out the cartridge by gently rocking it back and forth. But ultimately, this Toner-out light will stay on and the printer will quit printing.

It turns out the toner cartridge is probably not empty.  The web reports most people consistently get another 800 to 1,000 pages by covering a sensor hole and tricking the printer. Most on the web noted that the supposedly "empty" cartridges still have a lot of toner in them and blame Brother for being nefarious.

I think the real reason is more benign. Measuring toner levels is more of an art than a science and without spending a ton of money on an interior electronics, Brother used a relatively simple but flawed mechanism to measure toner. Why did they put in extra toner? They wanted to ensure they reached their advertised page count -- with no chance of falling short. In other words, they over-filled the cartridge to make sure they were honest -- but it still it seems wasteful not to use all of the available toner.

The cartridge has additional of life remaining even when the toner light turns on


A 2,500 page replacement cartridge is $70.
A new drum-roller assembly is $120.
A new printer, with a 1,000-page "introductory" cartridge, is $80.

Sometimes it pays to buy a new printer.



Tricking the Printer:
Covering the Sensors

Follow these steps to extend the life for any of these printers or cartridges. This step also seems to resolve a solid-yellow toner LED on new cartridges:


1. On the side of the toner cartridge is a clear round window. Cover it with any opaque tape (this also fixes the solid yellow toner light / error you might get when you move cartridges from one printer to another). Color it with a sharpie if you'd like.

Optionally, and this is not necessarily recommended, look inside the toner-bay on the printer itself and cover the sensor holes there. Doing it this way permanently disables the toner-sensors for all cartridges.

2. Gently rock the cartridge back and forth and side-to-side to re-distribute the toner.

3. On the top, outside right-edge of the cartridge is a blue or green slider. Slide it back and forth a half-dozen times to clean the corona wire. Be sure to return the slider to the far-right position.

Return the cartridge to the printer and try printing again. All should be well. Print until the quality of output degrades (gray print).

Additional notes: Searching the web you can find other tricks about these toner cartridges. The cartridge has a mechanical "flag"; once it reaches its limit, the cartridge stops all printing. With a minor dis-assembly, you can reset this geared mechanism and get a bit more life out of the toner. If you do this, you may get a gray-haze on the paper as the older, recycled toner is forced onto the paper. As the drum ages, the flag forces a larger current onto the paper to help the toner stick, rolling back this flag can cause the gray film. If you refill your cartridge with third-party refillers, you can reset this flag all the way. Details on this can be found elsewhere on the web.


When you buy a new Cartridge:

Don't make this mistake: When you return your used cartridge (recycle), be sure to take only the toner - and not the drum. On Brother 2170w printers (and probably other models), these are separate components, where one fits into the other, even though both are removed at the same time.

Return the Toner and leave the Drum (DR-360) assembly with the printer. Only purchase the Drum unit when you have reached your 12,000 page service life (see below) and the "Drum" light is illuminated on the the printer's main panel. As a side note, do not leave the drum unit exposed to bright or prolonged light.


Replacing the Drum Roller - Don't

If you have reached the Drum's end-of-life (12,000 pages), and top panel displays a drum error, consider re-setting the drum-counter to zero and keep running with the same drum until print quality fails. Many have reported 20,000 and more copies on the same unit. This will save about $120 -- which is amazing because the entire printer was only $100 to begin with.
  • Do not use these steps for replacing a cartridge
  • Do not use these steps for toner errors
  • These steps are for the HL-2170w and the HL-2140 with a Drum Error. See Brother support for other models.

1. Turn printer on. Confirm the DRUM LED is blinking.

2. While the printer is still on, open the front cover and remove the toner and drum unit (as illustrated above).

3. At this step, you would replace the drum-unit with another; I propose you skip this and continue with the old drum roller.

4. Return the toner and drum unit to the printer. Leave the door opened.

5. Press and hold the the white button (GO button) for about 4 seconds, until all LEDs light:

Once all LEDs are lit, release the button

6. Close the front cover. The printer will think you have installed a new Drum and it will reset the counters to zero.


Toner Light Solid Yellow on a New Cartridge

On a new Brother HL-2170W printer, after attempting to print the network configuration / printer setup pages, the printer slipped into an error condition where the Toner LED was solid yellow and the printer refused to print -- even though it had a new cartridge and had printed earlier.

Despite what you read on the web, there is no sequence of buttons you can push that will reliably solve this problem on an HL-2040 or 2170w printer. Resetting the Drum counter (pressing GO 5 times and other such steps) will not help.

Solution:

1. Brother's suggestion of removing the cartridge and separating the toner assembly from the drum; then re-inserting is meaningless; as there are no obvious electronic connections between the two devices, but you had best try it anyway. I tried this a dozen times before deciding it was pointless.

2. Rocking the toner back and forth a bit more vigorously than usual may temporarily fix the problem (when you do this, it clouds the sensor windows and makes the printer think all is well.) Be sure to clean the corona wire.

3. If this is a new Brother-branded cartridge, contact Brother Support (call their support number US: 877.276.8437. If you email, you will spend two days with nothing but canned email responses that cover steps 1 and 2 above.)

Once I called Brother Support, and after reading my cartridge's serial number, they reported a known "manufacturing defect" within an unspecified range of serial numbers. They promptly offered to replace the cartridge and a new one is in the mail. You may or may not be that lucky.

In my case, compliments to Brother Technical support on identifying and acting on the problem, because something was clearly wrong. If your cartridge is not in the serial number range, read-on.

3. On a lark, I used the "Covering the Sensors" step from above and surprisingly, this masked the problem and I could once again print. This is not as Brother intended and the cartridge I had was certainly malfunctioning - but I got nearly a year's worth of use out of the failed cartridge.

Commentary:
It won't be long before Brother puts electronics into the cartridge and raises the price in order to stop these tricks. This is what HP did. At that point, we consumers should simply revolt with protests in the streets. I understand Brother wanting only the finest print quality -- but I remember the good old days when the toner ran dry, the print looked poor and we consumers would say, "I guess it is time to buy another toner cartridge." We don't need a machine to tell us. The way Brother and HP do it seems too self-serving, hence these stupid printer tricks.

Known Cartridges where this article applies:
LC 51 cartridges
TN-560
TN-540
TN-3130

HL-1850
HL-2140
HL-2170
HL-2030
HL-5170
HL-5250DN
DCP1000
MFC-8870DW

Related Links:
Reference for Brother Printer LED Indicators


Related articlesKeyliner Brother HL-1020 Printer Review
Keyliner Brother HL-2170w Printer Review
Setting up a Brother Printer on Wireless

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Setting up a Brother Printer on Wireless

Howto: Installing a Brother HL-2170W printer into a Wireless network. These basic steps can be followed with any wireless printer.

The Brother-printer owner's manual was somewhat confusing because the manual had many sections, each describing different ways to install and use the printer. I ignored the owner's guide and the installation software that came with the printer and decided to setup the printer manually. Doing this gives a better install than the automatic routines. Although there are a lot of steps, they go quickly and a complete setup should only take a few minutes.

These instructions assume a CAT-5 network cable for the base install (even if using wireless); this will make the initial installation smooth.

Related article: Wireless printer fails after power failure


Typical Home or Small Office Network

If you have a network-aware printer (either wired or wireless), hang the printer off the router and let it stand alone; do not connect the printer to a workstation with a USB cable. With this design, any computer can use the printer, regardless of the other workstations and you will not need to fiddle with Windows user accounts on the "main" computer.

This is a recommended design and this article discusses how to set up a Brother printer in this fashion.

Setting up a Brother HL-2170w (or similar) printer

The following Brother document, which is not included in the owner's manual, is a good set of instructions for setting up a wireless printer. Of interest, both the vendor instructions and mine ignore the software that shipped with the printer:

http://welcome.solutions.brother.com/BSC/public/us/us/en/faq/faq/000000/002500/000019/faq002519_000.html?reg=us&c=us&lang=en&prod=hl2170w_all&Cat=108
(Choose "Temporarily using a network printer to setup the printer")

However, as good as those instructions were, there were flaws. Glance at that article, then follow the steps in this document.

To make all of this work properly, you will need to run the "BRadmin.exe" program, which came with the CD, but the version on Brother's site is newer and that should be used instead (download link, below).

Keep these thoughts in mind as you go through the steps:
  • You will be using an administrative program called BRadmin Light; there is no need to install this or any other software to configure the printer.  BRadmin Light can be run directly from download without installing.

  • Define both a wired and wireless-network on the same printer, even though only one can be used at a time. By setting both, you have the flexibility to move the printer without re-configuring. This also aids in debugging if the wireless fails or becomes de-configured.

  • Always set the printer with a fixed IP address (described below). Do not use DHCP.

  • Even if you intend to use wireless, use a wired RJ45 network connection (a CAT5 data network cable) to configure the printer. This means you will have to set the printer close to the router for the first-time setup but this ensures an easy installation. Once you are done, the printer will automatically choose the best wired or wireless connection, which ever is available.

  • Do not connect the printer to your computer with USB.  This will do nothing but confuse the drivers on your workstation.

Setup Steps:

0. Ideally, download and install the latest version of BRadmin Light client

From the Brother.com support site, use this link.
Optionally, use the CD that came with the printer.

1. Determine a likely IP Address for the new printer.

From the Start Menu of your workstation, open a command prompt (DOS Prompt).
Type this command to discover your own workstation's IP Address. The digits will vary, depending on your network. Write this number down, you will use it later to help pick a new address for the printer:

(At a DOS Prompt), type
ipconfig (enter)


Example IP Addresses.  Note your workstation's IP Address - it will look similar to these addresses
192.168.1.5
192.168.100.11


2. Login to your router and record your wireless information.

The steps on how to do this are not fully documented here, as they vary by router (see this Keyliner article for hints). In general, launch a browser window and type the address of the router (typically 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.100.1 -- where the last octet is almost always ".1").

You will need your router's login credentials in order to continue. If you can't login to the router, you may not succeed in setting up your printer on a wireless network, but you could continue with a wired setup.

Once logged into the Router's main configuration screen:


3. Obtain the following information for all wired and wireless printer setups:
  • The range used for DHCP addresses
    (often these are allocated in a block of 50); note the range.
    Commonly 192.168.1.10 - 192.168.1.50, or something like 192.168.100.100 - 100.150.
  • This illustration is from my Linksys router:
Click image for larger view; click right-x to return

3b. If you are configuring the printer for wireless, continue browsing the menus, looking for other router information -- basically, you will be treating the printer as-if it were a new laptop joining the network.

You must have this information in order to continue with a wireless setup. On a Linksys router, you will find this information under the Wireless, Basic Wireless settings screen:
  • SSID Broadcast name
  • Type of Encryption (typically WPA-Personal / TKIP but older routers may use WEP)
  • Encryption WPA Passphrase or WEP password (you will have to know this).
  • Check to see if MAC address filtering is enabled

Example from a Linksys Router

If you can't login to the router and could not record the router's information, continue with a wired printer connection, guessing at the IP-Address range. You can see the SSID name from a laptop, as it connects and from here, you could guess at TKIP.

Log out of the router and close the browser window when done.


4. Plug a wired CAT-5 network cable

Plug a Cat-5 network cable directly into your router and then string the other end into the printer's RJ45 network port. (This is the router where your PC connects and there should be four or more ports to choose from. In many cases, this is a separate device from your DSL or Cable router. If all ports are occupied, temporarily borrow a connection from any other device other than your workstation.)

Reason: Connect a physical cat-5 cable even if you intend on using Wireless; this is the easiest way to configure the printer and is less complicated.


5. Launch the BRadmin Light client.
(When/if prompted for a Windows firewall access, grant permission)

Select the printer. It should appear in the list.

Login:
When prompted for a login password, use "access" (no password)
(later steps prompt for a user-id and password: use user-id: "admin" and password "access" or your other previously-set password).


6. Open the Web-based Home page or configure with BRadmin

Both methods are described; choose one or the other:

Web-based:
Other-mouse-click the selected printer,
Choose "Configuration: Device Home Page"
On the top menu, click "Network Configuration" (illustrated)


BRAdmin:
Optionally, other mouse-click the printer (from BRAdmin Light), choosing "Network Configuration", the Network Tab, and set the static IP Address and Gateway from that screen.




7. Set the Printer's base IP Address:

Continuing with either method (web-based is illustrated):

In the Network Configuration tab,

Choose 'Wired' (tab-menu)
Choose menu "Configure TCP/IP"

a. Set TCP/IP *Enable

b. Set the Boot Method to "Static" (important; not DHCP)

c. Type an IP Address that is *outside* of your normal Wireless DHCP range, recorded above.

I recommend 192.168.100.250 or 192.168.200.250 (match your workstation's IP Address, first three octets). Use this address if you could not examine the router's configuration; in other words, this is a good, safe guess.

d. Type a subnet mask 255.255.255.0

e. Set the Gateway address to the router's address (192.168.1.1 or 192.168.200.1, matching your workstation's first three octets).


f. Important: On this and all future screens, you must click SUBMIT (Save) before leaving the screen. Wait several seconds while the screen returns to the main menu.

If you do not set a static IP address, the printer will work for a few days/weeks, but will ultimately fail when the router is rebooted or resets.


8. Click OK to save the changes and Reboot the Printer.

Using either method, *Reboot the printer* for the changes to take effect.


Finish Configuring on the Printer's built-in Web-page:

9. Refresh BRAdmin:

In BRadmin Light, click "Refresh" to re-search the printer with its new address.

a. Other-mouse click the printer and choose "Device Home Page". Returning to the browser setup screen.

b. Click "Network Configuration" on the top menu (same as illustrated above).

c. Login with user-ID: "admin" / Password: "access" (no quotes; you may have set a different password)

Note the Wired and Wireless tabs.


10. In the Wired Tab, click "Configure TCP/IP"

Confirm the following:

a. Again set a Static IP address 192.168.100.250 (or as needed).

b. Confirm the connection is "Enabled".

c. Important: On this and all future screens, you must click SUBMIT (Save) before leaving the screen. Wait several seconds while the screen returns to the main menu.

d. Click to top menu "Network Configuration" to return to the previous screen.


11. Click the *Wireless* tab, make these changes:

a. Click "Configure TCP/IP"

b. Again, set a Static IP address 192.168.100.250 (or as needed).

IP Address: 192.168.100.250 (or as needed)
Subnet Mask: 255.255.255.0
Gateway: 192.168.100.1 (or as needed)
Boot Method: Static

Note, you are setting this address for a second time - once for wired and a second time for wireless -- making both the same. Confirm this connection is also "Enabled".

c. Click Submit (Save).
Wait for the screen to return (10 seconds).

d. Click to top menu "Network Configuration" to return to the previous screen.


12. Additional changes:

In the Interface tab, choose Auto Switching. This allows the printer to choose either the Wired or Wireless connection, depending on which is active. The printer favors a wired connection if present.



13. MAC Address Filtering?


If your wireless network router uses MAC Address Filtering (where you restricted only selected MAC addresses on your network), you will need to add the printer's wireless (not wired) MAC address to the allowed list. When setting MAC address filtering, do this work on the Router's web-config, not on the printer's screen.

Note: If you have WPA-Personal/TKIP encryption, MAC address filtering does not give any additional security. I now recommend disabling MAC Address filtering on the router. Windows 7 has issues with MAC address filtering and it should no longer be used.


14. Return to the Wireless tab

Click the lower menu "Configure Wireless"
  • Change to "1) Infrastructure Mode"

  • Browse for your Wireless Network (SSID Broadcast name).

    If you do not broadcast your SSID, enter the SSID and CHANNEL by hand. (Note: Hiding the SSID broadcast is no longer a recommended security practice because this method is easily hacked. )

  • Choose the Encryption method (as recorded from your initial router inventory); for most, this will be WPA-Personal/TKIP.

    If you are using WPA, manually backspace all four WEP keys displayed on the screen - this avoids an error message I have seen in the BRAdmin program. There seems to be a bug in this area; deleting all 4 passwords seems to fix the problem. See illustration, below.

  • Again, if using WPA-Personal, type your router's Passphrase, which you researched earlier -- this is the router's password, not necessarily the BRAdmin password.

  • Do not fill the last user-id/password fields at the bottom of the screen (not illustrated here)

15. Click Submit to Save your changes.

- Unplug the wired cat5 cable when prompted. The printer will now talk over the Wireless network. Note: You can still open these configuration screens from a wired-desktop by simply typing the printer's IP Address.

illustration assumes WPA, non-WEP encryption


TESTING


A. If using a wireless connection, unplug the Cat-5 network cable and re-boot the printer. Wait for a READY light.

B. From a DOS Command prompt:

(Start, RUN, "CMD") or Start, Accessories, 'Command Prompt,'

type this command (without quotes; assuming you used this IP Address):
"ping 192.168.100.250" (press enter).

Look for a Reply from in xx milliseconds. This means the printer is responding.


Install Drivers:

On each workstation that will print to this printer, use the CD to install the Windows Printer driver.

1. Control Panel, "Devices and Printers"

2. Select "Add a Printer,"
Select "Add a Network Printer"
Choose the printer from the list

(or if prompted this way: Choose this prompt: "Brother Peer-to-Peer Network Printer" - Print directly to a printer over the network. Choose a port-address of 192.168.100.250 (or as set).

Alternately, after Adding a Printer, choose "Add a Local Printer
Create a New Port
Switch from "Local" to "Standard TCP/IP Port
In the Hostname or IPAddress field, type 192.168.100.250
In the Port Name, type 192.168.100.250

3. Allow a test page to print.

4. Complete these same setup steps on the other computers on the network.

Note: because you are not using Windows Peer-to-Peer networking, drivers are not automatically downloaded from the main computer; you must install them separately. This is the only real drawback to this design.

Your un-registered comments on this article are welcome.


Related articles:
If your Brother printer quits printing on the wireless network after a power failure, see this article:
Wireless printer fails after power failure

Brother Printer Toner Cartridges

Brother HL-2170W Laser Printer Review

Reference for Brother Printer LED Indicators

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Brother HL-2170W Laser Printer - Review

Review: Non-technical Review comparing Brother printers with HP along with a cost-benefit decision on buying a new toner cartridge versus a whole new printer.

Brother makes good quality, inexpensive printers that do exactly what they are supposed to do. However, like all other manufacturers, the consumables are expensive. I've often found it makes more sense to buy a new printer and as you read this article, you will see this was my recent decision. I am pleased with the new HL-2170W printer.


Two years ago I bought a Brother HL-2040 laser printer (Keyliner reviewed here), and after a couple of toner cartridges, it ran dry. Once again, I was faced with this bizarre decision: A new cartridge cost $70 -- a new printer, with a toner cartridge, costs $70 to $100 depending on the model. Granted, the new printer's toner cartridge is an "introductory" cartridge and only prints 1,000 pages, but for me, this is still 9 months of printing and it gives me a chance to upgrade.



Faults with the Original

The original Brother 2040 printer did not come with a network card. This meant I had to share the printer on a Windows peer-to-peer network and the main computer had to be on before the other laptops in the house could print.

Because of the power requirements on the old Brother printer (480 watts), I vowed to never buy one like that again (previous review). What I discovered is most brands use this much power and all will cause issues with a household circuit.

Finally, one last consideration: Although I'm nowhere near the 10,000 page duty cycle, there are other consumables to worry about. The fuser assembly, pickup-rollers, gears, and the built-in power supply are all a concern. If you are reaching these limits, buy another printer rather than incur the obscene costs for other replacement parts. These are all reasons to choose a new printer.

Comparing Other Printers

Between HP and Brother, the Brother printers always seemed a better buy.

Brother had three different printers within a $70 to $150 price range (HL-2040, HL-2170W, HL-5340D - all on sale). HP started at $150 and went to $300 for similar models.

The only printer HP had that was price-competitive had numerous problems. It does not have a real paper-tray, and what it does have, it only holds 150 sheets.

Although wireless, the HP was only wireless and it did not have an RJ45 wired-jack. It is nice to have both options because a wired connection is always better than wireless. Additionally, the HP prints at 600dpi, which is less than the similarly priced Brother printers (1200dpi) and it only comes with 8MB of RAM, instead of 32.

But most importantly, this HP printers has a minuscule toner cartridge, which is more expensive (by page-count) than all other vendors. On the plus-side, this printer drew 380 watts, but this was not enough to sway my decision.

Moving to the more expensive HP printers, ones with comparable form-factors to the Brother printers, the feature-set was on-par but HP's prices were consistently and noticeably more expensive at each category. For all of these reasons, I bought a Brother printer again.

The Decision

If your old printer is approaching a 10,000 page duty cycle (apx. 7 toner cartridges), buy a new printer rather than risk a failed drum or fuser roller. If your older printer lacks features that you would like (such as a network connection, speed or memory), you might as well buy a new printer rather than replacing an empty toner cartridge -- providing you can get the printer on sale. If you can stay within the brand, keep the old printer and toner for spare parts.

See this Keyliner article on how to extend the life of your Brother toner cartridge. This article also discusses a trick to extend the drum-counter life. And even though I have not tried re-filling toner cartridges myself, I intend to the next time it is empty; Brother cartridges are extremely easy to refill.

If you have more than one computer, then all printers should be network aware. In my case, upgrading with a network wireless/wired connection made sense. I ended up with a less-complicated printing environment. However, if you only have one computer, and have no intention on buying a second machine, then you could save money, buying a non-networked printer, but this is probably short-sighted.

Pricing:

Normally Brother Printers are priced about $50 less than comparable other brands. But when they are on sale, as they are this month (2010.09), the decision is almost painless. Staples.com has most Brother printers on sale through the end of the month.

The HL-2170w, which is my recommended printer for home and small office users, is regularly $150 but on sale for $100. The non-networked HL-2040 is $70.

Staples.com also sells "refurbished" printers for $30 less on their website, with free delivery. Most of these printers are probably nearly-new and were returned by customers for various reasons. Because the box was opened, they can't be sold as new. Consider this as an option if you can wait a week on the shipment.

Related articles:
Brother 2040 Review
Extending the life of a Brother toner cartridge by 1,000 pages
Setting up a Brother Printer on Wireless