A cheap wireless laser printer with 3rd party toner is the way to go

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/09/09/a-cheap-wireless-laser-printer.html


I got a great deal on an all-in-one from Costco. Still need to find a good photo-capable printer for my mother, though, and struggling. Canon appears to have just left the market, and lots of other companies models are all suspiciously “out of stock”.


Is it just for small-format photos? I’ve had great experience with the Canon Selphy line, and it looks like they’re in stock all over the place.


Friends don’t let friends buy an inkjet. (Unless they really need one.)

FWIW, I totally agree with the post. Bought a cheap Brother printer, refill the cartridges from a toner kit, replace the drum every few years, and my life is measurably better. Perhaps that’s pitiful, but gone are the endless hassles, hassles, hassles…

When this printer breaks, if it will ever oblige, double-sided would be the way to go.

BTW, you can upload photo files to Target /Walgreens/Walmart/etc., let them struggle with special cartridges and papers, and have the photos mailed to your home.


I’ve got two Epson ecotank printers. I got one for sublimation ink and realized how awesome of a printer it was, so I got another one for normal printing.

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I bought a very similar Brother laser printer a couple of years back. I also got a big third-party toner cartridge, but I haven’t had cause to plug it in yet; I’m still working on the cartridge that came with the printer. I guess I don’t do much printing.

My kids are now in college, but when they were in middle school they blew my mind with their ability to waste inkjet-printer consumables. One teacher assigned the kids to find a magazine article online (OK) and print it out (WHY?!), and my kid would use multiple pages to print it WITH ADS! IN COLOR!!! (You can tell that I’m still losing my mind over it, all these years later, I hope.) My response was to buy this printer.

My family gave me some shit for cheaping out on a printer, but they liked that it was wireless. (That feature hadn’t been around, or not much, when we got the inkjet years earlier.)

If I need to print a page in color, I send it to Fedex Office, who print it with one of their giant, high-end printers the size of a small car. It comes out much better than anything a home inkjet could do, and they charge me like fifty cents.


Those Brother printers work rather well. I’ve been using them for about 15 years. My current one was bought ten years ago for a non-profit, then they got a newer one after its USB port failed. I think it’s been three years since it needed a toner cartridge, so I just buy the Brother one. Fortunately the toner doesn’t have a use-by date.


One of the comments on Amazon for the HL-L2350DW says that the printer has some sort of DRM to detect third party toner. Does anyone know if that is true? Maybe an earlier model is missing the DRM?


I run a small business and I use one of these (with third party toner natch) for most printing, including the daily packing slips, and a Canon MegaTank for color stuff. Both are very economic. The Brother is a workhorse and it prints really fast. The Canon PIXMA printers are hands down the best quality consumer printers, and the tank ink is cheap, but it’s slow and we’ve gone through three of them in the last few years - they have a set end life when the ink absorber pad is full.

I’ve got a color version of this, and it’s excellent.

The one thing I’ll say is that the 3rd party toner cartridges aren’t of the same quality as the actual Canon brand ones, but they do get the job done. Unless you need perfect photo quality prints I wouldn’t worry, though.

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I’ve been thrilled with my Brother wireless laserjet. Scans, copies and prints, and just keeps on working.

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Umma have to disagree with this, if we’re talking about a general-purpose printer for makering. For boring reasons I have a fairly long and diverse experience with printers, and am keenly aware of what a vortex of suffering they can be, and I feel like I finally reached the end of that journey several years ago when I got a Canon iX4000, which is an inkjet printer.

But wait! It’s not your standard horrible $70 SOHO inkjet printer that combines unreliable printing with unreliable scanning and copying and wifi and thimble-sized $30 cartridges. Its list of exactly 2 features is (1) it prints pages via USB and (2) it accepts A3-sized paper (I think the max is actually something like 320x480mm). It takes separate catridges, which are decent-sized and easy to buy as cheap generic versions. It has a straight-through paper path which basically never jams, including when I print on dubious materials like card or fabric. It has pretty good dimensional accuracy (which is not a given), and can print to the edge of the paper. It prints fine with stock OS drivers, and is too basic to ever go wrong. It gives me low-key warm feelings of love whenever I think about it, which I rarely do because it’s so dependable. I’m not sure if they still make it, but god I hope there’s an equivalent replacement if it ever breaks, or more likely is destroyed by a meteorite strike.

I do get the appeal of laser printers too, only that pretty much rules out the A3 printing, which I didn’t realise how important that was to me until I had it. It means you can easily make A4-sized books, and it’s great for making templates for woodworking and model making – the extra size really comes in useful there. Also, inkjets can print almost instantly from a cold start, or at least this one can, which is good for my flow.

Hmm I didn’t consciously realise how much I like my printer. Maybe I’ll give it some new cartridges right now just to show my appreciation.


For the love of God, please don’t expect that your wireless printer will work 100% of the time if the printer is connected to your home network wirelessly.

If you want wireless printing (printing from your phone, laptop, etc.), plug your printer into your router via a network cable. I know the other way works much of the time, but trust me that you’ll have better luck with my suggestion.

Also, as much as I love those Brother printers, they have a Deep Sleep mode that might be annoying. And, the newer ones try to force you to use Brother OEM toner. They are still a good deal, and still tend to last a while.

Until you get the replace drum message, which you can ignore until the print quality degrades :wink:


I picked up a Xerox Phaser N6250 for about $175 in 2012. It’s not wireless, but can be accessed that way as it’s plugged into my router. I’ve been using generic toner cartridges in it, and am quite happy with spending $10 to replace a black toner cart. It’s photo capable and still prints crisply after 8 years. I will mourn when it passes.

I might even consider trying to fix it in that eventuality, if it’s something easy like the fuser. I estimate my total expenditures to be less than $300 in the last eight years. Had I been continuing on the inkjet/All-in-One route, I suspect that it would be double that, not to mention a pile of e-waste 3 or 4 feet high.

One thing I would add is to find a printer that takes Postscript. This lets you use the generic built-in drivers on whatever device you have to print instead of being stuck in driver hell when you do OS upgrades or have other things you want to print from. Network printers are timeless too. 20 year old postscript Laserjets still work just fine.

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The linux drivers for Brother printers are mostly binary blobs for linux x86 architecture. I found that out trying to use a rpi to put my usb only brother on the network. Their are better manufactures if you want open source drivers.

I have a Brother HL-2140 which is ~12 years old. It is still running, Drums and toner are dirt cheap if you get the off brand stuff like they said…Pro tip: if you cover the little window on the toner cartridge you can run the cartridges til they are dry (although, I hear it may not be good for the drum).

I don’t know how many pages this thing has done but it is a lot…

Mine (HL-2270DW) detects third party toner, but it also lets you override it with the secret codes. (You can just google them)
Then it lets you go on your merry way, but threatens not to keep stats for you. (But it does anyway)

By the by, I changed routers, and my laptop and printer can no longer smell each other. Been working on it for days. The printer just won’t wake up and be discoverable. Even hard wired it without success. Oh well. I’ll keep at it.

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I’m not suspicious, just think of all the home office work in this pandemic era. And anecdotically I can recall tens of people who “can’t read long enough in a screen” that print a lot of material at work. And their children’s homework too, although I don’t think that is a factor in this situation. Well, maybe the kids also like to do Zoom show and tell with printed stuff? Cutouts and such.

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the only thing a print these days is Ebay address labels as I usually have to put them through more than ones (upto 12) times with the printed labels removed I suspect a laser printer would chew them up. Anyway until my brother inkjet I got second hand as it uses the same cartridges as my printer dies I’m golden.