Brother HL-1450

Brother appears to have done the impossible – by building a PostScript-emulating and networkable A4 laser printer which sells for under £300. Once installed, though, it’s apparent that not all the promised features are available to every Mac owner. The HL-1450 is a compact 360-x-370mm-footprint box that can be located conveniently on or underneath your desk, without any flaps sticking out. Up to 250 sheets of standard office paper can be loaded into a fully removable cassette at the front, with up to 150 printouts collecting on top of the machine. There’s a manual-feed slot above the cassette, but no tray to go with it – so it’s strictly a single-sheet operation for envelopes, header sheets, special stock and labels. A curved plastic cover at the rear can be hinged outwards to allow manually fed items to pass through to the back on a flat path. As supplied, the machine comes with 8MB of RAM with an option to swap-out the installed SIMM to expand the memory to 34MB (£20 from www.crucial.com/uk). In addition to USB and parallel ports, there’s a mini-DIN socket at the back tantalizingly labelled ‘LT’. But this turns out to be a connector for an optional 250-sheet lower tray cassette, not a legacy LocalTalk port. Driven by a 66MHz Fujitsu processor and a fast engine, the HL-1450 is rated at 14 pages per minute (ppm). In practice, we achieved an average of 12.5ppm for plain-text documents, which is still pretty good for a machine priced like an 8ppm personal printer. The standard resolution is 600-x-600dpi, but this can be dropped to 300dpi for faster draft printouts, or increased to 1,200-x-600pi for graphics. A 30MB A4-sized photo printed from Photoshop 6.0 within 46 seconds, but only to an average image-quality using Brother’s QuickDraw-based driver, not the BR-Script 2 driver for PostScript Level 2 emulation. And herein lies the problem: BR-Script can be used only under Mac OS 8 or 9 when Brother’s extra-cost network print server is installed. The optional network card alone costs £209. Conversely, the Mac OS X driver that you can download from Brother’s Web site does use PostScript emulation – but of course only from Carbon-based applications. When printing from non-X programs, such as Photoshop 6.0 and QuarkXPress, you can use only the basic non-X driver. Without PostScript, bitmap images look flat, gradient fills are banded, and placed vector- graphics print out as previews only. Office workers may also be disappointed to find that the handy manual-duplex feature in the QuickDraw driver doesn’t exist in the Mac OS X driver.

OUR VERDICT

Although we admire Brother for preparing a Mac OS X driver at all, the claims of PostScript emulation and networkability need to be qualified for other systems. However, if your main needs are text-based, the Brother HL-1450 brings crisp laser quality to many desktops that normally couldn’t have afforded it.

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