The Brother HL-5470DW monochrome laser is the sort of printer that's most likely to wind up shared, but you might well also have designs on it for personal use. On the one hand, the ample paper handling, reasonably good speed and output quality, and both Ethernet and Wi-Fi support make it a good fit for a micro or small office. On the other hand, its small size makes it a strong contender for a particularly busy home office or a power user's personal printer. Either way, it can serve both roles, and serve them well.
In many ways, the HL-5470DW plays second fiddle to the similarly priced OKI B431dn. The Brother printer has a similar but slightly larger size, similar but slightly slower speed, and similar but slightly less capable paper handling abilities. That doesn’t make this a bad device, of course.
The printer's paper handling in particular counts as a plus, with a 300-sheet capacity divided into a 250-sheet drawer and a 50-sheet multipurpose tray, plus a built-in duplexer (for printing on both sides of the page). That should be ample capacity in most cases, but if you need more, you can add a 500-sheet second drawer for a total 800-sheet capacity. Also note that if this large capacity is what you’re shooting for, you can save a bit of money by buying the HL-5470DWT, which is the same printer with the second drawer already included.
Measuring 371 x 384 x 257mm (WxDxH), the HL-5470DW actually has a smaller footprint than many inkjets, but it feels a lot bigger because of the height and shape. That puts it on the verge of being too big to comfortably share a desk with, which means you may want it near, rather than on, your desk.
For my tests, I connected it to a network using the Ethernet port and installed the drivers on a Windows Vista system. Set up was absolutely standard for a mono laser.
Brother rates the printer engine at 40 pages per minute (ppm), which is close to the speed you should see when printing text files with no graphics or photos. On our Business Applications suite, using QualityLogic's hardware and software for timing, I benched it at an effective 10.7 ppm. That makes the HL-5470DW slower than some printers with lower engine ratings. The 30-ppm rated Canon imageClass LBP6300dn, for example, managed 14.5 ppm on our tests. On the plus side, however, 10.7 ppm still qualifies as reasonably fast, and it means the printer pretty much tied with OKI’s B431dn, which achieved 11.1 ppm.
The HL-5470DW's overall output quality is par for a mono laser. Text quality is at the low end of the range where the vast majority of mono lasers fall, making it easily good enough for any business needs, but a touch short of what you'd want for serious desktop publishing applications.
Graphics are at the high end of par, with output that's good enough for any internal business requirements. Depending on how much of a perfectionist you are, you may or may not consider it good enough for, say, PowerPoint hand-outs.
Photos are also par, but at the low end of the range. They're good enough for printing web pages with recognisable photos. Whether you consider the quality suitable for photos in a client or company newsletter depends, once again, on how much of a perfectionist you happen to be.
One other plus point for the printer is a low running cost, at a claimed 2.1 cents (1.3 pence) per page. As a point of comparison, the LBP6300dn claims 2.6 cents (1.65 pence) per page. That’s a fairly slight difference on the face of it, but obviously a telling one if you’re planning on doing a lot of printing. If that’s the case, then the running cost is definitely something you should factor in when comparing hardware prices.
Add up all its strong points and the Brother HL-5470DW offers enough to put it on your short list, but not enough to make it a must-buy. If you care more about speed and output quality than cost, you should be looking closely at the Canon LBP6300dn, and on an overall level, the similarly priced OKI B431dn offers a bit more pep on most fronts. Even so, the Brother HL-5470DW is a more than reasonable choice, with an attractive balance of speed, output quality, paper handling, running cost, and price.