Brother DCP 1616NW: Mono Laser printer is workhorse for home and office

30th November 2014
Brother DCP 1616NW: Mono Laser printer is workhorse for home and office

Basic laser  technology has hardly changed   in 30 years -- so look for the little things that reduce recurring costs
By Anand Parthasarathy
Bangalore, December1 2014: It is thirty years since  Hewlett Packard   launched the first laser printer for the  mass market,  sourcing   a print engine  from the Japanese company Canon.   It churned out 8 pages per minute (PPM),  while printing to a density of 300 dots per inch.  And it cost  nearly $ 3500 -- Rs  2 lakhs in today's money.    Now,  almost all consumer laser printers  print at around 20 PPM  and the resolution has improved  4 or 8-fold to  1200 - 2400 DPI.  Entry level  Black and white laser printers  can be had for Rs 4000 - Rs 6000.

That's progress for you --  but is it really?
Laser printing technology  actually debuted  in the mid 1970s -- when  both IBM and Xerox launched   models for corporate use. What is surprising is not how  the cost of laser printing  has dropped  -- but how little  the basic technology  has evolved. There has been no radical innovation  these 40 years. Then and now it remains the  same process: producing  high-quality text and graphics  by  passing a  laser beam back & forth over an electron-charged, cylindrical drum, to define an  image, tracing it with  electrically charged powdered ink, and transferring the image to  paper, under heat.
|When an industry fails to innovate, it is difficult to differentiate its  products. But even in this unexciting technology environment, there is room for  creating customer value  by small hardware and software  tweaks. Of the 10  monochrome laser printers launched in India last week by the Japan-based Brother, I selected to try out  one that offered two features that most lay users as well as small businesses  need today:  wireless operation and  multi-functions (ie printing, copying and  scanning).
The Brother DCP- 1616NW  meets both these criteria. It is a 20 PPM A4 size black and white print-scan-copy machine that offers  2400 by 600 DPI quality: this is enough to reproduce even photos quite well.  You can use it as a wired printer  with its USB connector, or wirelessly, latching on to your home WiFi hotspot.  So far there is nothing to really make the 1616 stand apart from competitors -- but wait!
Brother has  innovated on the software side to  appeal to the thrifty Indian buyer.  You can save paper by combining  2 or 4 pages on a single A4  sheet. Even more usefully  the makers address a very common use case:  You can print two sides of an identity card or Aadhaar  card on the same side of a paper using a special  ID copy mode,  without having to remove and re-insert the sheet.  
This is one of very few printers in this  category which comes with an auto document feeder. This translates into a small but significant advantage: It allows you to scan documents that are longer than A4 size -- like the foolscap size used by the legal profession.
But I have a  feeling the 1616 will  really sell itself on the cost of replenishment. Unlike some popular brands, Brother  does not  integrate the print drum with the toner cartridge. This means you don't pay for a new drum every time you need to add toner.  This way they are able to bring down the cost of the standard 1500 page  toner cartridge to Rs 1775.  Their engineers tell me you would need to install a new drum ( Rs 2775)  only after you have  changed the toner cartridge  at least   4 times... it can add up to a tidy reduction in  annual  running cost.
A lot of  small office printing work and  much of home printing can make do without colour. If your needs are likewise, the Brother DCP 1616 NW  at Rs 11,650  seems to offer   very  good bang for your buck. If you don't have home WiFi, the DCP1601,  has almost the same features without wireless and costs Rs 9990.