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Brother DCP-L3550CDW review: Robust but redundant

Brother's DCP-L3550CDW is a relatively affordable colour laser MFP, but it's full of useful features for a home or small office: wired and wireless networking, fax, duplex printing and a 50-sheet ADF. Sadly, this model can't make duplex scans, faxes or copies, while the range-topping MFC-L3770CDW can.

You could hardly accuse this MFP of being good looking, but it's a practical design, with control coming from a 9.3cm colour touchscreen. Brother has clearly invested in usability: the DCP-L3550CDW can multitask, scanning to a PC, for example, while servicing a print job, and even releases the automatic document feeder for use after copying while the printer is still churning out the copied pages.

This MFP isn't particularly quick for a laser. Rated at a modest 18ppm in black or colour, it delivered black text at 16ppm, and mixed colour graphics at a middling 14.7ppm. Duplexed colour graphics emerged at 5.6ppm. At 14 (mono) and 17 seconds (colour), single-page photocopies were swift, while ten-page ADF copies completed in 47 seconds, black or colour. Scans were very quick, with previews and low-resolution A4 scans completing in seven seconds or less. Only at 1,200dpi did things slow down appreciably, but even then scanning a 10 x 15cm photo took just 44 seconds.

Print quality was generally very good, with sharp text and even, glitch free-graphics, but pages lacked the impact and sheen of the best lasers, looking in some lights more like output from a capable inkjet. Copies were too dark at the default setting, but scans were among the best we've seen from a Brother device.

The DCP-L3550CDW uses separate toner, drum, belt and waste toner consumables, which can cut running costs, but juggling seven consumables is a lot to manage for home users. Print costs are around 2p per page in black and 8.4p in colour, which isn't excessive for a printer in this class.

Ultimately, this MFP is undone by Brother's own MFC-L3770CDW, which in addition to its duplex ADF offers faster printing, a 30-page multipurpose input and a USB slot for direct prints and scans. Curiously, it cost only £10 more at the time of writing, leaving us wondering why we would choose the DCP-L3550CDW, capable though it is.

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