Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Just Get a Brother

ifixcoinops (via Hacker News):

Watching a mutual ask for printer recs and receive a chorus of tired tech folk going “Just get a Brother, they’re fine” and man


Like this is actually kinda fascinating honestly, Brother is now the best printer brand, the one that every Computer Person recommends, and is it because their printers are good? Their printers are fine, they print, whatever, no, it’s because everybody else’s printers have gotten Innovated out the wazoo, every innovation making them way worse, until it’s gotten to the point where I wouldn’t have one in the house even if it were free, and meanwhile Brother’s have remained consistently Fine I Guess, which now makes them the best printer manufacturer simply by virtue of them opting out of the Who Can Get Crappiest Fastest race

It’s true, from what I can tell. There was a time when pretty much all the printers were fine. I tended to like the HP ones. Then at some point they pretty much all started to suck. I ran into a series of horrible models from HP and Epson, with both hardware and software issues. I’ve been using a Brother laser printer for at least 15 years now, and it’s boring in the best possible way. It does what it’s supposed to do and never gives me any trouble. Over the summer we bought another one—my first color laser—and it also works as expected. Decent printers are ridiculously cheap these days. I think I got it on sale for roughly the price of an AirPods Pro. It seems like we’ve printed and color-copied a lot, yet the initial toner cartridges are still going strong. There’s no software to install, and the scanner works with macOS’s Image Capture, although that app seems to be falling into disrepair.


Update (2023-12-28): Simone Manganelli:

I was amazed w/how simple a B&W Brother laser printer was to setup: there was none.

What I want from tech: a Brother brand for every piece of hardware and every app. Something that I can rely on and never changes. I hate that tech cos insist on changing everything constantly.


I have an MFC-3750 that’s been running perfectly with Non-OE ink for more than a year now. The W1.56 firmware update, however, disabled the automatic color registration feature. With the colors not able to be aligned, the printer is effectively non-functional.


I recently bought a Brother colour laser printer, with the understanding that OEM toner was not chip-locked.


Not only is the above, post-sale firwmware update a change of what I understood to be Brother’s historical policy, the method is beyond evil.

Brother seems to be apparently accepting the ink, but then purposefully making the print quality poorer.

Update (2024-01-03): Deceptive Patterns:

Surely this can’t be real.

“We’ve alerted you multiple times that this printer had non-Original HP cartridges installed. This is your final notice to fix the issue”

Update (2024-01-11): Karl Bode:

Hewlett Packard (HP) has been socked with yet another lawsuit for crippling the printers of consumers who use cheaper third-party ink cartridges.

Update (2024-01-23): Richard Speed (via Hacker News, Slashdot):

HP CEO Enrique Lores admitted this week that the company’s long-term objective is “to make printing a subscription” when he was questioned about the company’s approach to third-party replacement ink suppliers.


Later in the interview, he added: “Every time a customer buys a printer, it’s an investment for us. We are investing in that customer, and if that customer doesn’t print enough or doesn’t use our supplies, it’s a bad investment.”


Lores said of customers who use a third-party cartridge: “In many cases, it can create all sorts of issues from the printer stopping working because the ink has not been designed to be used in our printer, to even creat[ing] security issues.

“We have seen that you can embed viruses into cartridges, through the cartridge go to the printer, from the printer go to the network, so it can create many more problems for customers.”

Update (2024-01-30): Karl Bode:

Ars Technica talked to numerous security researchers who laughed at the claim, noting that it’s never been meaningfully documented in the wild, and isn’t something consumers should be worried about.

Or, if you believe Lores, the design is a bit of a strategy tax in that their business model led them to create a security hole where none had previously existed.

Update (2024-04-08): Nilay Patel (tweet):

It’s been over a year since I last told you to just buy a Brother laser printer, and that article has fallen down the list of Google search results because I haven’t spent my time loading it up with fake updates every so often to gain the attention of the Google search robot.

It’s weird because the correct answer to the query “what is the best printer” has not changed, but an entire ecosystem of content farms seems motivated to constantly update articles about printers in response to the incentive structure created by that robot’s obvious preferences. Pointing out that incentive structure and the culture that’s developed around it seems to make a lot of people mad, which is also interesting!

Anyway, here’s the best printer for 2024: a Brother laser printer. You can just pick any one you like; I have one with a sheet feeder and one without a sheet feeder. Both of them have reliably printed return labels and random forms and pictures for my kid to color for years now, and I have never purchased replacement toner for either one. Neither has fallen off the WiFi or insisted I sign up for an ink-related hostage situation or required me to consider the ongoing schemes of HP executives who seem determined to make people hate a legendary brand with straightforward cash grabs and weird DRM ideas.


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My Brother HL-2170W from 2007 is still kicking, though it sounds a bit wheezy. It's probably the best bang for buck piece of hardware I've ever bought.

Samuel Herschbein

My main printer is a Brother HL-5250DN from 2004. I've replaced some parts from a dead twin or two. It's working fine 19+ years later in macOS, Windows, and Linux.

I also have a Brother MFC-7860DW that's over a decade old. It scans, prints, and faxes just fine.

All the other brands I or my clients have used in the last decade have all failed prematurely.

The HL-5250DN's pickup roller's rubber has hardened, it sometimes mis-feeds. Not a show stopper, a quick wipe with my hand to clear the paper lint always gets it going again.

I’m on year 10 of using the same Brother printer. It has an annoyance or two but it is indeed a serviceable printer that I’ll immediately replace with another Brother printer if (and I really do mean if) it ever stops working. Just bought another two-plus year supply of ink from some third party on Amazon for $19. No subscriptions, no DRM, no headaches.

I've spent my life in printing (not sure how I ended up here, really...), though I won't share which company of course.

There are technical reasons and there are business reasons printers are designed the way they are. Brother has not succumb to any of the "bad reasons" in either category, whereas almost every other printing company has.

#1 advice is to buy a Brother. #2 is to try your hardest not to buy an inkjet (this is the industry I work in). You, almost certainly, don't use it enough to keep the ink and printhead healthy, and you're not saving money in any case. Spend a little more and get a toner printer.

My B&W HP LaserJet Pro MFP125nw (bought 2015) hasn't connected to web services provided by HP for a while now despite receiving firmware updates until late 2020 and I only recently noticed. Took a hell of a job to realise that the only way to stop it from trying and failing to connect was to factory reset it, because their web services division had undergone several brand name changes in the meantime, and I could no longer use the new app to re-add it after deleting it from my account. I would have been satisfied with local-only printing, honestly, only the new "HP Smart" app forces you to log in even to use the printer and scanner locally even if it isn't on your account now, AirPrint support doesn't extend to scanning (bought VueScan--great program, fixed the problem, but isn't integrated with macOS as a driver) and macOS doesn't support the printer with working drivers any more and the drivers Apple did ship in the past are Intel only and realistically not safe for use on modern macOS version.

I can't bear to throw out working hardware, and I'll try very hard to avoid the inevitable until the second and last of my spare HP toner cartridges runs low, because the truth is that it's been steady as a rock and works well and the biggest issue has been the software. But by the sounds of it, my next printer/scanner will be a Brother, too. Thanks for the heads-up.

@Michael Yes, the economics have really shifted so that I think inkjets rarely make sense anymore. Maybe if you really care about the physical size of the printer or if you primarily want to print photos on special paper.

16 years with a Brother here, and it's still going fine. I wanted one that was duplex and held a whole realm back in 2007, and nothing has given any significant trouble.

My father-in-law bought a Brother laser several years ago. It worked great, and then after ~3 years, it stopped working.

I've been using HP forever. Inkjets at first, which generally lasted ~10 years, but ink was expensive and annoying, and print times for anything more than black and white were longer than I'd like. The most recent time I needed a new printer, I bought a prosumer-level HP color laser -- the M454dw to be specific. It is fast and amazing. It's on my network, supports AirPrint, handles duplex jobs. I've had it about four years so far; zero complaints. Being a laser printer, it doesn't care at all if I go six months without printing anything (because it's 2024 and who prints frequently anymore?!). It was around $250 at the time; looks like prices have more than doubled since then. I'd still say it's worth it at today's price.

Anecdata of course, but I'm sticking with HP.

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