Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Brother HL-6180DW - personal experience, AirPrint, and Printopia incompatibility/obsolescence.

I used an Apple LaserWriter Select 360 for about twenty years. When I could no longer buy a cartridge for it I got five years from a Brother MFC-7820N, then three years from a Brother 2140, and lately 3 months from a Brother HL 2270DW.

I'm not sure, but I think I might be seeing a bit of occult inflation.

The Wirecutter-recommended Brother HL 2270DW didn't actually malfunction, it simply turned out to be extraordinarily expensive to operate. We got about 600 print pages out of a $50 "2,600" page Brother toner cartridge. Seems Brother has brought the ink jet business model to the formerly respectable laser writer.

So I handed that printer off to some friends who really only need occasional printing, and I went looking for a respectable alternative. I'd like to say I bought something that wasn't Brother, but making marks on paper is a dying industry. The competition is no better, and at least Brother printer drivers seem relatively Mac friendly.

I ended up buying the HL-6180DW (today's dynamic Amazon price is $254, I paid $230 a week ago). it comes with a 3,000 page cartridge (no fake starter cartridge) and you can buy a 12,000 page TN780 cartridge for about $106. The drum is good for about 30,000 pages (at which point it will cease working whether you like it or note), so we might get five years out of this one.

Compared to the compact 2270 the 6180DW is less than an inch wider, but its at least 4" taller. It just fits the space I had for it. It's reasonably quiet and of course it prints quite adequately. I didn't try to enable the WiFi [4], it has an ethernet connection to my Airport Extreme so it's a networked ethernet printer. Our laptops find it because, after all, it's on the network (no print server needed). [3]

I like to keep my printer installations simple, so after downloading all the manuals [5] but not the latest drivers [1] I switched to my Admin account [2] and added the printer through Mountain Lion's interface. That worked well, but, unlike the 2270 DW, the print queue didn't provide a link to the printers web admin GUI.

So I had to find the printers IP address to get the web GUI. From the LCD panel, choose machine info, then print network settings [8]. That gave me the IP, paste into Chrome or Safari to get the Admin GUI.

There's no default pw, you can set one if you like. I don't know how to do a password reset, so be careful not to lose it. [9]

From that GUI note two key settings under Print:

  • Toner Save: turn ON. Seems to print fine with Toner Save on and we know Brother makes its money from toner sales.
  • Continue Mode: This controls what happens when your printer hits Brother's 20% remaining (600 pages in this case) mark. I believe the default means the printer will stop printing. I set it to "Auto". 

This all went relatively well, but then I discovered Printopia wasn't letting me select my new printer! Exasperating, since my #1 son loves printing from his iPhone. There were no error messages, but the new printer didn't appear. 

All was not lost however, as I discovered that AirPrint "just worked" [7]. Since the printer was on my mixed wired/wifi network, and since it supports AirPrint, my iOS devices saw it. No need to mess with printer's complex wifi settings [4]. So I removed Printopia, it was no longer needed. (I suspect it doesn't manage AirPrint devices, would have been nice to have shown a message of some kind.)

I didn't make too many other changes. I disabled NETBIOS (why not?), and clicking around I turned off TCP/IP for wireless. Don't do that! There's a UI glitch/bug, this turns off all TCP/IP support. I had to use the LCD panel network reset to get access back.

- fn -

[1] There's a firmware update but I didn't check to see if it was needed. I did need to download the 10.5 drivers for our old G5 iMac, that worked quite well.

[2] This may be a quirk of my Mountain Lion install, or simply a bug, but if I try to do the install/download from a non-admin account it fails even after authentication. I bet this is a 10.8.3 bug. 

[3] TCP/IP still feels magical to me. 

[4] If you do want WiFi don't even look at the insanely complex Quick Start Guide. Go to the web GUI (above) and find Wireless Personal, then change Communication Mode to Infrastructure and figure it out from there. I didn't try!

[5] Elsewhere I found the very esoteric Brother Laser Printer Technical Reference Guide.

[6] There may be an LCD control for this but I didn't see it. 

[7] A sadly rare event with Apple 2013. It turns out AirPrint is a misnomer, it should really be called iOSNetworkPrint.

[8] If you install Brother's driver software, the Print Queue window includes a status icon. Open that, and if you click twice on the icon for the printer Safari opens with the correct IP address. Yes, that's obscure.

[9] After I setup a password the next time I returned there was a Login field at screen top. There's no username, just enter the pw you defined in this field to get accdess to admin screens. I don't know how one would reset a lost passwords -- so be careful!

Update 10/27/13: AirPrint and toner spill

Looking at Amazon reviews I see this printer has a reputation for toner spillage. I ran the starter cartridge to the end and it did leak a small amount, so this might be a real problem and not just a counterfeit cartridge problem.

iOS devices can't see the AirPrint printer when the device is asleep. So to add the Brother as an AirPrint device first make it active. I don't know if it will waken in response to an AirPrint request.


Wiley said...

Did you notice the fine print of the 2600 page life indicates, "5% page coverage?" You may be printing pages with more than 5% ink coverage.

JGF said...

Oooooooooh. That's so wicked!

The 6180DW seems to print forever, we're still on the starter cartridge.

Dumping the 2270DW on a friend who prints 10 pages a year was my best move in years. I got rid of a lemon, gave him the printer he needed, and I bought something that works.