Consumer color laser printing was a mature technology when I bought an HP 2500 in 2003. The printer itself was (as I recall) about $500. I paid extra to get an actual paper tray. And when the toner cartridges ran out, replacing them nearly matched the original cost of the printer.
The $175 imaging drum recently expired, and the $400 worth of toner was down to half capacity. To keep the HP going was going to take about $600 to keep going another couple of years. So I started looking for a replacement. I do like color laser printing. And now there are multifunction machines that will print, fax, copy and scan--built around color laser printers. My interest was piqued!
Since I had let four years pass since the 2500 came out, I was ready to be wowwed by the newer, better, and less expensive models that would surely be out there. For a nice multifunction, I'd be willing to part with up to $800.
Strolling through the local big-box office supply stores, I came upon fewer choices than I anticipated. No shortage of multifunctions, but most are built around inkjet printers. A few are built around monochrome laser printers. Just a handful are built around color lasers.
Canon? I own a top-shelf Canon photo inkjet, a Canon digicam, and a Canon digital SLR. I like Canon. They have an ImageClass color laser multifunction. But they decided not to make it Mac-compatible. I might understand that in 1987, but not in 2007.
Hewlett Packard? As mentioned, I have an HP color laser and do like the print quality. When "testing" the copying quality of the multifunctions at Office Depot, the HP 2840 outperformed the competition. Further research at C-net and Amazon revealed some downsides. Most reviewers seemed to hate the machine. The accompanying software was singled out for particular dislike. And the 2840 was born in 2005. HP has let this model wither in a continuing barrage of negative user reviews for two years.
Brother? The MFC-9440CN gets a lot of love in the online pro and user reviews. It came out just this past summer. The prints seem a bit waxy compared to the HP, but the quality is good. It's Mac-compatible. I was close to a purchase when I looked for the straight-through printing option.
Heavy card stock doesn't bend, so printers that guide paper through a circuitous printing path usually have a straight-through option. You feed the card stock in through a front flip-out tray and it emerges to a flip-out tray in the back.
The Brother has no such option. It can print paper no heavier than 43#. For a $700 printer, that was a deal-killer.
So for now, I'm ponying up for the imaging drum on the HP 2500. I'll be good for 1500 more pages on the toner set. By the time they run out, there may be a product out there I can get excited about. If not, I suppose I'll look for a deal on toner for the HP. That will buy me even more time.