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Brother HL4150 Color Laser on Linux (Kubuntu Natty)

2011-06-07 3 min read Hardware marco

Summary: WOW! Five Stars!!!

I’ve had mixed luck with printers under Linux in the past ten years. Some of them would not work ever, others worked just fine, and a third kind worked some or most of the time, but you could never count on them.

It used to be the case that printing on Linux depended on the standards used. Printers that internally used PostScript would work the best, GDI printers not at all, and most of the HPGL language printers would have some functionality available. Once printers went from parallel to USB, things got worse until Linux caught up.

If you want proof of the fact Linux is slowly becoming mainstream, just look at the printer manufacturers that offer Linux support on their web sites. None of them, as far as I know, supports the open source ideal of Linux, but most of the manufacturers try to at least give you some form of closed source, binary drivers.

Even with those, though, I’ve had mixed luck. An HP photo printer, for instance, would work sporadically at best, mostly printing quarter or third pages and spitting out the remainder of the paper empty. It would take a dozen tries to get a full photo printout – in a completely random fashion.

The Canon Pixma MX860 I bought, an all-in-one, is better: it comes with a binary installer that isn’t horrible to use – the only problem being that it doesn’t actually install a printer, just a driver. Even here, though, the printouts are occasionally screwy; once in a while (about every 20 pages), the printer freezes up in the middle of a print job and nothing but a hard reboot brings it to life again.

NOT SO with the HL4150. The printer driver from the Brother site installed like a breeze, and it also created a printer named HL4150 on my system automatically! (I just wished it told me that, since after the fact I created a new printer, anyway, not realizing there was a new one, already.)

Printouts are spectacular, much better than what I expected. I can finally print from any Linux application and get the results I expect, without having to guess or, as was the case with the Pixma, having to go through weird chains of printing (like Firefox -> PDF -> Okular -> pixma).

I’ve had the printer for a couple of weeks, now, and have been merrily printing away to my heart’s content. I haven’t had to change toners, yet, so I cannot give any input on economy, but the printer itself is fast, reliable, color-accurate, and easy-to-use.

I’ll update this review when more information becomes available, but for now this is my favorite printer on Linux, bar none!

[NOTE: If Brother wanted to do something better, then it would be a download of the drivers from the printer install applet. For that, though, they’d need a unified interface from the Linux community, and that’s as likely as a good joke coming from me…]