I don’t want to jinx anything, but I’ve actually had a couple of good experiences with printers lately. I’ve set up several models of Brother laser printers that look sturdy, print quickly with a minimum of fuss, and install only simple, unobtrusive software.
When my Samsung color laser printer died prematurely, I bought the Brother HL-4040CN, a brand new model that is built compactly and handles paper and envelopes in straightforward ways. Here’s a review of the HL-4040CN. The Brother software detects it automatically when it’s connected to the network with a CAT5 cable; it can also connect directly to a computer with a USB cable, but the network connection means it can sit off by itself and work independently of any particular computer that might be turned off or asleep. It warms up quickly (the Samsung took 3-4 minutes to print its first page) and runs quietly. It’s quite a deal for $399.
One client sets up Brother HL-2040 monochrome laser printers freely for individuals to have a desktop printer even when a standalone heavy duty printer is nearby. It’s frequently discounted ($64.99 after a rebate!) and works perfectly well. I’ve gotten a couple of Brother HL-5250DN monochrome laser printers – $249.99 for a printer that calmly spits out thirty pages per minute.
In each case, the selling point is the simple printer driver – unlike Hewlett Packard, there’s not a mess of desktop icons and startup processes and status monitors and registration reminders when the setup is done.