Brother is billing its MFC-6890CDW all-in-one printer as “the world’s first compact A3 Inkjet multifunction printer with duplex print” and it is a further example of the company’s commitment to producing A3 printers that can be set up at a reasonable price in the home, rather than having to pay considerably more for external services.
How much the reality lives up to the hype we’ll discover shortly, but having lugged the machine out of its box with not a little back strain, it’s hard to see how 22.1kg and broad dimensions of 540 x 488 x 323mm can be described as ‘compact’.
It’s certainly sturdy enough and very much follows the design lines of the earlier A3 All-in-Ones, with a 50-sheet Auto Document Feed at the top, a broad jutting-out display panel at the front and two input trays at the bottom, the first holding up to 100 sheets and the second 250 sheets.
The control buttons are large and well labelled, with six one-touch phone dials on the left next to the number pad, alongside the broad, touch-screen (an innovation in this range) 4.2-inch LCD, then the four main backlit function keys and finally the Start and Stop commands.
Hidden beneath the front edge is a USB input for flash drives as well as a brace of memory card slots that will handle virtually everything on the market. The four ink cartridges slot in the front right panel in the usual way and then you can opt either for a physical connection to your PC and router or go the wireless path via IEEE 802.11b/g (there is no Bluetooth option, though).
Moving on to the A3 print capability, which is after all the main reason for opting for this unit over other multifunction printers, the news is a mixture of positive and negative. The good part is that A3 material fits comfortably onto the scanner, the optical scan resolution can reach 1200 x 2400dpi and business users will rejoice that the results can be sent to a wide range of media including email, OCR, image file, USB memory stick and FTP. You can also use both input trays for copying.
The less than welcome information is that the auto duplexing facility is only possible in A4 format and can only be carried out in the upper (i.e. smaller volume) tray, so if you do need to print on the reverse side then you’ll have to do it by hand.
This is even more inconvenient if you have more than a hundred two-sided text documents to print off and the irritation is increased when you learn that the bottom tray won’t handle anything but plain paper, and some common sizes like A5 and A6 are also excluded. Brother has also maintained the peculiar angled backs to the input trays which make it hard to line up the paper accurately, making them more prone to jamming or dragging through an unwanted extra sheet.
As for performance, you’re going to have to get used to making lots of cups of tea while you’re waiting for results. An A3 colour, matt, borderless photo printed via the PC took 13 minutes and print colours were pleasingly authentic although lacking in sharpness. By contrast, the fastest setting A3 photo copy took just 15 seconds but the quality was awful, whereas the same operation at the Best setting via the ADF took 3 minutes and 30 seconds and was more solid, but also much darker and grainier than the original.
10 x 15cm colour prints via the flash USB port had a much greater degree of clarity and took just 1 minute and 35 seconds to emerge, but were unfortunately undone by an universal yellow wash that made them look anaemic, and there were scratch marks down the centre. A4 document duplex printing via Tray One was also grindingly slow, averaging 1.5ppm with feathery black characters.
Contact: 0845 6060626