If you’re looking for a multifunction inkjet, then Brother’s MFC-845CW has a lot to recommend it. For just under £170 (plus VAT) you get a colour printer, scanner, copier and fax machine all-in-one, with both wired and wireless network interfaces plus facilities to copy, scan and fax remotely over the LAN. You even get a DECT telephone handset and an answering machine as a part of the package. But it’s not all good news, especially if you want to share the MFC on a workgroup network or use it to handle large volumes of printing.
The Brother inkjet is surprisingly robust and well specified for a device in this price bracket. Housed in a compact black and silver desktop case, it has a flip-up colour screen for local operation and an integrated flatbed colour scanner with automatic document feeder on top. The wired Ethernet and 802.11b/g wireless interfaces come ready to use along with a USB connector for direct PC attachment, plus slots to print from or scan to a variety of memory cards. PictBridge printing from compatible digital cameras is also supported.
It took very little time to get the MFC-845CW up and running. Separate black and colour inkjet cartridges are used to save on cost, and these simply click into place behind a door at the front. A full set is supplied with the printer with the black cartridge (£12.65 + VAT) good for up to 500 pages while each colour (around £6.65 + VAT) can print about 400.
Which may sound reasonable, but the page figures are only estimates and if you expect to produce a lot of prints/copies then a laser-based alternative may work out cheaper in the long run and require less maintenance. Paper capacity could be another issue on a larger network, with the only paper tray limited to just 100 A4 sheets and the automatic document feeder just 10 pages.
We were also a little disappointed when it came to performance. Brother claims a print speed of up to 27ppm in monochrome and 22ppm in colour, but we got nowhere near that when we tested over an 802.11g wireless network. With typical black and white business documents we only managed around 10ppm and adding colour slowed things even further, with some photographs, for example, taking up to a minute to print.
On the quality front, Brother’s new MFC makes for an acceptable business printer and if you’re undemanding it’s also pretty good at colour photos for home use. However, if you’re after professional quality then look elsewhere.
On the plus side, we were able to attach the device to our wireless network and get it running without having to first connect locally via a cable as is usually the case. We also found the ControlCenter client software easy to install and use, Brother providing an integrated set of tools to, for example, remotely send faxes and scan documents to either a network share or client e-mail application. OCR and translation tools are also included.
Unfortunately the documentation provided in the box only covers the basics, which meant having to trawl Brother’s Web site when it came to the more advanced features. You also only get a 2-user licence for the network software.
A good choice for home users and teleworkers, the MFC-845CW can save money, time and space compared to a separate printer, scanner, fax and copier. It’s also pretty easy to use once you get over the initial learning curve. But we didn’t find it nearly as fast as claimed and it doesn’t scale well compared with laser-based alternatives.
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