The MFC-990CW is the highest specification model of a new batch of five A4 All-in-One inkjet printers that Brother has released, using the same engine as a similar recent series of multifunction A3 printers. As you’d expect from a top of the range model, the usual copy, print, scan and fax functions incorporate a host of smart upgrades to make this instantly attractive to gadget lovers.
It certainly looks impressive, styled in stark jet black and feeling compact (it measures 468 x 375 x 180mm), although it weighs a meaty 8.6kg. Unlike some of the lower end members of this series, it has a DECT handset included, and just above the front-loading paper tray is a row of memory card slots which cover all the popular models (Compact Flash, SD, xD-Picture Card, Memory Stick, etc.).
There’s a USB port at the front for plugging in a flash drive and you have wired or wireless connection via Ethernet, Wireless 802.11b/g, USB and Bluetooth; all are straightforward and quick to set up using the supplied software and (in the case of Bluetooth) your mobile phone.
Operating the controls has been made so much simpler thanks to an especially wide 4.2-inch touchscreen LCD which, allied with some equally large control buttons for the four main functions, makes navigation and setup a doddle. What is unfortunate, though, is that all of the printers in this range have a dreadfully designed load tray that has to be taken out every time you print off a 10 x 15cm photo, and has an occasional tendency to cause paper jams.
In terms of speed, we discovered that other printers in this range were generally slow and certainly nowhere near the claimed best scenarios. The same is true of the MFC-990CW, where Brother suggests an optimum rate of 33ppm for monochrome, yet at the fastest plain text setting we managed a rate of just 17ppm on ordinary A4 paper. However, that’s still a reasonably good turnaround compared to the 90 seconds it took to print a 10 x 15cm colour print from an SD memory card.
Colour documents copied at around 15ppm at the fastest setting, which was also highly commendable, but the colour reproduction was pallid compared to the original. Colour photos proved to be of mixed quality, with impressive sharpness and authenticity from Bluetooth and memory cards but grainier and much less well defined output from scanning and copying.
Perhaps a little more attention spent on picture faithfulness and print speed (or at least print speed rating), and less on the gadgetry, would improve matters for next time.
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