Laser printers are usually favoured when it comes to low-cost printing, but there’s a growing breed of inkjet printer that offers equally impressive capabilities. Lexmark has perhaps been most active in this sector, but Brother is now attempting to grab a slice of the action with its MFC-J6910DW.
Before we delve into the various features of the printer, it’s worth mentioning that the MFC-J6910DW is an A3 model. If you’ve no need for A3 printing, it’s best to instantly strike it off your shopping list, as the large format capabilities push its price up significantly. Being an A3 printer, it’s also no surprise that its footprint is fairly large. Measuring 540x489x331mm (wdh), this device demands a fair chunk of desk space.
The Brother is a colour multifunction unit, with print, scan, copy and fax capabilities, and it comes complete with an auto-document feeder (ADF). It’s also well-catered for in the connectivity department, with the standard USB connection joined by both wired Ethernet and wireless WiFi networking. Impressively, that wireless connection comes in the form of 802.11n, so it’ll benefit from the wider coverage and faster speeds offered by modern wireless routers.
The control panel at the front of the printer features a collection of large buttons, along with a 3.3in display. This display is touch-sensitive, but given its small size, it’s a little tricky to operate.
Setting things up
Once you’ve located a spot for it, installation is a relatively painless task. The four separate ink cartridges are loaded into a separate compartment at the front of the chassis, and the printer’s display guides you through the process of setting everything up.
The printer isn’t left wanting in terms of input capacity. Two trays are supplied as standard, each capable of housing up to 250 sheets. There’s also a separate, small-capacity input tray at the rear, which is intended for the likes of 6×4 photo printing.
One area in which inkjets often lose out to lasers is print speed, and it’s no different on the MFC-J6910DW. Brother quotes 12ppm, but this doesn’t take into account the time taken for the first page to hit the deck, which in our tests varied between 12 and 16 seconds. Once this first page has arrived, you’ll be able to get close to Brother’s quoted speed. In tests with a text-heavy document, we managed just shy of 10ppm.
The printer includes a duplex mode, allowing you to print on both sides of each sheet of paper automatically. As always, using this feature has a significant impact on print speed. When we put it to the test, print speeds tumbled to a lethargic 3.5 pages per minute. Still, it’s useful to have and helps save on paper costs.
As with any printer, close attention needs to be paid to running costs. The MFC-J6910DW comes supplied with standard-capacity ink cartridges, but when it comes to replacing them you can get better value by opting for the high-capacity alternatives. Using the standard cartridges, prints cost 4p a page for mono and 11.8p for colour. Using the high-capacity cartridges, however, you’ll benefit from 7.1p-a-page colour prints and just 1.4p for mono, which is better than many lasers are able to offer.
One major advantage inkjet printers enjoy over their laser counterparts is the ability to print quality colour photos. Lasers will happily take the job on, but they simply can’t match an inkjet’s ability to produce detailed, glossy prints. We printed out a selection of photos using our review unit, and were reasonably impressed with the results. It doesn’t take much to spot flaws in the prints (close inspection reveals a significant lack of fine detail and colours aren’t particularly vivid) – but for the average home or small-business user they’ll be perfectly acceptable.
One area in which this Brother printer does fall behind rivals is the quality of its text output. Although by no means bad, text isn’t as sharp as that produced by other inkjets we’ve seen, and most people will instantly spot the print hasn’t come from a laser.
During testing, we experienced a couple of paper-feed issues when using glossy photo paper, requiring us to follow the on-screen instructions to locate the jam. We also noticed that the printer made some curious whining noises, especially shortly after a print job was cancelled. They’re not particularly loud, but in a quiet environment they could be offputting.
Thankfully, the auto document feeder (ADF) didn’t suffer any paper jams during testing. At just 35 pages, its capacity is fairly limited – but it’s a great time-saver if you have a multipage document to scan in. However, while the main scanner happily accepts A3 pages, the ADF will only cope with paper sizes up to A4.
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The only real downside is the slightly disappointing print quality, both in terms of text and photo output. It's not a deal breaker, but we've seen other printers produce better.