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Brother certainly wants its multifunction devices to be all things to all users. Not content with merely printing and scanning, the MFC-885CW also includes an Ethernet port, a DECT handset, 802.11b/g wireless, an ADF and a pair of paper trays. Throw in the 6-in-1 card reader, PictBridge-compatible USB port and fax machine and the indisputably high asking price of $365 initially looks like very good value for money.
Brother is the only multifunction device manufacturer to include a cordless phone handset – a definite plus. The handset itself is a well-built model that charges from its cradle on the side of the printer, and can store up to 100 numbers in its integrated phonebook. The fax machine is similarly useful, complete with a built-in phonebook and a digital answering machine capable of storing up to 30 minutes of missed calls. The 10-sheet ADF on the top of the MFC-885CW is a handy addition for multi-page transmissions.
The sheer number of interface options on the MFC-885CW is impressive. There’s USB 2 for connection to a single PC, as well as 10/100 Ethernet for joining a network. An antenna on the right hand side of the MFC-885CW also allows you print over an 802.11b/g network.
Unfortunately, the MFC-885CW is a poor choice for busy networks. Brother claims a maximum printing rate of 30ppm, which is laser-like, but our tests revealed a very different story. Even in draft mode, our 10-page, 5 per cent coverage mono document took 53 seconds to complete – just 11ppm, and the quality results were appalling, with the light grey, spidery text bordering on illegibility. Printing at the driver’s default setting largely rectified the print quality problems – although the results can’t hold a candle to the laser-quality results of the A-listed Canon Pixma MP610
. Solid blocks of black were unevenly printed, and the text still had a tendency towards frayed edges. Worse, at higher quality the print speed dropped to just 3ppm, making the MFC-88CW one to avoid if more than a few people will be sending it documents at once.
One-touch photocopying is useful, but the MFC-885CW churned through a 5-page document in two minutes 57 seconds from the ADF – painfully slower than two pages per minute. Switching to draft mode resulted in much faster printing – 7ppm, but the resulting quality was abysmal. Text quality took a real hit and graphics and photographs appeared faded and pale. Scanning to a file was more successful – Brother’s TWAIN software produced a preview in 18 seconds, and a 300dpi scan of a 6 x 4in photo completed in 19 seconds. The final result was underwhelming, though – colours were a little pale and there was some evidence of banding in the final image.
The MFC-885CW includes a pair of paper trays – the lower one holds standard office media such as A4 paper, and the top one holds 6 x 4in photo paper. It’s a useful arrangement – if you need to run off a few photos you don’t need to pull out your standard paper stock, replace it with photo paper and reverse the whole process you’re your photos are printed. Unfortunately, the MFC-885CW’s speed let it down again. Printing five borderless 6 x 4in photos in best quality mode took a whopping 22 minutes 27 seconds, or almost four and a half minutes per print. The upside is print quality – the photos emerged grain-free and with good colour reproduction, and were dry the second they dropped into the out-tray. Dropping the print quality to “Photo” mode produced a very slight difference in image quality, but nearly halved the time it took to print a 6 x 4in photo to two minutes 21 seconds. Even so, it’s miles behind the Canon Pixma MP610’s 52 seconds per 6 x 4in print.
There are further benefits to the MFC-885CW’s photo-printing abilities. The USB port on the front of the system is PictBridge-compatible, and works with external hard disks and USB drives as well. It’s bolstered by the memory card reader on the other side of the fascia – SD, xD, Memory Stick and Compact Flash cards are all catered for. Unfortunately the wide, 4.2in LCD lets the side down. The unusual aspect ratio is useful for viewing photos as well as printing information, but the quality of the display itself is appalling for a modern printer. Viewing angles are terrible and colours are faint and displayed with a consistent red caste. The LCD backlighting is uneven and the low DPI resolution makes viewing photos disappointing. It’s a shame – the screen quality and sluggish print speeds prevent the MFC-885CW from being a useful standalone photo printer.
The MFC-885CW’s features are incredibly strong – it’s one of the most complete office machines we’ve ever seen, and its networking, paper handling and telephony features are particularly useful for the home office. But its tempting feature list needs to be carefully weighed against its middling print quality and high price.