Friday, 11 February 2011

Brother MFC-J6910DW review

The price tag may put off casual buyers, but the Brother MFC-J6910DW A3 inkjet multifunction printer offers high quality and extensive features.

While every year sees huge numbers of photo enthusiasts snapping up new printers in order to display their best shots in full A4 technicolour, wider- format A3 printers remain relatively thin on the ground. On one level this is surprising, given the extra impact of an A3 print. But, given the stubbornly high prices of A3 models, their relative scarcity is rather more understandable.

This particular model, the most expensive of Brother's new range of A3 models, is unlikely to change perceptions - even if the Brother MFC-J6910DW's quality and extensive features will be enough to win it support regardless.

There's little Brother can do to hide the large bulk required of an A3, and the Brother MFC-J6910DW is a substantial model, even if its understated black casing means that it won't prove too inconspicuous. It's fairly heavy, although taking out the paper trays makes it rather easier to transport.

The front of the Brother MFC-J6910DW is adorned with a battery of useful buttons, while the colourful 3.3in touch-sensitive TFT lets you tap into the Brother's many hidden functions. The interface isn't quite as easy to grasp as we would have liked, but we were still able to plug in USB pen drives and memory cards, and use the TFT to select, fine-tune and print our images without turning on the PC. Brother has tried to make the TFT design as attractive as possible (with a particularly soothing picture of a beach showing up when the printer isn't in use), although a dash more colour quality wouldn't have gone amiss. Nonetheless, for PC-free use, the Brother fares well.

When an A3 printer will be called upon to double up as a normal A4 model, the need to switch papers size can cause inconvenience. Thankfully, the Brother MFC-J6910DW avoids this by providing not one but two 250-sheet paper trays. This makes it pretty impressive when it comes to paper handling, even if we found that, strangely, the printer was slower when directed to use the second tray.

Connectivity is first-class, and the Brother MFC-J6910DW offers support for both Wi-Fi (up to 802.11n) and wired ethernet. This places it ahead of many office lasers in terms of their ability to slip seamlessly into any business or home office environment. The addition of faxing and copying facilities further increases the Brother's business allure, and the robust scanning component is of good quality. In truth, there are few functions this device can't handle.

Brother MFC-J6910DW: Print performance
It's not quite as versatile when it comes to printing, though, and the Brother MFC-J6910DW works much better as a colour A3 printer than it does as an A4. It's solid as an A4 text printer, going from 13.3ppm in its fastest mode (where text is adequately defined, though light) down to 9.9ppm and 3.8ppm in the normal and top modes.

The middle mode produces text that is dark, but a little blurred around the edges, while the top mode is actually of good quality, with dark and slightly thick, but still clean characters. In inkjet terms you can coax good text from the Brother MFC-J6910DW, although any decent laser will offer considerably more speed. Automatic duplexing is provided, although this is rather too slow, dropping the speed by almost 60%.

When it comes to A4 colour graphics, the results lack a little quality. There's little wrong with the speed, and the Brother MFC-J6910DW ranges from 9.1ppm in the fastest mode to a still decent 4.6 and 3.2ppm at the normal and best settings. However, while the fastest mode produces very pleasing colour for draft settings, the results don't get that much better in the top modes. Dithering is a problem, while the palette remained a little too light and lacking in vitality even after we had fiddled with the colour settings. You can improve the quality with practice, but the Brother doesn't produce the most compelling colour A4 prints.

The Brother MFC-J6910DW is considerably better at A3, though, where the prints contain far more texture and shading. The colours are still a touch light, but remain rather more compelling in the middle and higher modes than with A4. Most graphics details were handled competently, although there were still a few issues with dithering. Nonetheless, the A3 output is rather good.

Speed is very solid too, ranging from 3.6ppm in the case of the fastest mode, to 2.5ppm and 2.1ppm at the normal and higher quality settings. You've got to expect A3 to be rather slower, but these speeds are very much in line with wide-format models we've seen previously. The Brother MFC-J6910DW did make a few annoying noises while printing A3, and the slightly offputting high-pitched beeping kept making us think the printer was throwing up an error.

The Brother MFC-J6910DW's running costs are very decent for an inkjet, and the high-yield cartridges combined with economy options produce low costs per page for an inkjet.

For inkjet cartridges and supplies for the Brother MFC J6910 visit