A New Brother Multi-Function Offering
For a variety of reasons, some still unexplained, it has been quite a while since I last had the opportunity to get my hands on a Brother printer for review purposes. Fortunately the long wait has ended with the arrival of a Brother multi-function inkjet unit. This is the Brother MFC-255CW with the “CW” presumably referring to the fact that this model can link via a cable (USB) or wireless.
Basically box shaped with a slight slope at the front, this two-toned grey and black unit has dimensions of 390 x 365 x 150mm with a weight of 7.2kg. Adopting the standard make-up of a flatbed scanner built on top of an inkjet printer, the MFC-255CW brings together print, copy, scan and fax capabilities backed up with a choice of USB or wireless connectivity. As is Brother’s normal practice, the USB connection is located within the body of the printer where it is less likely to become accidentally detached.
Folded around the top front of the MFC-255CW is the unit’s control panel. Taking up a central position is a one line, 16-character LCD display. Arranged below the display are the four mode keys for selecting Fax, Scan, Copy and Photo Capture features. To the left is the alphanumeric dial pad plus redial/pause, fax resolution and on/off buttons. Switching to the right side, you will find a four-way navigation arrangement plus colour/mono start, copy options, menu, clear, OK and stop/exit buttons. Memory card slots, with support for MS, SD, SDHC and xD formats, run along the bottom of the control panel. Rather surprisingly I could find no trace of a USB/PictBridge connection – this feature is only available on the MFC-295CN model.
Both paper input and output is from the front of the unit. The paper input tray has a 100-sheet capacity. This tray also doubles as the output platform aided by a pull-out extension which I felt was rather flimsy although it performs well during the review. Paper out capacity is limited to 50 sheets.
This multi-function device uses four ink cartridges covering black, yellow, magenta and cyan. The ink compartment is conveniently positioned on the front of the unit, just to the right of the paper input/output opening. Inserting the cartridges was straightforward although a little force was required to remove the vacuum sealed caps protecting the ink output nozzles.
An A4 flatbed scanner is positioned on top of the inkjet printer. This scanner is capable of a resolution of 1200 x 2400 dpi optical, increasing up to 19200 x 19200 dpi interpolated. Working in conjunction with the printer the scanner can be used as a photocopier with a choice of colour or monochrome. You can also use the scanner as the source device for sending documents via the Fax facility.
Faxes can be sent to individuals or multiple numbers (referred to as broadcasting). When using this latter mode you can include groups, select from the 40 available speed dial numbers and up to 50 manually dialled numbers. Broadcasting does limit you to monochrome mode. Incoming faxes can be received and, with the appropriate handset attachment, be used to accept voice calls. There is also an option to add an external answer machine device.
Brother has rated this multi-function model as being capable of producing 27ppm in monochrome and 22ppm in colour. I was able to duplicate, in fact slightly increase the colour figure, these results using my standard documents. However this was only possible with the lower quality setting of Fast. The results would only really be suitable for internal use when checking layouts. Moving up through the other three quality levels, the page count dropped to 11.5/9ppm (Fast Normal), 7/5.5 (Normal) and 4/2.5 (Fine) for monochrome and colour. For external communications you need to be using Normal or Fine depending upon the importance of the correspondence.
A colour A4 photocopy took 40 seconds. Switching to photo printing, I ran tests for both 6 x 4-inch and A4 prints. Using the Normal default setting it took 24 seconds to produce a 4 x 6 colour print. The time increased to 33 seconds with the Fine setting. An A4 print using the Photo quality option required 4 minutes 48 seconds. At the Highest quality (you are warned that this could take some time), the same image took 9 minutes 18 seconds. I was unable to detect any discernable difference to account for the almost doubling of the time required. Print quality for all the photo print tests was of a reasonable standard.
The MFC-255CW has been priced at £99.99. Inkjet cartridges are available at £18.39 for Black (300 pages) and £10.34 for each of the three colours (260 pages). A combination pack for the three colours will set you back £25.86 while a bumper pack of all four cartridges is priced at £41.39 giving you a saving of just over £7. I should add that noise-wise, this is one of the quieter printers I have come across.
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