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Brother MFC-790CW Printer


Convenient all-rounder that’s excellent value

Compact size; large touchscreen display; corded phone & digital answering machine

Middling print quality; pathetic paper handling; expensive to run


If your requirements are for basic printing, scanning and copying then you are extremely well catered for in the all-in-one market. A basic machine with a flatbed scanner will cost you less than £125 and give you all you need to print documents, scan images and photocopy documents. However, if you are running a small business from home then you should think about an all-in-one that combines fax technology to help you keep in touch. Devices like Brother’s MFC-790CW even comes with optical character recognition (OCR) that can help you scan documents into your computer for editing later and an automatic document feeder for consecutive scanning or faxing. A laser printer all-in-one (from £500) gives much sharper, cleaner text output and is worth considering if the majority of your usage is text rather than image-based, but for the price you’ll not better an inkjet for light duty printing.

Brother’s relatively compact black-and-grey MFC-790CW combines decent speed and print quality along with network capabilities to make it ideal for the home-office environment. In addition to colour printing, colour copying, colour scanning and colour faxing from this wireless (802.11b/g) or wired (Ethernet) network multifunction printer, the easy to use 4.2-inch touchscreen LCD enables you to view and edit photographs before printing. There’s even an integrated handset and digital answering machine so you can chuck out your old analogue handset, and a built-in 4×6-inch photo paper tray situated above the standard 50-sheet paper tray for easy photo printing.

The MFC-790CW (£170) is a pretty sweet looking printer – at least as far as inkjets go. We love the printer’s low form factor (460x375x180mm, 8.5kg) which looks great on a desk, and the LCD makes light work of navigating through the menu by selecting items on screen. Plus, from the display you can preview faxes, preview/enhance/edit photos and view help menus. What’s also cool is that the digital answering machine holds up to 29 minutes of messages/99 messages, and the full duplex speakerphone and handset are neat additions for reducing desk clutter – even if the handset is corded!

Under the hood the MFC-790CW is a workhorse. With speeds up to 33ppm black and 27ppm colour, the printer is among the fastest in its class. With droplet sizes as small as 1.5 picoliters and resolutions as high as 6000x1200dpi, output from the MFC-790CW is equally impressive. Let’s not get carried away – Brother printers have (and probably always will) suck at printing photographs, even when used with expensive substrates. Having said that, the MFC-790CW is fine for printing the odd holiday snap or two, but you really wouldn’t want to us it for large print runs – regardless of the high printing cost.

Other notable features of the MFC-790CW include a 15-sheet auto document feeder for unattended fax, copy and scan functionality, along a 33.6Kbps fax/modem allowing black and white or colour faxing with or without a PC. You can print photos directly from a memory card, PictBridge-enabled camera, or USB Flash Memory Drive, and the fact that scanner is flatbed means you can easily copy and scan books, thick or odd shaped documents. And thanks to the four-colour (Black, Cyan Yellow and Magenta) cartridge ink system you only need to change the cartridge that needs to be replaced.

Brother’s MFC-790CW is a solid choice for the home office or small-business user on a budget looking for one device that can do everything. It can handle any office activities you need it to do including voicemail, faxing, scanning and copying. Of course, it does have its problems. Similar to most inkjets the included ink doesn’t last long (replacements cost £15 per black ink cartridge and £10 per coloured ink and are good for around 450 pages) and the touchscreen display is low resolution. The build quality isn’t the best on the market either, nor is print quality. The standard paper tray only holds a paltry 50 pages, so you’ll have to constantly feed the printer new paper for larger projects – no easy task, because you must remove the entire tray in order to change paper types or feed the machine more paper. But for the price you’ll struggle to find such a well-rounded package.

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