Brother MFC-6490CW review

Price when reviewed

An A3 printer is a useful thing. It allows you to print small poster-sized images, multi-page pamphlets on one sheet and can even be used in pre-production environments to output full-sized double-page proofs. But most people don’t own or run them because they take up so much room and they’re simply too expensive.

Brother’s MFC-6490CW inkjet all-in-one is different. At 540 x 488 x 323mm (WDH), it’s surprisingly compact for a device that offers both A3 printing and scanning. What’s also unique is the £189 (exc VAT) price. It’s the only A3 all-in-one inkjet we’ve ever seen – most others are laser-based with prices in the thousands.

Apart from its size and keen price, Brother has also been working hard to make the MFC-6490CW easy to use: there’s a panel filled with clearly-labelled buttons and one of the largest LCD screens we’ve seen on a printer.

It’s a 3.3in, wide aspect LCD and the extra width is put to good use: pictures are displayed with extra information, and many of the options available are displayed with a handy explanation of what they do. There are also two input trays with a combined capacity of 400 A3 sheets, and a large A3 platen and automatic document feeder sitting above the well-featured panel.


Various features are included that add versatility to the MFC-6490CW. A card reader accepts CF, SD, MS and xD memory, there’s a USB port for flash drives or a PictBridge-enabled camera, plus there’s Ethernet and support for 802.11bg wireless networks. And the input paper bin has a huge 400-sheet capacity.

There’s a decent set of features, then, but the Brother’s performance is less impressive. When printing our A4 mono document at draft settings, the Brother managed 9ppm and quality was lacking, with faded graphics and imprecise text.

At normal settings, the quality was better, but lettering still wasn’t crisp enough and print speed dropped to a mediocre 5ppm, marginally quicker than our A-List favourite, the Canon Pixma MP610. The highest quality setting was the only one to produce completely acceptable documents, but the Brother could only manage 2ppm in this mode.

Colour documents were printed in similarly mediocre fashion. Just over two and a half pages per minute is an adequate speed at normal quality – it’s quicker than five machines in our last all-in-one Labs – and quality again wasn’t brilliant. Gradients were banded, colours faded and solid areas blotchy. Again, switching to the highest quality settings improved matters, but it took almost six minutes to print our five-page ISO document.

Photographic printing was disappointing. Both normal and best modes produced reasonable results, but in terms of raw quality output was short of that achieved by the A-listed Pixma. Colours at best quality exhibited a little too much of a red hue for our liking, and a time of 3mins 29secs is on the slow side. Only three machines, including the Brother DCP-150C, produced a 6 x 4in photo slower in our last Labs.

Our scanning and copying tests produced mixed results. The A4 ISO test document, scanned at 150dpi, was perfectly legible and took 17 seconds – a middling result. And the Brother took just over 25 seconds to scan our A4 photo montage at 300ppi – a result behind the Pixma MP610 by eight seconds, but still quicker than most. Quality was adequate, but up-close, a modicum of grain and loss of detail was evident.

Copying at normal and best quality settings yielded average times again – just above and below three pages per minute respectively – but quality, especially when copying graphics, was poor, with colours and graphics appearing vapid, washed out and patchy.

Basic Specifications

Colour? yes
Resolution printer final 6000 x 1200dpi
Integrated TFT screen? yes
Maximum paper size A3
Duplex function no

Running costs

Cost per A4 mono page 1.8p
Cost per A4 colour page 5.2p

Power and noise

Dimensions 213 x 192 x 127mm (WDH)

Copier Specification

Fax? yes

Performance tests

Mono print speed (measured) 9ppm
Colour print speed 3ppm

Media Handling

Input tray capacity 400 sheets


USB connection? yes
Ethernet connection? yes
Bluetooth connection? no
WiFi connection? yes
PictBridge port? yes

Flash media

SD card reader yes
Compact Flash reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
xD-card reader yes

OS Support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes

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