Brother MFC-990CW review

Price when reviewed

We wouldn’t be surprised to see touchscreen interfaces appearing on the higher-end printers from all the major players in 2009. We’ve seen a fine example from Epson, and while the display on the Brother MFC-990CW doesn’t compare in terms of its menu system and ease of use, it’s still a great deal more intuitive than old-style button navigation.

Brother MFC-990CW review

Here the screen is a 4.2in wide LCD, with menus designed so all the touch buttons are large enough to hit easily – this does mean some spill over into several screens, but it works well on the whole.

Brother’s usual front-loaded cartridges make installation a breeze, and the choice of USB, Ethernet or 802.11bg Wi-Fi – which was also easy to set up – mean the MFC-990CW will be as comfortable in a bedroom as it is in a study or small office. It even comes with a bundled phone handset and dock, so it can become the hub of your daily communications.

We’ve criticised Brother all-in-ones in the past for being a little slow compared to the Canon’s and HPs, but improvements have been made. In draft mode this printer spits out pages at nearly 16ppm, which goes a little way to make up for the 3.1ppm and 2.9ppm mono and colour speeds at normal quality. The scanner has been improved too, taking just 19s for a 300dpi A4 photo, which is very quick.

Quality remains hit and miss, though. Text was a little speckled and frayed in both mono and colour modes, while graphics had a soft appearance and poorly defined edges. Colours were generally pretty accurate and gradients smooth, so photos look good, but closer inspection reveals mottling and a lack of sharpness. Scans were equally iffy, with some colours just not right, and this affects the colours on copies too.

So this is not a printer for lightning-fast, high-quality results, and neither is the price particularly attractive, but it does stake a claim for a place in the office thanks to its strong design and feature set. We’d have liked that wide LCD to display the current print progress, but other than that we have few major usability complaints, and the inclusion of Bluetooth and a multi-format card reader on the front adds to the do-it-all appeal.

Basic Specifications

Resolution printer final6000 x 1200dpi
Integrated TFT screen?yes
Maximum paper sizeA4
Duplex functionno

Running costs

Cost per A4 colour page9.0p
Inkjet technologyPiezo-electric

Power and noise

Dimensions468 x 375 x 180mm (WDH)

Copier Specification


Performance tests

Mono print speed (measured)16ppm


USB connection?yes
Ethernet connection?yes
Bluetooth connection?yes
WiFi connection?yes
PictBridge port?yes

Flash media

SD card readeryes
Compact Flash readeryes
Memory Stick readeryes
xD-card readeryes
USB flash drive support?yes

OS Support

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

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