Brother MFC-7840W review

£269
Price when reviewed

On paper, the Brother MFC-7840W looks like an attractive prospect for the small business or home office: a fast, compact all-in-one that comes complete with both wired and Wi-Fi network connections, and built-in fax capabilities. However, look at the £269 price and it’s clear that the MFC-7840W has to perform well across the board to justify the expense.

It starts promisingly, churning out draft, standard and best-quality text pages at a consistent 20ppm. By comparison, the swiftest machine in our last dedicated laser Labs, the TallyGenicom 9330N, printed standard-quality mono documents at 26ppm, so the Brother isn’t too far off.

It also compares favourably with other rival all-in-one machines we’ve seen. For example, the HP OfficeJet Pro L7780, which uses inkjet technology but claims to match the speed of a laser, printed draft documents at a reasonable 19ppm, but this tailed off to 10ppm when standard settings were selected. Copy speed is also impressive: in draft mode, the MFC-7840W hit 10ppm, dropping to 5ppm at standard settings – far superior to the L7780’s 3ppm draft speed.

The scanner, though, falters a little. Scanning an A4 photograph at 300ppi took 45 seconds, compared to just under 30 seconds using the L7780. Document scanning at 150ppi took 15 seconds to the OfficeJet Pro’s 12, while a 6 x 4in scan took 49 seconds at 600ppi – certainly not the quickest but not too far off the pace of most all-in-ones.

Print quality is similarly variable. With documents, the MFC-7840W is reasonably good, although it doesn’t hit the high benchmark set by the L7780 – text has a tendency to be slightly thin and jagged compared to the excellent HP, even at best settings. Quality is surprisingly uniform across draft, standard and best settings, though, which explains the lack of a drop-off at high settings.

Graphical prints, however, are a bit shakier. Charts and pictures are relatively well reproduced at standard settings. Detail is sharp and well-defined, and tones are solid and accurate. Smooth gradients also contribute to professional-looking documents. Best settings improve on this, with documents looking even sharper – pictures see particularly improvement. Draft mode is especially poor, though, with badly banded gradients and blotchy pictures sitting uncomfortably alongside the decent text quality.

Scanning quality is adequate, although photographs appeared a little flat and lacking in texture. Colours were slightly dark, although detail was reasonably well reproduced. Documents fared better, with text appearing sharp and accurate and the OCR text recognition easily reproducing the contents of our sample document.

The integrated wireless connection is simple to set up – there’s a wizard on the 2-line LCD that scans for networks and only requires you to type your WPA or WEP encryption key in using the phone-style keypad. The manual two-sided printing can’t make up for the lack of an automatic duplexer, particularly as the OfficeJet Pro L7780 and several other high-end laser printers include automatic units as standard.

it_photo_5815The design is conventional for an all-in-one, with a 50-sheet ADF on top of the scanner, while the toner cartridge slots into the front above the 250-sheet input tray. There’s a single-sheet multipurpose paper slot, too, as well as the usual USB and Ethernet ports at the rear.

Economically, the MFC-7840W is something of a mixed bag. The price of £269 is pretty high, but the cost to run is a little better. A single high-yield toner cartridge will set you back a fairly reasonable £40 and lasts 2,600 sheets for a basic cost per page of around 1.5p; compare this to Brother’s own HL-5240 mono laser, though, which prints 7,000 sheets for £46 (0.65p). You’ll need to replace the MFC-7840W’s drum after 12,000 pages (£52), but there are no other parts to add to that cost.

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