The mother of all small office must-haves, the color laser multi-function printer aims to address every document output need from receiving faxes to converting old contracts into PDFs. Every model in Brother’s lineup supports USB 2.0 and Ethernet connectivity. Admittedly, the faxing and scanning capabilities largely turn into checkbox items by the time you reach color laser printing. All faxing is based on 33.6 Kbps modems, and there’s very little variance in faxing capabilities beyond the number of fax broadcasting locations supported. Similarly, copying varies only by the speed of the print engine and the capacity of the ADF.
No doubt, you’ve seen the pattern by now. In the end, most differences between models come down to speed, connectivity, and capacity. Color laser all-in-ones are no exception.
We think of the 9120CN as the better-dressed twin of the 3070CW. As before, the 9120CN uses LED technology instead of laser, and the output speed is correspondingly limited to 17 ppm in both black and color. And again, we see a 25,000-page monthly maximum and 300 to 1,500 recommended monthly volume. Essentially, Brother is charging an extra $100 for the flatbed scanning, faxing, and copying functionality. Even in a home office environment, we’d be hard pressed not to find the $100 very well spent for these extra capabilities.
The 9120CN offers USB and Ethernet connectivity, a 250-sheet paper bin, and a single-sheet bypass slot. A monochrome LCD display helps to navigate the printer’s various functions, and we particularly like “scan to” support for email, network folder, FTP, and image editor destinations. Missing here are duplex and USB Direct support, but this may not be a concern in light use settings.
Once more, Brother provides starter cartridges in the box, but typical consumables specify 2,200 pages in black toner, 1,400 pages in color, and 15,000 pages for the drum unit. We haven’t mentioned Brother’s iPrint&Scan phone app or included software for optical character recognition (OCR) or document management since our inkjet article, but both are offered with every color laser unit we’ve covered here. Thus it’s easy to gloss over an entry-level model like the 9120CN and say that it’s at the bottom of the spec stack in its category, but this would belittle the impressive amount of functionality that arrives in the box. The 9120CN does a tremendous amount. It’s just that higher-end models do more of the same things.
The 9460CDN stands almost four inches taller and weights eight pounds more than its 9120CN counterpart. By now, you know that means more paper capacity. The 9460CDN ratchets up from a 250-sheet to a 300-sheet primary input tray, plus there’s a 50-sheet multi-purpose bin. On top of this, Brother offers an optional 500-sheet tray. Even with a 25 ppm black and color top output speed, having 850 pages available should have you adding paper less often. Additionally, Brother suggests a print volume of up to 3,000 pages per month (40,000 maximum duty cycle).
Brother additionally bumps the internal memory from 64 MB to 128 MB and kicks in USB Direct capability. You can also scan and save directly to USB flash sticks. All of this probably sounds fairly minor for $200. The real value here is in the consumables options. The standard toner cartridges yield 2,500 (black) and 1,500 pages (color). Unlike with the entry-level models, though, the 9460CDN supports high yield options with 6,000 (black) and 3,500 (color) page yields per cartridge. As a point of reference, if we look at the black toner options as listed on Amazon, the standard cartridge costs 1.639 cents per page while the high yield option runs 1.283 cents per page—a 27% savings. Either way, the drum unit is still rated for 25,000 sheets.
If we add another $100, Brother’s MFC-9970CDW adds WiFi, reaches 30 ppm, and lifts the top recommended monthly output to 4,000 pages. While the 9970CDW supports the same high yield consumables as the 9460CDN, it’s standard toner cartridges actually have lower page yields. This is why we think the 9460CDN offers the best overall color all-in-one value for offices that don’t need wireless support.