Brother Black & White Laser All-in-Ones
As we move into all-in-one models, you may find that a few sheet-fed units, looking much like old school fax machines, still exist in the $200 to $300 range. These are increasingly niche products. Certainly, some buyers have a need for them, particularly considering their integration of a corded handset, but the broader market gravitates to the flatbed scanning type of all-in-one, so that’s where we’re going to focus.
You can slip under $200 in this category if you’re willing to sacrifice a major feature, such as faxing or an automatic document feeder (ADF). At $199, though, the MFC-7340 is the first black and white laser that we feel covers all of the bare multi-function essentials, including having a 35-page ADF. Admittedly, the 7340 is USB-only, which always signals to us that this is a device meant more for single users than offices in which the printing load will be shared. Confirming this is the 7340’s 21 ppm output speed, the slowest rate in Brother’s black and white laser all-in-one lineup.
Now, it’s important not to give into first impressions from spec sheets too hastily. If you know going in that a printer will be meant for a single host PC and be used only by a couple of people, does it matter if that printer has a 10,000-page maximum duty cycle and only finishes one page every three seconds instead of every two seconds? Probably not. Minutes add up over time, for sure, but under light use, there is a point where low up front cost matters more than micropennies saved in productivity. We use the same mindset when seeing that the 7340 employs a 14.4 Kbps fax/modem rather than the usual 33.6 Kbps and only stores up to 500 pages in fax memory rather than the usual 600. These days, how often is fax performance going to be stressed? Our guess is fairly rarely.
What matters is that the 7340 still delivers the same 2400 x 600 print and scan resolution. We do miss not having full duplexing here—a feature that doesn’t appear until the $499 MFC-8890DW—but for basic all-in-one laser needs, the 7340 serves well, and we particularly like that users can open a rear exit door in order to have a straight paper path for thicker media. This is a feature that sometimes gets overlooked in entry-level printers. Also noteworthy is the fact that the 7340 supports both letter (8.5” x 11”) or legal (11” x 17”) paper formats.
Brother has several incremental model improvements stepping through the $249, $299, and $349 price points, but the next major stop in the all-in-one family lands at $399 with the MFC-8480DN. Just looking at the printer, you can instantly tell from its height that Brother is putting an emphasis on paper capacity. The main tray will hold up to 250 sheets of letter or legal paper. Then there’s an additional 50-sheet multi-purpose tray plus the option for another 250-sheet tray, bringing the total capacity to 550 sheets. Not surprisingly, then, the 8480DN triples the monthly output maximum to 30,000 sheets with a recommended maximum of 500 to 3,500. At the high end, this is over 150 sheets per business day. That’s still not enough traffic to make the 8480DN’s reliance on only USB 2.0 and parallel connectivity a deal-breaker. We prefer the Ethernet and WiFi support found in the $499 8890DW, but if the printer is only going to be used by one or two PCs, then that $100 premium may be unnecessary.
With the 8480DN, Brother implements its Secure Print function, which lets users safeguard their print jobs with a PIN code that must be entered at the printer. This feature makes more sense on a LAN than a USB connection, but it may still prove useful. Now, despite not having direct LAN connectivity, the 8480DN does have “scan to” support for CIFS network folders and FTP locations, so you can scan documents and save them straight into shared LAN resources. You can also scan and save directly onto an attached USB flash drive independently of the host PC—another handy time-saver.
Businesses with older systems and print servers may appreciate Brother adding the parallel port here, but the move from a 35-sheet to a 50-sheet ADF is also welcome. The 50% performance jump from 21 ppm to 32 ppm deserves a shout-out, but probably the most valuable improvement in the 8480DN is its upgrade in consumables capacity. As we saw in the non-all-in-one line, at this higher price band Brother transitions to a 3,000-page standard toner cartridge and a 25,000-page drum unit. And again, determining the total value of these higher-capacity consumables in a device that lacks network connectivity will depend on your office’s specific printing habits. In settings where only one or two workers are responsible for a lot of the office’s output needs, this configuration could be optimal.