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Shopping Guide: Multi-Function Printers

Brother Printers

This is the rank outsider, the little grain of sand in a market that is dominated and crushed by four heavyweights. Yet Brother manages to succeed with its original products and we are eager to see what it comes up with next.

Brother MFC 590 / MFC 5100

$200 (250€)

Brother launched itself into inkjet printing by first attacking entry level professional machines. Two points, above all, are immediately noticeable. The printer uses separate cartridges and has a very practical document loader for sending long faxes and for photocopies. The first test was interesting, but the print quality remains for the moment one notch behind the sector heavyweights.

Brother MFC 4820C

$230 (319€)

Ultra compact and very attractive, the MFC 4820C is a success, if not technically, then at least ergonomically. The insertion system for the (separate) cartridges has been intelligently rethought and cost of the measured page remains minimal. On the other hand, despite evident progress, the MFC 4820C remains one notch behind its rivals in terms of both quality and speed.

Conclusion

While printers are about as commodity like as PC peripherals get, this year the five printer makers we reviewed took radically different tacks. Canon strove to offer top speeds at the expense of other features. Epson looked to breakdown its offering into two categories. Epson printers either featured Stylus Color, with multitasking capabilities and smear resistant ink, or Stylus Photo, with its professional and amateur pleasing photography prints. HP looked to offer a user friendly device that also offered top rate print resolutions. Lexmark, as it has always done, featured many functionalities at the cheapest price, but at the expense of print quality. Brother did not set the quality criteria on fire, but managed to offer, with its ultra flat design, simplicity of use and superior ergonomics.