Brother MFC-440CN All-in-one Inkjet Printer - Review

Brother MFC-440CN All-in-one Inkjet Printer - Review

Brother MFC-440CN All-in-one Inkjet Printer - ReviewThe Brother MFC-440CN looks great on paper and in person. It's a full-featured multifunction that lets you print, scan, copy, and fax--all for only S$328. Making the deal even sweeter is the fact that it has an automatic document feeder, is network ready, and includes media card slots and a PictBridge port. The drawback is its print quality and slow text-print speeds. The MFC-440CN is a decent choice for a small office that doesn't have heavy printing needs or require high-quality graphics and photo prints.

Design of the Brother MFC-440CN All-in-one Inkjet Printer

The Brother MFC-440CN has a lower profile than most office multifunctions in its class, especially when you consider it has a flatbed scanner. It measures only 398 x 370 x 180mm. Its small size is due to a number of factors. First, the automatic document feeder (ADF) that's mounted on the scanner lid can hold up to only 10 pages. Most of Canon's ADFs hold up to 30 pages. The output tray, too, is on the small side and can hold only about 50 printed sheets. Finally, Brother employs a novel ink-handling method: instead of attaching the ink tanks directly to the printhead, you insert them into a compartment right on the front of the printer, and tubes ferry the ink from the tanks to the printhead. One advantage of this setup is that you can switch out tanks without powering up the printer, but we wonder if the tubes can get clogged up.

Like most home office-oriented all-in-ones, the scanner platen is big enough to fit only A4-size originals, but using the ADF, you can scan up to legal-size documents. The lid's hinges lift to accommodate thicker documents, such as books. A small hinge flips out to catch original documents that have been fed through the ADF.

Mounted on the front edge of the printer are a PictBridge Port and two media card slots. The PictBridge port allows you to print directly from a PictBridge-enabled digital camera or camera phone. The media card slots can read most common card types, including CompactFlash, SD, MMC, and Memory Stick. Some additional card types require an adapter that's not included with the printer.

The Brother's paper-handling options are limited, but it does include a photo-paper bypass tray. The input and output trays comprise a single unit, with printed pages simply landing on top of the input cassette. The paper cassette can hold up to 100 sheets of plain paper up to legal size. Mounted atop the plain-paper tray is a dedicated 4 x 6-photo tray. The photo tray can lock into two positions: Forward and back. When this tray is locked in the forward position, the printer automatically picks up media from the regular tray; when it's locked in the back position, the printer defaults to the photo paper. Unfortunately, you have to pull out the paper cassette entirely to make the switch, as the lever is recessed, making what should be a convenient feature less so. Because you must partially pull out the input tray in order to fill it, you can't refill paper in the middle of a print job; in fact, you can't even check the paper level during a print job.

The control panel for the MFC-440CN is fairly simple. Dedicated task buttons let you switch between fax, scan, copy, and photo capture (printing from a camera or media cards). A button labeled Ink lets you make a test print, initiate a printhead cleaning cycle, and check ink levels. For faxing, there's an alphanumeric keypad, speed dial, redial, and hook buttons. To navigate menus, there are menu, OK, clear/back, and direction buttons. The only problem we had drilling through menus was that the clear/back button didn't get us out of the menu entirely: it will let you drill back to the top level of a menu, but in order to exit entirely, you have to press the stop/exit button, which isn't intuitive. Rounding out the control panel is a 2-inch color LCD set into a panel that swivels through a range of 90 degrees. We really like this feature because it allows you to optimize the viewing angle.

The final design feature of note is the location of the USB and Ethernet port. Most printers have them mounted on the back of the unit. Brother mounts them within the unit: you have to lift up the scanner bed to access them, and a channel for the cord feeds it out the back. The only advantage we can think of to this design is that the printer can't be accidentally unplugged.

Setting up this printer was fairly simple: install the software and the drivers from the included CD, connect and power up the printer, and restart your PC. The Brother MFC-440CN supports both Mac and Windows operating systems and, even better, provides built-in support for wired networking over Ethernet.

Features of the Brother MFC-440CN All-in-one Inkjet Printer

The Brother MFC-440CN has all the standard features you'd expect to find on an office all-in-one. When making copies, you can change print quality, enlarge/reduce, specify paper type and size, adjust brightness and contrast, make 2-on-1 and 4-on-1 prints, or even make a 3-by-3 poster print, where the image is enlarged so that one-ninth of the original will fit on each sheet of paper. The nine prints can then be pieced together to create a large poster.

When sending a fax, you have the option of using the scanner glass or the ADF. You can do a broadcast fax to up to 210 numbers or store up to 50 faxes in memory and time them to be sent within 24 hours (called a delayed fax). For incoming faxes, you can set up the MFC-440CN in a number of different configurations involving answering machines and answer protocols. The included manual walks you through the variations. You can have faxes stored in memory and print them later (for security), or you can have the fax page you at a predetermined number so that you know you have an incoming fax, which you can then retrieve remotely. These features are especially compelling if you have a multiuser environment or just really value your privacy. The fax features on this machine are impressive, especially for the price.

Oddly, scanning isn't covered in the hardcopy user guide, but you can find it on the installation CD (and on your PC after installation). When triggering a scan from the printer, you can choose to scan to e-mail, to image, to an OCR file, or you can simply save it in a folder on your PC. When you initiate the scan from the printer, it automatically opens the Brother Control Center 3 software on your PC. (Alternatively, you can open Control Center 3 manually and initiate the scan from there.) The printer is TWAIN-compliant, so you can also initiate scans from any TWAIN-compliant program, such as Adobe Photoshop. If you have a memory card inserted into the card reader, you have the additional option of scanning directly to the card

When printing from a media card, you have a few options. First, if you know you want to print all the photos on a card, you can do so, but you have to print the same number of copies for each photo. If you want, say, two copies of one but four copies of another, you'll have to manually preview all the pictures on the color LCD and indicate how many prints you want of each picture. After scrolling through all the pictures, you can press Start to initiate printing. The final option is to print a photo index: The printer numbers each picture, and from there, you can input the assigned numbers via the keypad and print only the photos you want. We prefer the way Canon handles photo index printing on its Pixma machines: the index sheet has bubbles that you fill in to indicate which images you want printed. Instead of keying in the photo number, you can simply scan the index sheet, and only the marked images will be printed.

Performance of the Brother MFC-440CN All-in-one Inkjet Printer

The Brother MFC-440CN isn't a quick performer, lagging behind the Canon Pixma MP530 in all tasks except photo printing. It printed text at only 2.81 pages per minute, too slow to be a truly functional office printer. It bested the MP530 in photo printing, spitting out 4x6 prints at 0.53ppm. Black-and-white scanning was nearly 1ppm slower than the MP530 at 4.43ppm, and color scanning was even slower: 3.62ppm. Its 2.76ppm copy speeds were also slower.

We wish we could say that the MFC-440CN made up for its lack of speed in quality, but, alas, we can't. The text print was decent, though we could see jagged edges and other imperfections with the naked eye. The text in the color graphics prints showed the same problems. Even worse was the color handling in the graphics prints: Colors were faded and washed-out--they looked the way prints do when the printer is running low on ink. Color blocks showed visible graininess, and we saw some banding in the color gradients.

The photo elements also showed graininess and washed-out colors. The same thing can be said for the 4 x 6 photo prints: We saw graininess; flat, washed-out colors; and a certain lack of sharpness. The color scan fared a bit better. It showed good, sharp detail, but the colors were off. The grayscale scan revealed severe compression in both extremes of the grayscale, resulting in loss of detail in both shadows and highlights. The quality of the prints and scans would be serviceable for a business that needs decent image quality (for example, a real estate broker) but doesn't rely on high-quality prints.