Lightning Review: Brother's US$200 4-in-1 Printer (Verdict: Great and Cheap)

The Gadget: Brother's MFC-5890CN 4-in-1 Inkjet Printer packs a fax, copier, printer and a scanner in one affordable, semi-compact unit. It also features a flip-up 3.3-inch colour LCD and wireless networking capabilities.

The Price: US$200

The Verdict: It has been a long time since I last shopped for a printer, and if Brother's new addition to their Professional Series line is any indicator, consumers are getting a lot more for their buck these days. For less than US$200 you can expect a 4-in-1 device that does all of its tasks exceedingly well.

Setting up the device on a home network was no problem at all, and exchanging / printing files between multiple computers, media cards and USB drives was a smooth process. The print quality for both documents and photos was impressive for its class (6000 x 1200 dpi printing /19200 dpi on scans) and it cranks them out at a good clip (35ppm black and 28ppm colour on printing / 23cpm black, 20cpm colour on scans ). It also has some useful added features like scan to JPEG, TIFF and PDF as well as the ability to print on 11x17 ledger size paper, which means you won't have to make a trip to Kinkos if you need to print something on that scale. Plus, it has a decent 150 sheet paper capacity for large printing projects.

On the negative side, it isn't the smallest or sturdiest printer out there, and you will have to factor in the cost of a pricey four cartridge ink system down the line (available in standard an high yield versions). It is also compatible with 802.11b/g networks only, so if you are running draft-N you are out of luck. The software wasn't anything to write home about either—I found myself doing most of the work directly on the flip-up 3.3-inch colour LCD display. At any rate, these are not huge problems in the overall scheme of things, so the Brother MFC-5890CN is definitely something to look into if you have a small business or a need for a more feature-rich printer at a relatively low price point. Expect to see it on store shelves starting on August 27th.

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