If posters, calendars, or fancy brochures are in your small office’s future, check out the Brother MFC-J6710DW colour inkjet multifunction printer, which can print, copy, scan, and fax at media sizes up to 11 by 17 inches (called ledger or tabloid, depending on the orientation). At $300 (as of April 19, 2011), it costs the same as the HP OfficeJet 7500A Wide Format e-All-in-One, but it’s faster and has some better features, as well as much cheaper inks.
Setting up the MFC-J6710DW is easy on both the PC and the Mac. USB, Wi-Fi, and Ethernet connectivity are provided, as are Memory Stick, SD, and USB/PictBridge ports. Brother includes software to take care of all the multifunction chores; it’s utilitarian in appearance, but extremely efficient and capable. You also get ScanSoft PaperPort version 12 for Windows and Presto Page Manager for the Mac.
Both the control panel and the general design are very efficient; all of the buttons are well placed for easy access. If you’re still faxing, you’ll appreciate the quick-dial buttons on the left side of the panel. The 3.3-inch LCD sports generally well-thought-out menus, though occasionally it leaves you guessing as to whether a menu entry is a command or leads to a submenu. The HTML configuration interface (which you can find by browsing to the printer’s IP address) is easy to use, as well.
The MFC-J6710DW can’t help but be large, given that the unit houses an 11-by-17-inch scanner platen, a 35-sheet automatic document feeder, and two 250-sheet, ledger-size paper trays. While the capacity is impressive, the bottom tray takes only plain paper, and the trays and guides feel cheap. Duplex (two-sided) printing is automatic and supported on both the PC and Mac. Unfortunately the MFP offers no duplex scanning, and the Duplex Copy feature is manual.
In our tests the MFC-J6710DW posted good speeds on both the PC and Mac. Monochrome pages arrived at a rate of 8.8 pages per minute on the PC and 9.6 ppm on the Mac. Snapshot-size photos printed at default settings on plain paper emerged at 4.6 ppm, but the same image took almost a minute at better settings on Brother’s own photo paper. On the Mac, a full-page image printed on photo paper took almost 2 minutes. Mac-based colour scans were fast, while a single-page monochrome copy took a middling 21 seconds.
The quality of the MFC-J6710DW’s output can be nice overall, but only if you contribute a little extra effort, paper, and ink. At default settings on plain paper, colour graphics (including copies) look extremely washed out, to the point that we wondered why Brother set the bar so low. Changing to a higher-quality setting improved the results markedly. Photo output to Brother’s own glossy paper was rich, to the brink of oversaturation. Text is quite good in standard mode and has nearly laserlike edges at the best setting, but is particularly poor in draft mode. At any setting, text and monochrome graphics tend toward a dark gray instead of black.
Since you’ll need heavier ink coverage for the best results, take consolation in the low costs. You can find two sets of inks. The less-capacious, 600-page $25 black and $15 cyan, magenta, and yellow cost 4.2 cents per page for black pages and 2.5 cents per colour per page. A four-colour page would cost just 11.7 cents.
Step up to the $40, 2400-page black and $23, 1200-page colour cartridges, and you end up with costs of only 1.7 cents per page for black and just 7.4 cents for four-colour pages. Brother’s multicartridge packs will save you even more. Note that all the page yields are based on letter-size samples, not the full 11-by-17-inch ledger size, which will use about four times as much ink.
The Brother MFC-J6710DW comes with an unusually long three-year warranty. Although we have our reservations about the MFP’s construction and output quality, that guarantee, plus the long checklist of paper-handling features, make it worth considering for a small office’s wide-format printing.