Brother MFC-J825DW

Brother’s new $150 (as of September 27, 2011) MFC-J825DW color inkjet multifunction printer (print/scan/copy/fax) is a budget-friendly choice for your small or home office, enhanced by a few higher-end features–namely, CD/DVD printing and some Web connectivity. A two-year warranty sweetens the deal.

The MFC-J825DW installed easily via Wi-Fi (USB and ethernet connections are also available), and it has a clearly designed interface. The front LCD is 3.3 inches wide diagonally–so small that you might not recognize it as a touchscreen. Though it’s a tad cramped, it works; and it also offers access to some Web apps, including Evernote, Facebook, Flickr, Google Docs, and Picasa. The straightforward control panel has a keypad for faxing and labeled buttons for the main fax, scan, copy, and photo functions. The photo functions are for snapshots loaded via the unit’s SD and MMC media card slot or PictBridge port. The on-screen printer driver is easy to navigate, and PaperPort 12 is included for organizing scanned documents.

The MFC-J825DW’s ability to print to CD/DVD is a nice perk. Simply remove the caddy handily stored within the scanner lid, load it with printable discs (regular 120mm size only, not 80mm minis), and feed the caddy into a special slot in the printer’s front input area. Regular paper handling is adequate for a low-volume home or small office, thanks to a 100-sheet input tray, a dedicated 20-sheet photo tray, and a 20-sheet automatic document feeder for the letter/A4 scanner. Duplexing is automatic for printing, but not for scanning. The unit scans from the control panel to a PC without a lot of configuration fuss. The like-priced Canon Pixma MG5320 offers CD/DVD printing and better paper capacity.

In our testing, the MFC-J825DW printed text pages at a rate nearly 10 pages per minute on a Mac, and at 9 ppm on a PC. For printing snapshot-size photos on plain paper, the MFP clocked in at 4.6 ppm, but when we switched to Brother’s own photo paper, the print time slowed to less than 1.2 ppm. A letter-size, high-resolution color photo took nearly 1 minute, 52 seconds to print on a Mac. Scans came out quickly, at between 20 and 35 seconds for snapshot and letter-size photos.

Overall, the quality of the MFC-J825DW’s prints was good. Text looked dark and crisp in most fonts. Photos printed on Brother’s own glossy stock looked quite nice as well, though the color palette was a little on the light side. On plain paper, the same photos appeared faded and grainy. Scan quality was one of the few disappointments–orangey and a bit cartoonish, with harsh shadows.

Brother’s prices for replacement ink cartridges for the MFC-J825DW are about average. The 300-page, standard-size cartridges include a $15 black (which works out to a slightly high 5 cents per page) and $10 cyan, magenta, and yellow (3.3 cents per color per page). The 600-page, high-yield cartridges are a $25 black (4.2 cents per page) and $15 cyan, magenta, and yellow (2.5 cents per color per page). A page with all four colors would cost an unexceptional 14.7 cents with the standard-size cartridges, and an economical 11.7 cents with the high-yield cartridges.

An inkjet multifunction printer bedecked with a few advanced features, the MFC-J825DW is a worthy contender for your low-volume, small-office bucks. The Kodak ESP Office 2170 offers cheaper inks, but it’s much slower and lacks automatic duplexing.

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