Print? Scan? Copy? Fax? It’s covered!

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Recently I had an oppor­tun­ity to put one of the new Broth­er multi-func­tion print­er devices through it’s paces, and over­all, I liked what I saw.

Priced as an entry level unit, the Broth­er MFC-J615W (that’s a mouth­ful, why can’t they just use names) is a sol­id home and light-duty small busi­ness doc­u­ment centre.

The first thing that impressed me was the pack­aging — no styro­foam. Now I know that’s minor, but I appre­ci­ate it when com­pan­ies make the effort to design their pack­aging with the envir­on­ment­al impact in mind.

Judge me by my size, do you.
This is a fairly small unit, and very well designed. Once it’s set up and ready to use, the unit is smal­ler than most toast­er ovens. Unlike my cur­rent print­er, which when in print mode has a huge paper ream sup­port rising out of the back and anoth­er fin­ish­er sup­port out the front, the Broth­er has an intern­al paper tray and feed sys­tem that keeps the foot­print small — great for small home-office situ­ations.

Talk to me
Get­ting the unit to talk to my net­work was a fairly simple thing, con­sid­er­ing my net­work is a bit more com­plex than most. I chose to set the unit up in a wire­less-only mode sim­u­lat­ing small home office situ­ations that wouldn’t neces­sar­ily have a wired home net­work.

Since I’m always adding and remov­ing things, my sys­tem is set up with a very small DHCP alloc­a­tion, which means I manu­ally man­age IP addresses as I add and remove devices.

Using the crisp and bright dis­play pan­el and key­board, manu­ally enter­ing IP addresses and oth­er net­work inform­a­tion was quite easy. Once part of my net­work, the print­er was vis­ible to all com­puters (wired and wire­less).

Setup can also be accom­plished using a USB cable between a com­puter and the unit, using the included install disc.

The doc­u­ment­a­tion included with the unit is bet­ter than I’ve seen with devices by some oth­er man­u­fac­tur­ers. The quick­start guide worked as advert­ised — got me up and run­ning quite quickly. The actu­al users manu­al is quite detailed with lots of inform­a­tion that’s good to know and refer back to, but not essen­tial to get set up and run­ning.

So, let’s take a look at the four main func­tions of the MFC-J615W, start­ing with;

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Scan­ning
Now this was fun. I really liked the sheet feed fea­ture of the scan­ner. Sure, old hat if you’re talk­ing about an office scan­ner, but not in my exper­i­ence for a home multi-func­tion device at this price.

Yep, it scanned the sheets as fed, giv­ing me a lot of options to handle the image:

  • Email — using my com­puters email pro­gram
  • Sav­ing them as a .jpg or Adobe Acrobat .pdf file
  • Import­ing them into an applic­a­tion on my com­puter (Pho­toshop, Picas­sa, etc)
  • Run them through an OCR (Optic­al Char­ac­ter Recog­ni­tion) pro­gram
  • Dump­ing the image to one of the memory card slots on the front of the unit.

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Dust­ing off the tech­nic­al manu­al I see the scan­ning res­ol­u­tion is a some­what unbe­liev­able 19200 x 19200 dots per inch. This incred­ibly high scan­ning res­ol­u­tion is actu­ally inter­pol­ated, using the Broth­er scan­ner util­ity soft­ware. For most pur­poses, you won’t need to dive into the hi-res scan­ning soft­ware as the built in drivers give you more than enough image res­ol­u­tion at 1200 x 1200 dpi.

The oth­er fun thing was that by using Brother’s cus­tom iPhone and iPad soft­ware, I could scan dir­ectly to my iOS device, and then save the image to my on-device photo album to edit with oth­er iPad soft­ware, such as Adobe’s Pho­toshop Express, as I did with this old Cub-Scout manu­al. No need to have any com­puter in this edit loop.

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Print­ing
Prob­ably the most com­mon use for one of these devices in my exper­i­ence, the unit prints quickly and cleanly. And since it’s an inkjet, it’s very quiet too.

Prin­ted out­put was as expec­ted. Col­our docs looked quite nice — I tested it out on some PDF cop­ies I have of old TinTin com­ics — and they’re as good as you’d expect when print­ing to stand­ard inkjet paper in a stand­ard print mode.

Pho­to­graphs, on the oth­er hand, proved to be a bit of a chal­lenge. The key, I found, is in match­ing the print­er ink to the paper. I’d had some older HP print­er paper that we’d used for Christ­mas pho­tos last year. It was handy and I thought I’d just use it to test photo print­ing.

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As you can see, the res­ults were ini­tially less than optim­al. After a bit of research, I learned that some paper reacts dif­fer­ently to the vari­ous inks than oth­ers. If you’ve ever worked in a tra­di­tion­al wet dark­room, this is the same as the paper and the chem­ic­als being slightly incom­pat­ible. The les­son learned here is to test your paper and ink com­bin­a­tion before you start a print run of pho­tos.

So after a bit of exper­i­ment­a­tion, I found suit­able paper. One way to improve the qual­ity of your res­ults is to get paper that is made for your print­er and ink com­bin­a­tion. So, once I figured out the paper / ink thing, I was quite pleased with the print­ing res­ults. For an entry level photo print­er, the res­ult­ing prints were bet­ter than I expec­ted in a low-priced all in one unit.

And, as men­tioned above, Brother’s cus­tom Print and Scan applic­a­tion lets you use Wi-Fi to send images from your iOS device’s Photo Album dir­ectly to the print­er.

Anoth­er fea­ture that’s stand­ard on most print­ers these days; print­ing from memory cards or USB sticks. Worked as expec­ted — thought I appre­ci­ated both the bright and crisp col­our dis­play as it showed me what was on my memory stick, and the abil­ity to gen­er­ate an ‘index print’ of all the images on the memory stick.

Copy
If you’ve read this far you can con­sider everything you’ve read above about print­ing and scan­ning and apply it to copy­ing.

The Broth­er unit makes copy­ing simple. Load the pages into the feed­er and hit the appro­pri­ate (B&W or Col­our) but­ton. Poof, done. The Auto­mat­ic Doc­u­ment Feed­er grabs the pages, runs them by the ADF scan­ner (which is a sep­ar­ate scan­ning ele­ment from the plate glass scan­ner) and dumps the image to the print­er. Copy. Works as expec­ted, and is reas­on­ably fast.

Fax
Actu­ally, I couldn’t test this as I don’t have a stand­ard land­line tele­phone. And, I can’t actu­ally con­ceive of a time in the future when I’d use FAX. But, it’s there, and is anoth­er fun­citon that helps place this multi-func­tion device in the home office.

Con­clu­sion:
I like it. It’s small, quiet, does what I need it to do in a small home office, and pro­duces pretty good res­ults.

Likes:

This is a print­ing appli­ance. Which is a good thing. Once it’s set up and work­ing, it works, and works well.

The iPhone scan/print app.

Doc­u­ment feed­er tray for scan­ning / print­ing.

Dis­likes:

Fax — not sure this is neces­sary any­more.

Ink / paper com­pat­ib­il­ity — as with any inkjet print­er, this is an issue.

Just not happy about it.

Over­all, this is a good little unit. For most doc­u­ment applic­a­tions, it’ll do the job well. For photo print­ing, make sure you’re test­ing the paper and ink com­bin­a­tion before start­ing your print run.

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