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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