Pros: Decent printing, faxing, scanning. Software (after upgrades) is very good.
Cons: Uses a lot of ink for "self cleaning"; when low on ink, useless.
I have had a few problems with the Brother MFC ("Multi-Function Center") 240C, which is surprising considering that my 10 year old Brother (big "B" here) fax machine never has had any problems. I'll go into the details in a jiff, but the bottom line here is that this is a good multi-function device for under $80, although you should know some of this machine's weak points.
If you have a home office and you do not require high speed printing, scanning, or faxing, this machine will do the trick.
Make sure you carefully read the instructions in the manual if you intend to use this as a fax. Otherwise you might end up having the machine answer every call. There are three principal modes for use as a fax: Fax only, Fax/Telephone, and Manual. If you have a dedicated line for the fax only, use the Fax mode; otherwise you can either use Fax/Telephone and then provide a ring delay before the fax answers, or have the machine make the decision for you: it will automatically pick up fax transmissions while it will send two short double-rings if it is a normal call. You can also manually tell the machine to answer a fax or type in a specific code to answer while you are on the phone line.
Note: The machine had problems picking up faxes if the line had static.
Print quality and speed is decent- not great. Each MFC 240C comes with 4 printer cartridges: Black, Yellow, Cyan and Magenta. Brother touts this as advantageous for "cutting waste" because it allows the user to only replace the ink cartridge that is low. This is actually misleading, and I had a nice long talk with the Brother customer service reps about this. This is the gist of what I was told:
Brother has a "patented" cleaning system whereby every few days the machine turns itself on (even in the middle of the night, scaring the heck out of me) to clean the nozzle. The rep told me that this is done specifically because the nozzle can clog up with debris, making print quality poor (the manual says that the pages end up having visible "lines"). The nozzle receives ink from all 4 independent cartridges, so to make sure the nozzle is fully clean, all 4 participate in this ritual.
Of course, this ritual ends up costing you precious ink (each cartridge is about $13-15 dollars).
In my case, I primarily used the black ink (which is rated at 500 pages), but I printed less than 20 color pages. In just 6 months the printer was telling me my Yellow was running low. Oddly, the manual states that I could print up to 400 color pages- or 20 times more than I actually had.
The rep said it was probably due to the nozzle self-cleaning system, and also added that the cartridges are "designed" to last 6 months. Great, now she tells me. I have a suspicion that since most printer companies make their money off of cartridges, this is a form of self-imposed cartridge life cycle minimization. The math is easy to do:
I bought the MFC 240 C for about $60 (after rebate). A three-pack of the LC 51 Brother color cartridges (just color mind you) cost me about $40. So just in buying new color ink- which I really shouldn't have needed considering I only made 20 color prints- I ended up paying 2/3 of the printer cost. One more purchase and I pay more on ink than the machine was worth. If you think I am being conspiratorial, consider the fact that Kodak has acknowledged this fact about costs and has adopted a different strategy: sell a slightly more expensive printer but with cartridges at about half the regular cost.
But that's not all to the story. My MFC 240C completely shuts out all other activity- even electronic scanning- if even one cartridge is low. I basically cannot do anything until I replace the one low cartridge (conspiracy, anyone?). The rep told me that she had gotten many complaints about this feature and that Brother was working on ways around it. So make sure you have spare ink on hand if you intend to do any scanning when any ink is low- you will need to replace it, and there is no way to do a reset (well, there is: unplug the machine for 24 hours, this should manually reset it, but it will still give you the low ink message). Incidentally, my Yellow ink had not run out completely, I could still hear it swishing inside. So much for not wasting.
The scanner feature requires two things:
1. That you install the software on your computer.
2. That you conncet the USB line to your computer's USB port. The connection is a bit tricky because the wire connects on the inside (yes inside) of the printer, and you have to open up a lid to find where it plugs in.
Some people have had issues with the software package. I believe most have been resolved by firmware upgrades. I strongly advise you to keep up-to-date with upgrades (the most recent was in January 2008) because this will enhance the scanner's features dramatically. The Brother main website allows you to search by model; I advise you to view all available updates for the proprietary ControlCenter3 software package- make sure you have the correct Operating System versions, too.
The ControlCenter3 software is very easy to use. While you can manually press the 'Scan', 'Photocapture' (to download images), 'Copy' and 'Fax' buttons on the machine itself, using the ControlCenter3 allows you to do this directly from your computer. The only problem I have had was the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) feature, which somehow does not recognize any OCR application on my computer, but I am still working on that. I actually think this program is very simple and useful for doing scanning, and the updates are good.
Printing from Image Card
The MFC 240C recognizes USB drives, CompactFlash, SD (Secure Digital), MultiMediaCArd, and xD "Type M/TypeH" Cards. It DOES NOT recognize IBM microdrive and CompactFlash II cards.
The only major hassle in using the card reader was that I had to manually print out a picture index of my pictures and then decide which number (from the index sheet) corresponded to my image. You can also print out all images, but I think this would eat up much of the color ink. I do not really use this machine for color printing, as there are much better (even cheaper) printers for this sole purpose.
The MFC 240C is a fairly cheap "all in one" model, with no exceptional printing speed or quality. Its major drawback is that the self cleaning feature wastes your ink in short order (you can always shut the machine down to prevent this, but that sort of defeats the purpose of Fax), while if any ink cartridge runs low, the machine is effectively useless until you replace it.
Customer service is surprisingly good, I did not have to pay anything to speak to a live human voice. The firmware upgrades are a must-have. Also, if you do experience problems using the software, make sure to go to the Brother site, the FAQs are very helpful and you can look up other questions.
I should note that some of the new Windows updates will prevent outside communication between a peripheral like the MFC 240C and your computer, by default. Some people might think it is the machine or software that is to blame when in fact it is the darn Windows update (ostensibly designed to make your computer safer but in reality much harder to use.) You must adjust the Windows settings to give the MFC "permission" to communicate with your computer).