Pros: Clear & crisp b&w laser printing. Flatbed copier and scanner. Wireless.
Cons: Envelope printing doesn't work, poor written documentation, cheap & flimsy construction, clueless tech support.
I owned one of the original Brother laser MFC models from January 2000 until its copier/scanner died last month. Instead of repairing it, I decided to replace it. I very carefully invetigated all the Brother MFC units. I read every piece of documentation. What I didn't do was see them in person in the store; I'd had such a good experience with the first unit that I didn't think it was necessary.
I chose the 7840W because it had the features I was accustomed to and needed: reasonably fast b&w laser printer, flatbad copier and scanner, and fax. The wireless feature was a plus, so that we could more easily print from the four computers we have here. The reviews on many websites were mostly positive so I ordered it from PCNation.com in Northbrook, Illinois, a very good retailer with whom I've had many good experiences.
The first disappointment came when I opened the box. My old Brother MFC9600 was a heavy, sturdy piece of equipment. The new 7840W was lightweight and felt cheap and flimsy. Everytime I opened the paper tray and front cover, or moved the paper guide, I was afraid a piece would break off. The space where the paper comes out of the machine has been compressed so that it is more difficult to retrieve papers and envelopes. The paper guide is also shorter than it used to be, which makes it more difficult to print many copies at once.
The printer and copier worked well, however. The paper copies are clear, crisp and fast. I printed 200 transparent labels through the manual feed in minutes. The copier feeds easily and has useful features like maximizing and minimizing copy size.
Figuring out how to use all those great features was not so easy because the written documentation that comes with the unit is the usual confusing Brother user manual. It seems to be badly translated from Japanese, focuses too much on the fax feature at the expense of the other features and has a badly-organized index that makes it hard to find what you're looking for.
The wireless feature was very difficult to set up. I spent about 5 hours on the phone with tech support at Brother and Trend Micro because my firewall interfered with the wireless signal. A tech support rep at Brother was supposed to send me instructions for fixing this but didn't send them twice. Eventually, I figured it out mostly by trial and error, with help from the Trend Micro tech support guys. (Parenthetically, Trend Micro is another great company that has a terrific product, fabulous free techsupport and never disappoints.)
The dealbreaker for me turned out to be printing envelopes. I had reluctantly decided to keep the MFC despite its lightweight cheapness and flimsiness. I couldn't do it, however, because it became impossible to print envelopes on this machine. The first week or so, I occasionally got a "paper jam inside" message. There was no paper jammed inside. In order to print the envelope I would have to remove the paper tray, open the front cover, remove the drum unit and wait for the machine to reset.
By the third week, I got the false paper jam message every single time I tried to print an envelope. A day or two later, I got that message no matter what I did to clear the machine. That was when I called Brother tech support about this problem.
I spent almost an entire working day on the phone with their tech support. I talked to three reps in Tennessee and two in India. The American reps were courteous and helpful but could not find a physical reason for this problem. Two of the three told me I seemed to be missing a part in the back of the machine, one of them disagreed. One of the three told me the machine should be swapped out by Brother but then retreated from that position.
I was referred to the software experts in India twice. Each of these men was rude, arrogant and condescending. Neither of them seemed to know what they were doing. These two "experts" concluded that in order for me to print envelopes, I would have to go into the software and reset the printer drivers each time I wanted to print one. Then, according to them, I would have to go back in and reset the drivers to print paper copies again. I pointed out that I had been able to print labels through the manual feed successfully, so their theory could not be correct. This made no impression on them.
Finally, I called PCNation. com and told them this story. I got an authorization to return the unit within two hours, even though I was a few days beyond their usual return limit. They agreed with me that what Brother tech support told me to do was ridiculous.
Sadly and reluctantly, I must bid farewell to Brother forever. I will be looking at MFC machines from HP, Xerox and IBM this evening and will buy another one from PCNation.com because I value their good service.