Brother MFC-9840CDW All-In-One Laser Printer

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The best color laser MFC on the market for under $1,000

Mar 12, 2008
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Ease of Use:
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Pros:The best color laser MFC for a home, small office, or small workgroup.

Cons:It is heavy to set up, some features are complex and take time to configure.

The Bottom Line: If you want a color laser MFC, it is tough to beat this device. It does a lot very well in a small space.

The Brother MFC-9840cdw is the current top of the line Brother color MFC device. MFC stands for Multi-Function Center which means a device capable of printing, scanning, copying and faxing. Another term is AIO or all in one, which means about the same thing.

The reason to have a MFC is to provide an integrated solution for several office problems in a single compact space. In about a 21" square cube the 83 lb Brother MFC-9840cdw puts about as much function as possible in a relatively small but heavy area.

First an overview. The print engine is able to output pages in color or black and white at 21 pages per minute, color and black and white print at the same speed. Output time to first page is about 25 seconds, after that the printer prints one page immediately after another. A 21 page color or black and white printer is nice to have, but it does more, it can print out via auto duplex (sometimes referred to as just duplex or duplex printing). This means the printer can automatically print on both sides of a page. When duplexing, effective print speed it reduced as instead of printing on one side of one page at a time, both sides of a page must be printed on and the paper must be internally flipped by a mechanical device. Default print resolution is 600x600 dpi (dots per inch), but it is capable of fine resolution of 600x2400 dpi. The Windows print driver will also scale (if you request it to) output to match your paper size. This means whatever you print will be scaled (sized) to fit your paper. No discovering that you only have part of a picture printed.

Print and color quality are typical for a color laser. For printing pictures there is a vivid option, which the user can request or make default. It helps a bit to bring some gloss to the pictures it prints. However few color lasers match the best ink jets for picture quality, and this color laser is no exception. If you want very good pictures, this is a great printer, if you want exceptional pictures, you'll need to look for an exceptional ink jet.

The print engine on the Brother MFC-9840cdw can also print, paper larger than letter size (8.5" x 11" paper, aka copy paper), up to legal size (8.5" x 14"). The auto duplex feature only works on paper up to letter size, thus you cannot auto duplex legal sized paper.

The printer is fed by a 250 sheet drawer located at the bottom of the unit. There is an auxiliary drawer (called a multi purpose tray) which can hold up to 50 sheets of paper or a few envelopes in the front of the unit. An optional 500 sheet drawer can be ordered separately if desired. All drawers hold up to legal size paper, or envelopes.

There are reports of envelopes getting creased when printing, to prevent this there are internal levers which can be adjusted. The levers are in the back of the printer, and it is a bit involved. My own personal conclusion is not to print envelopes if I'm worried about a crease as unless the batch is large, it isn't worth the effort to set and then reset the levers which prevent creasing of envelopes.

If the Brother MFC-9840cdw was only a printer, it wouldn't be an MFC. On top of the printer engine and output area, is a large flatbed scanner, on top of the scanner sits an ADF (automatic document feeder). This means the Brother MFC-9840cdw can scan via flatbed (good for things like books, or large bulky items) or via ADF which is mostly used to make copies of loose pages.

Unlike every other MFC I've ever seen, the Brother MFC-9840cdw can auto duplex scans as well. It cannot auto duplex paper larger than letter size, but it will automatically scan the front and back of letter and smaller paper via the automatic document feeder. If you have something typed on two sides of a page, this is a real help. The ADF can hold up to 50 sheets of paper.

The flatbed is legal size, the ADF will also accept, but not auto duplex legal sized paper.

The scanner has many potential resolutions to copy at, the default is 150 dpi. Its scan quality, ranges from 100 dpi to 1200 dpi, scan types can be black and white, greyscale, or 24 bit color. Higher resolution scans while very accurate, tend to be very large. Generally 150-300 dpi works for most of the scans I've made. The documentation for the scanner indicates it is capable of interpolated 19,200x19,200 dpi scans. I do not see this as an option for my scans from my PC software (which only goes up to 1,200x1,200 dpi). I'm not certain I'd ever want such a large scan in my PC. The highest non-interpolated resolution is 1200x2400 dpi.

The scanner, can work with the printer, and permits the Brother MFC-9840cdw to function as a copier. It is able to print one or two sided black and white or color copies from one or two sided black and white originals. You can decide to print two sided from single sided originals, or take two sided originals and convert to single sided copies. Color originals can be printed as color or black and white. The default is to print a single sided copy of a single sided original on single sided output. The speed is a bit slower than the print engine is rated for, but is still not bad at 17 pages per minute.

When pressing the large scan button on the front of the display, the very easy to read pinkish back-lit LCD display (also on the panel of this MFC) will display several options for scanning. You can scan to email (email must be configured prior to use, this will convert scanned images into jpg or pdf files and send them to an email account from an email account configured by the user). Another scan option is ftp, you'll need to pre-configure the ftp serving site to receive prints. The other two options are file, or OCR, these scans are pushed onto computers which are on the LAN. File, allows a document to be scanned as a jpg or pdf, OCR results in the target computer reading the scanned document and converting it into editable text. Choices are presented for type of input, color, b&W, etc, and source, flatbed or ADF. If you pick the ADF you select one sided or two sided source, the ADF will auto-duplex double sided input. Scan quality is very good in my experience.

Similar to scan, is the copy feature. You can select source as above, though to start a copy there are two start buttons. One starts a B&W copy, the other starts a color copy. Both buttons are clearly labeled "start" one is black the other is color. Color copies do not permit the use if the vivid option, and a photograph copied will be a bit less brilliant than one scanned to a computer and printed with the vivid option.

Then there is the fax capability. This is a very advanced fax machine with many quick dials. It can share a land line allowing incoming faxes to work with an answering machine on a single line (there are limitations, the answering machine has to be connected to the unit, and must have a few blank seconds before the message starts). The MFC decides if a call if a fax or voice within the first few seconds and permits the line to be used as appropriate for the type of incoming call its experiencing. Capability is for color or black and white faxing. Faxes can also be converted to images, and automatically emailed to an account. This saves paper, and allows you to preview on a PC your incoming faxes as email. To connect to an email server, your printer must be connected via Ethernet or Wi-Fi (more on that later). Black and white outgoing faxes can also be sent directly from computers through this unit if they are networked to it.

The Brother MFC-9840cdw doesn't live in a vacuum. Instead, it can talk to computers. It has USB 2.0, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi capability.

Printing, scanning, or faxing, can be accomplished with this unit via USB, Ethernet or Wi-Fi.

The USB port in addition to connecting with a computer, can also connect to a digital camera. The Brother MFC-9840cdw supports pict-bridge, which is a protocol that allows some digital cameras to directly print without a computer on this units printer. Once connected via USB, the camera selects a picture to print, and sends it out without any computer involved. Additionally, the USB port can host a flash drive, and scanned information can be sent directly to the flash drive as a series of .jpg files or as a single .pdf file. The flash drive capability permits a user to put images on portable media, and to process it later or keep it for short or long term offline storage.

I've configured it for wired Ethernet, and am most familiar with it as an Ethernet unit. I'll discuss it from that perspective, however functionality should be similar regardless of method of connection.

We have many Ethernet devices in our home, all eventually connect to our router, some connect via wired Ethernet, others connect via Wi-Fi. The Brother MFC-9840cdw will function as a shared printer by all PC's with appropriate software installed on the LAN (local area network). The software is included with the MFC, and software is provided for PC or Mac systems. Any PC or Mac in our home, can print to the Brother print engine at any time. Thus all have the printer engine available to them all the time. Printing is the same as printing on a local printer, except the output is transmitted either via Ethernet or Wi-Fi to the printer instead of by a USB or printer cable.

The Brother MFC-9840cdw can be concurrently talking to Ethernet, Wi-Fi, USB and phone (when operating as a fax).

In addition to its basic capability, the Brother MFC-9840cdw comes bundled with some nice software. For Windows it comes with PaperPort 11 SE. This is document management software, and permits you to manage scanned receipts, or any sort of document or picture in a paperless manner obtained through the scanner. The PaperPort software also comes bundled with the best OCR (optical character recognition) software I've ever used. OCR software is used to scan documents into editable text. Instead of for example scanning a picture, you can have the picture read by the OCR software which essentially types it into a file for you. Doing this enables you to scan magazine articles, or old documents, and edit them as if you manually typed them in yourself.

Using OCR is similar to picture scanning, it requires you to click a different button on the Brother Control Center, which is a software control center for the Brother MFC-9840cdw that can be installed on each PC or Mac on your network. For Mac systems, Brother includes drivers, and Presto PaperManager. Both PC's and Mac's can process OCR.

The Brother MFC-9840cdw is related to three other Brother laser products, the MFC-9440CN for example does everything this MFC does, except auto duplex. The Brother HL-4040CN contains just the laser print engine without duplexing, and the Brother HL-4070CDW has only the print engine, but with duplexing. All printers are rated identically for speed, color, and use the same toner, drums and other consumables.

Cost for this unit, is about $800 with shipping from most places, at this writing there is a mail in $50 rebate. I have never been so pleased with a printer, scanner, copier or fax machine.

My Brother MFC-9840cdw survived a week long cross country shipment via UPS, it arrived in a very large beat up box, and weighed 104 lbs. This is a two person to carry printer from door to table. A sturdy table is required. When my MFC arrived the box was so beat up and worn, I almost refused it. Fortunately I did not. The unit ships as a box inside a box, and inside the 2nd box there is much padding. Even UPS making numerous stops cross country (7 according to my tracking report from UPS) was unable to damage this MFC.

Consumables are not inexpensive, high capacity color toner costs about $90-$100, color lasers, like ink jet printers use 3 colors plus black. High capacity black toner is a bit less expensive at about $65-$80. The toner which ships with the unit is the smaller standard capacity. Standard capacity toner is good for about 1,500 pages. High capacity toner is good for 4,000 to 5,000 pages. High capacity toner is the most cost effective solution for this printer. The drum life is 17,000 pages, and a toner waste unit has a 20,000 page life.

While my unit is still new, I've yet to have a paper jam, there has been no smudging of output, no crashes of PC's, and setup was very easy. Supported PC systems are Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows XP pro, Windows XP 64, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, Mac OS X 10.2.4 or greater.

Wi-Fi support includes support for 802.11b/g can be via infrastructure (where an AP (access point) or Router control the printer as if it were wired to the LAN (local area network), or ad-hoc where the printer can be directly controlled by individual wireless PC's and Mac's without control via a router and LAN. In Infrastructure mode, optional security ranges from Open System (no security), WEP (wireless encryption protocol, shared key only), WPA / WPA2 PSK (Wi-Fi Protected Access, Personal Security Key with either TKIP or AES), to LEAP (Lightweight Extensible Authentication Protocol). In short, most every Wi-Fi method of security commonly supported by routers currently on the market is supported by this MFC device. It can also scan for networks, PC's or Mac's to connect to via a Wi-Fi search feature.

Finally, I'd like to mention that when scanning, this device permits you to either initiate a scan at the MFC itself to a PC or Mac (by using the name of your PC or Mac on the LAN) or you can initiate a scan at your PC or Mac after you've loaded the flatbed or ADF. The first method permits scans to be pushed onto your computer from the MFC, the second lets you pull scans into your computer from the MFC. This means an operator can push documents onto PC's which are doing other work, the scans are pushed into the PC's even if they're busy (this is done in background). Overall, it makes it easier for a small office to operate.

The maximum workload of the printer is 35,000 pages maximum per month, but it's intended workload is 500-3,000 pages per month. This is meant as a shared printer in a moderate use office or for a moderate use work group.

Recommend this product? Yes

Amount Paid (US$): 800
Operating System: Windows and Macintosh

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