1 Store12 Reviews
Pros: features, quality, price
I bought this machine to have as a supplemental sewing machine. I already have a beautiful metal antique Brother sewing machine (looks like the old timey Singers, but green instead of black), but it doesn't do anything more than a straight stitch and doesn't have a free arm. I wanted more funcionality in a second machine. I had previously purchased a cheaper Brother (CE 5000PRW) for about 140 dollars from Wal mart, but it lacked some important features (see my review of that machine as well, especially if you are looking for an affordable beginner machine!).
I saw the demo of this baby (Brother PC 420) on HSN and knew I had to have it! This machine is so amazing that I can't believe no one has posted a review of it yet! I got mine on Amazon.com (first purchase with them). It was 500 dollars with free shipping... the same deal you can currently get on HSN or eBay. I thought I'd die of anticipation when after what felt like was forever (a week, not quite forever), the Fed Ex man knocked on my door at 9 AM. Of course I was still sleeping and by the time I threw on the nearest clothes I could find (inside out and backwards mind you) and flounced to the door, the Fed Ex guy was on the way back to his truck thinking I wasn't home! I wrestled the machine from him and gleefullly tore into the box.
If I were a used car salesman talking about this machine I'd say it is a "fully loaded fully automatic luxury model cream puff"! I can't imagine ever wanting anything more out of a sewing machine unless I get into embroidery or need to serge something. There are so many fabulous things about this machine that I don't even know where to begin. It's impossible not to be verbose about a machine this fabulous, so don't read this review in a hurry. Pour a cup of coffee and sit back. If you stay with me for the duration, you're going to be here a little while!
Let's start with accessories; What's in the box?
Included in the box is the machine itself, instruction book, hard case cover, foot pedal, power cord, 2nd spool pin, spool pin caps, presser foot knee lift lever, and also all the extra sewing notions and feet. This machine includes a walking foot and a darning foot for quilting (up to a 60 dollar value according to my research). It also has the typical zig zag, zipper and piping, button hole, button attaching, blind hem, overcast, adjustable quilting, and monogramming feet as well. Also include are an eyelet punch, seam ripper, slippery thread spool net, 4 bobbins, extra needles, and 2 screw drivers. Most sewing machines do not come with a hard cover let alone a free motion and quilting foot. Of course I'd excpect something like that at this price point! This isn't some 99 dollar toy!
The motor in this machine is so quiet and smooth and POWERFUL (850 stitches per minute). It is hard to tell the machine is running. It just hums and purrs and all those other little fun little terms people use when describing a nice sounding motor. The cheaper Brother that I purchased previously had a very loud and whiney motor that actually hurt my ears to listen to, especially when running at full speed. The machine is relatively heavy for a modern plastic machine, so that leads me to believe that it is a quality product. The cheap 140 dollar Brother I tried was feather light.
This machine has some awesome features that make it a joy to sew on. One of those things is an option for a knee lift presser foot lifter. It comes with a bar that just snaps into the front of the machine. The bar hangs down below the sewing surface and the user can raise and lower the presser foot by manipulating that lever with their knee. If pressure is applied to the right, the presser foot is raised. If pressure is released from the lever all together, the presser foot is lowered. Very handy when both hands are necessary to fiddle around with the fabric. Another feature is the automatic push button thread slicer. All the user must do is simply press the button with the scissors picture on it. The upper and lower threads are both automatically cut. They are cut much shorter than one could do with scissors or the on board thread slicing razor (yes, it has that too!) so in the long run, thread will be saved. The machine can be set to automatically slice the thread at the end of each seam (it will automatically sew reinforcement stitches first) so that the user needn't even bother pressing the scissor button! I'm telling you, this amazing machine is going to make me a LAZY sewer and then when I go to use my antique I'm going to get really upset. I can just see myself pressing at the non-existent thread slice button on the antique and just hitting the metal body instead because this machine has spoiled me so! This machine also has a needle up/down button that when pressed will place the needle down in the fabric or up at its highest position. Of course the machine can also be programmed to automatically stop in either position. No more playing with the hand wheel. In fact, I don't think I've even touched the hand wheel since I've had the machine.
The Brother PC-420 can also be used without a foot pedal. It has a start stop button that makes this possible. The button lights up green when the machine is ready to sew (presser foot down), red when the machine is not ready to sew (presser foot up), and orange when the machine is in bobbin winding mode. There is also a "throttle" (speed controller) slide switch that can be used to slow or quicken the machine motor/sewing speed. The speed controller can be used with or without the foot pedal. The neat thing about that slide switch is that it can also be set to change the stitch width! Normally the width, just like the length is controlled by the push buttons on the control panel. Having that auxiliary option is really handy!
There is a flip open dust cover that covers the thread and top area of the machine to protect it. The machine can still be used with the cover closed (once it's threaded of course) and doing that gives the machine a nice sleek look. The free arm accessory drawer flips open and has labeled storage compartments for the extra presser feet, seam ripper, and bobbins. Very nice! Many other machines have the flat bed part just as one piece that has one side without a wall and does not flip open. On those machines, the entire flatbed part must be completely removed from the machine and the desired accessory extracted from a tiny plastic baggy. Annoying, but not an issue with the PC 420. The flat bed part that stores the accessories comes off to convert the machine to what is called a "free arm" mode. In free arm mode, the machine accomodates sleeves and cuffs perfectly.
This machine has drop feed dogs for free motion embroidery (and remember, it also comes with a foot for that). There is also a dial to adjust presser foot pressure. That used to be a standard on sewing machines, but apparently not so much anymore. This model and the Brother PC 210 (the baby "Brother" to this one) are the only machines in Brother's entire line to have this feature. I know because I e-mailed customer support and that's what they told me!
What about threading?
New sewers are often intimidated by threading a sewing machine and winding a bobbin. They needn't be with this machine. It is such a breeze! The thread guides are all numbered and it's just like connecting the dots. The needle threader on this baby is AWESOME. It is not like the typical needle threader found on ordinary sewing machines. Most ordinary threaders require the user to use two hands. The threader is pulled down with the left hand and the thread must be drawn across the guides of the threader and held taut across the hooked wire so the wire can pull it through the eye of the needle. Typically it misses, and the user resorts to threading the needle the old fashioned way. Not so with this machine. Just draw the thread through the last thread guide (step number seven in the threading pattern) and then pull the needle threader lever down until it clicks. One hand, one motion, and it works EVERY time! Of course the needle has to be in the highest position for it to work, just like every other threader. The bobbin is simple as well. There is no need to declutch the machine to wind it. Just slide the bobbin winder over to the right and the needle will automatically disengage. The bobbin does not need to be pulled up through to the top like it does on a typical machine in order to start sewing. The clear plastic bobbin and transparent bobbin cover make seeing when thread is low easy. Nice!
If any of these steps are forgotten, there is an on screen step by step illustration that can be accessed just by pressing the help button.
What about the stitches and the computerized aspect?
This machine has 294 stitches! Straight, ziz zag, decorative, stretch, quilting, heirloom, cross stitch, button hole, eyelet, button attach, and satin are just some of the stitches it does. Not to mention the alphabet in THREE styles (block, outline, and script, though only capitals, numbers, and punctuation, no lowercase). I'll never use them all, but if I want to they are all very easily accessed and adjusted via the buttons and LCD screen. The computerized screen and buttons remind me very much of the first cell phones. There are arrow keys, an OK button, a previous screen button, and an clear button. You just scroll to what you want and press OK.... it's really that simple! In sewing mode (versus stitch selection mode), the up and down arrow keys adjust stitch length and the left and right arrow keys adjust the width (in half millimeter increments). Intuitive and logical describe this machine to a T. There are 12 hard buttons (meaning real, not virtual) on front of the machine for the most commonly used stitches: straight left justified (needle position can be adjusted by changing width), straight center justified, zig zag, overcasting, several blind hem, button hole and a few others. Those buttons make accessing the stitches a little simpler than going through the computer. What I like about the buttons is that they are covered with a clear coating so that the graphic on them doesn't get rubbed off with repeated use. Very nice! The LCD screen is black lit which is really handy! Many electronic machines (including several Brothers) do not have back lit screens. The contrast of the screen can be adjusted. The computer can be programed to change the language that the display reads out in. Stitch pattern can be elongated, mirror imaged, set to sew infinity, or just one time all using the computer. Do not let the fac that this machine is electronic scare you away. It's VERY user friendly!
Since I've only had the machine for one day, I've only played with the different stitches. I've not had a chance yet to put it to much practical use. The only real "work" I did on it was just piecing some quilt pieces together. It did a fine job, but of course that isn't a real test of a sewing machine! The extra features like automatic reinforce, auto thread cutter, knee operated presser foot lifter, start stop button with throttle really made even just sewing a straight stitch much more pleasant than it is on an ordinary machine.
Anything I don't like?
Not really! The machine is perfect in every way hitherto. I thought it wasn't working right at first, and got upset at the prospect of having to send it back. The machine does several decorative stitches, and one of them is a cute little alligator. When I was playing with the stitches, I noticed that the machine wasn't forming the back legs of the alligator. It was just leaving an empty space at the bottom and going on to the next one. I read the manual from cover to cover (just "knowing" there wouldn't be anything in it about that). I flipped to a page that had that EXACT stitch and a magnified view of the part that the machine was not stitching correctly. It said something like: "Sometimes patterns may not be sewn correctly depending on fabric and sewing speed (though I tried it slow and fast and didn't use any weird fabrics). If this (referring to the picture) part of the alligator stitch is not sewn correctly, you can adjust it by following these steps." I made the adjustment according to the manual, and it started forming the stitch perfectly. I will probably never make the alligator in practical use, but I figured if it wasn't making the stitch right there was something wrong. Who knew reading the instruction book could actually teach me something? Go figure! I guess if I was FORCED to pick something about the machine I didn't like, it's the fact that it comes with a hard cover. I don't plan on traveling with my machine, and I'm going to leave it out all the time so I can play with it often. That cover is just one more thing I have to store, and I'd feel guilty throwing it away! Of course most people would love the cover, so that's just me. I may sign up for a sewing class just so I can show off my new toy and then I will get some use out of that cover. :o)
How's the manual?
This is probably the best product manual I've ever found! One thing I like about it is that it written just for THIS machine, not several so that avoids confusion. I also like that the Spanish version is an entirely different book than the English version. The manual describes how to use and set up the machine and its various stitches. It also describes how to use each of the presser feet along with many other things. It is very clear and easy to understand and uses great pictures to supplement the text. I read it from cover to cover and enjoyed every second of it! It does repeat some warnings a few too many times which is redundant and I noticed a couple grammatical errors (ok for reviews, but manuals written by million dollar companies should be perfect!)... but all in all, an awesome manual!
The Brother NX 400 is the same exact machine as the PC 420. The NX 400 has a translucent blue dust cover and back plate for the buttons, versus the white plastic on the PC 420 but other than that it's the same machine. I only mention this because when I was looking for reviews of the PC 420, I didn't find as many as I'd hoped to. The NX 400 has been out longer, so owners of that machine are likely more capable to write a review that speaks to longevity and quality issues instead of merely focusing on features. Also, be careful calling dealers. I thought I might like to support the local economy when buying a sewing machine, so before buying on Amazon, I called 10 dealers in my area. NONE of them carried Brother. More than that, they were actually nasty to me when I mentioned the word Brother. One of them said, "NO, we don't have that junk. That's Wal-mart brand." Another started laughing and hung up. The others just nastily said they don't sell "that brand". I was looking to spend 500 dollars, not get a 99 dollar toy and I was shocked at the reaction from dealers. I'd think they would want the business in this economy. Even if they don't carry Brother to suggest an alternate brand they do sell, but didn't happen like that! I'd have had to spend over 1000 dollars to get a Janome, Pfaff, or Bernina with even HALF the features of my PC 420. I guess I'd then also have the added benefit of having sewing machine snob appeal, but I can live without that. I have a knee lift presser foot lifter and an automatic thread slicer instead! I said all that to say this: Do not be discouraged if you get a less than warm reception from dealers. Buy it online and don't deal with the drama! The only thing wrong with Brother as a brand of sewing machines is that dealers can't mark them up to insanely high prices and make a huge profit on them!
This machine like most other modern machines NEVER needs to be oiled.
Be sure to unplug this machine when it's stormy or you aren't using it. It's electronic and I'd hate to think what would happen to the circuit boards if the a power surge happened. At least plug it into a surge protector.
Final thoughts (finally!)
It's virtually impossible to find a negative review of this machine. Almost everyone who has it adores it, myself included. If you have a machine you already love, I would not recommend to buy this one. You will surely be cheating on your other machine once you get this one into your clutches. It's actually hard to turn off and walk away from! Otherwise, buy this one without hesitation!
I've had this machine almost a year now, and everything I said in my original review still applies.... maybe times 10. It's truly an awesome machine that is easy to use and works well. I fall in love with it all over again every time I use it. I took it to a beginners quiliting class, and I had the nicest machine there, save the lady who had the Baby Lock Quilters Choice, which is almost the same machine and made by the same company. It did a great job and made learning to quilt an effortless process (if only it measured and cut fabric too, oh what a dream!). It maintains tension and even stitching, and has not had any problem. I've fixed clothes and blanets, and attached buttons. It does everything well! I'm about to go to Joanne's and get soem fabric.... then spend a quality evening with my machine making a fabric gretting card for my dear granny. Looking forward to it :o)