Pros: feature-rich, easy to use, relatively inexpensive to operate, wired or wireless network, simple setup
Cons: dark-ish color, not suitable for photographs or high-res graphics
The office's senior-citizen HP multifunction LaserJet gave up the ghost last month. At something like eight years of age, we decided the cost of repair was prohibitive and that it made better sense to replace it. Our criteria for the replacement were:
• We're a four-person office with limited printing needs
• We needed a multifunction fax-scan-printer (network-capable)
• We needed a color printer with an inexpensive B/W capability
• It had to be Windows 7 compatible
Our old printer was a wired (Ethernet) printer and we have several desktop computers without wireless cards, so we didn't need a printer with wireless capability. We chose laser printer over inkjet on the basis of operating costs and printing speed. Our budget and needs put us at the upper end of the "home use" laser printers and the lower end of the "business use" printers. Among the options we considered were the Lexmark OfficeEdge Pro 5500, HP LaserJet Pro CM1415FNW, Xerox WorkCentre 6015, Dell 2155CN, Brother MFC-9320-CN and Canon ImageClass MF8080CW. All are at a similar pricepoint in the $400-550 range.
We ruled out the Dell and Lexmark because they were old models due for updating, and narrowed the remaining choices down to Brother and HP. The nod went to the Brother on the basis of a slightly lower supply cost. Based on MSRP for the toner cartridges and the nominal page capacity per cartridge, the Brother machine's cost per page is 18.1¢ for color and 1¢ for B/W (the HP's costs were 19.2¢ and 3.5¢, respectively).
Feature-wise, the printer's similar to the rest at its price point, offering
Printing and copying at up to 19 pages per minute color or B/W (after warmup)
Scan to file or email, networked or with a USB cable
Fax uses dedicated or shared line, fax from glass or from computer
Additional memory available
Compatible with Mac
"Manual" duplex printing
No media slots
Letter or legal paper (actually, not all the competitors accept legal), though only one tray plus a manual feed for labels and envelopes
Automatic document feeder
Recommended monthly volume of 300-1500 pages
Once we chose the Brother, I went on-line shopping. The best price (including shipping) was at Amazon, but Staples had the wireless version - Brother MFC-9325-CW - on sale for $50 less than the wired version, so I ordered that one. Two days later it was in the office and ready to install; a duty that fell to me (two of the others in the office are Vice Presidents and the fourth guy is a technobozo, so I lost... won... whatever).
Installation: First, the box this thing comes in is big enough to sleep a family of four (I've had smaller tents: it's huge, and weighs about fifty pounds. Once it's unpacked, you find a power cable, a telephone line for the fax, a startup guide and separate owner's manual, a CD of drivers and software, and a set of "starter" toner cartridges (1000-page capacity CYMK and a full 15,000-sheet black drum). There is no USB or Ethernet cable; you have to provide them yourself.
The humongous box notwithstanding, it's not the biggest printer: the footprint is about 17" x 19" and 16" high when closed. This is considerably smaller than the HP it replaced; just the right size for that repurposed microwave oven cart.
The only assembly step is to unpack and install the included toner cartridges, which just requires tilting back the hinged scanner/ADF assembly to access the supply compartment. It's pretty darned easy. Shove some paper into the tray (it holds half a ream of 20-lb paper) and you're almost ready to proceed.
Fax setup is straightforward: just follow the steps to program things like incoming line (dedicated or shared) and outgoing configuration - dial 9 or not, print the outgoing fax number, etc. Everything is done using onboard menus on the control panel. There are eight speed dial buttons that you can program for frequent fax recipients.
This printer can be tethered to a computer with a USB 2.0 cable (not included) or sit as a node on a wired or wireless network (802.11b, g, or n-compliant). Since half the computers in the office lack wireless capacity (and our wireless router's been hinky lately), I went with wired. Doing so requires that you have administrator privileges on a computer attached to the network to perform setup. Being a wise guy, I brought in a personal laptop to configure the printer on the network. It still took assistance from Brother's customer support, which was about 50:50 in being useful. Once I found someone who wasn't reading from a script, it all went OK (In my experience, no different from any other vendor).
The drivers install pretty seamlessly on Windows 7 and Vista (64-bit); I haven't installed on any other OS. The scanner and fax control software also installs simply. The scanner and fax Control Center is simple and user-friendly. There's also a "PaperPort" software that purports to be a filing system or something like that; the same kind of program that every printer maker wants its customers to use.
Options: You can also install on a wireless network; doing so allows you to use an app for printing from or scanning to mobile devices (Apple, Android or Windows Mobile). It's not an issue for us since we're wired.
In Use: Once we got the drivers installed, the printer is functioning perfectly. We fax little, but all the tests have been flawless and the speed dial button means no one has to run around the office saying, "I forget: do you dial 9 or not?" B/W printing is crisp and clean. The color printing ("colour") is a little dark on regular laser paper, but the printer driver includes some tools for brightening and adjusting contrast. This printer is not much good for photographs, however.
In several weeks' use - including a couple of power failures, which always wreaked havoc with the old HP - we've had no problems in networking; not a single jam. The ADF works well, whether for scanning, copying or faxing.
The included scanner software is easy to use and works well either for documents on the glass or using the automatic document feeder. No one has tried using the fax from PC function yet.
Recommendations: Once we could get it installed, we were pleased with the Brother MFC-9325. Most of the installation problems resulted from insufficient privileges on the computer used for the network installation, which is why using a non-networked computer did the trick. From the instructions included (wired vs. wireless, PC vs. Mac), the wireless installation appears to be considerably simpler.
The Brother MFC-9325-CW is quite well-suited for low-volume use in a small office or home business requiring a multifunction printer-copier-fax-scanner. It works well on a network, and installs relatively easily. I don’t recommend it for printing photographs or high-resolution artwork.