The Brother MFC-440cn looks great on paper and in person. It's a full-featured multifunction that lets you print, scan, copy, and fax--all for only $150. Making the deal even sweeter is the fact that it has an automatic document feeder, is network ready, and includes media card slots and a PictBridge port. The drawback is its print quality and slow text-print speeds. The MFC-440cn is a decent choice for a small office that doesn't have heavy printing needs or require high-quality graphics and photo prints. If you can forego the built-in networking and the media card slots, we recommend the slightly more expensive Canon Pixma MP530--for an additional $50, you'll get higher quality prints and scans and faster speeds.
Like most home office-oriented all-in-ones, the scanner platen is big enough to fit only A4-size originals, but using the ADF, you can scan up to legal-size documents. The lid's hinges lift to accommodate thicker documents, such as books. A small hinge flips out to catch original documents that have been fed through the ADF.
Mounted on the front edge of the printer are a PictBridge Port and two media card slots. The PictBridge port allows you to print directly from a PictBridge-enabled digital camera or camera phone. The media card slots can read most common card types, including CompactFlash, SD, MMC, and Memory Stick. Some additional card types require an adapter that's not included with the printer.
The Brother's paper-handling options are limited, but it does include a photo-paper bypass tray. The input and output trays comprise a single unit, with printed pages simply landing on top of the input cassette. The paper cassette can hold up to 100 sheets of plain paper up to legal size. Mounted atop the plain-paper tray is a dedicated 4x6-photo tray. The photo tray can lock into two positions: forward and back. When this tray is locked in the forward position, the printer automatically picks up media from the regular tray; when it's locked in the back position, the printer defaults to the photo paper. Unfortunately, you have to pull out the paper cassette entirely to make the switch, as the lever is recessed, making what should be a convenient feature less so. Because you must partially pull out the input tray in order to fill it, you can't refill paper in the middle of a print job; in fact, you can't even check the paper level during a print job.
The control panel for the MFC-440cn is fairly simple. Dedicated task buttons let you switch between fax, scan, copy, and photo capture (printing from a camera or media cards). A button labeled Ink lets you make a test print, initiate a printhead cleaning cycle, and check ink levels. For faxing, there's an alphanumeric keypad, speed dial, redial, and hook buttons. To navigate menus, there are menu, OK, clear/back, and direction buttons. The only problem we had drilling through menus was that the clear/back button didn't get us out of the menu entirely: it will let you drill back to the top level of a menu, but in order to exit entirely, you have to press the stop/exit button, which isn't intuitive. Rounding out the control panel is a 2-inch color LCD set into a panel that swivels through a range of 90 degrees. We really like this feature because it allows you to optimize the viewing angle.
The final design feature of note is the location of the USB and Ethernet port. Most printers have them mounted on the back of the unit. Brother mounts them within the unit: you have to lift up the scanner bed to access them, and a channel for the cord feeds it out the back. The only advantage we can think of to this design is that the printer can't be accidentally unplugged.
Setting up this printer was fairly simple: install the software and the drivers from the included CD, connect and power up the printer, and restart your PC. The Brother MFC-440cn supports both Mac and Windows operating systems and, even better, provides built-in support for wired networking over Ethernet.