Brother MFC-4420c color flatbed review: Brother MFC-4420c color flatbed

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MSRP: $449.99
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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Versatile yet compact; high-end features; low-end price; separate ink cartridges.

The Bad Slow; text quality is occasionally fuzzy; no USB cable.

The Bottom Line A budget-conscious office or family could buy this inexpensive multifunction for its good faxing and scanning but only if they can tolerate its slow, subpar printing.

6.4 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 6.0
  • Service and support 6.0

Review summary

The Brother MFC-4420c's low price comes with many caveats. This color, inkjet-based multifunction printer combines color-fax, copier, and scanner functions, plus some memory-card readers. It has a nice set of fax functions, and its integrated flatbed scanner produces good-looking scans at a fair clip. But its basic printing capabilities disappointed us: text pages came out slowly and looked poor. Unless you don't need its printing capabilities, you should instead consider the Lexmark X5150 all-in-one or the HP PSC 1210, both of which offer faster, more consistent performance.

Setting up the MFC-4420c took us about an hour from the crate to its first printout because of some minor software issues. The setup documentation is occasionally unclear, but careful study and visits to the Brother site will get you through the process. A USB cable is not included, unfortunately. The MFC-4420c supports Windows 98, 98 SE, and XP, as well as Windows 2000 Professional. It also supports Mac OS 8.6 and up, but its Mac capabilities vary by OS version, so check before you buy.

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The round button in middle of the panel looks easier to use than it is.

The low-slung, broad MFC-4420c looks like an inkjet printer split in half by a scanner, with a fax dial pad on top. It measures 15.7 inches wide by 18.5 inches deep by 10 inches high, with input tray fully extended. The vertical input tray for the printer lives at the top rear of the machine and holds up to 100 sheets of letter- or legal-size paper among other media. We had no problem with the paper feed during extended print runs or when using special stock paper or transparencies. Although the USB and the power ports are nested on the sides of the unit, the phone jacks for the fax machine are on the bottom rear, so you won't be able to place the machine completely flush against the wall.

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The Brother MFC-4420 uses four ink cartridges.
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Although the MFC-4420c supports most digital camera cards, it does not include support for Secure Digital flash.

The front of the MFC-4420c is dominated by the large control panel on top. It looks simpler than it is: you use the three-line LED to navigate the nested menu system, but for faster use, it helps to learn which features can be found where. The printer's output tray lies underneath the control panel and the scanner body. You lift up all three sections to replace the four print cartridges--one black, three color. Those who wish to feed digital photos directly to the printer will find slots for CompactFlash, SmartMedia, and Memory Stick media cards on the MFC-4420c's front, but there is no Secure Digital (SD) flash slot.

We miss having an automatic document feeder. Without it, you have to scan or copy multiple-page documents one page at a time.

The feature set for faxing is probably the best item on the MFC-4420c. The 14.4Kbps fax supports color send/receive, 80-station autodialing, and delayed faxing--great features for those who need to send broadcast batches. The fax also supports remote access codes, giving you limited functions, such as switching from autoanswer or checking to see if there are any faxes awaiting you.

The printer and scanner specs are fairly good. You can print in color or monochrome at resolutions up to 2,400x1,200dpi. You can scan directly to e-mail, OCR software, FTP sites, Word, or imaging applications using resolutions up to 9,600dpi (interpolated) and 600x2,400dpi (optical). The scanner's hinges lift up slightly for scanning or copying from a bound document or book--a feature that we would like to see HP adopt in more of their products, such as the high-end HP OfficeJet 7130 .

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