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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 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.
We were less enthusiastic about the main software control center, which is bundled around a lackluster application called Smart UI; both HP and Canon provide better applets and more documentation. Other packaged software includes ScanSoft's PaperPort and TextBridge, PC-Fax, and ArcSoft PhotoPrinter 4.0, all of which are decent. Unfortunately, some of the software, most notably PaperPort 8.0 SE and the Smart UI control application, lack uninstall capabilities.
While Brother endowed the MFC-4420c with a lot of features, some of them fared badly in CNET Labs' tests. Text printed on plain paper looked poor, and only when printing text on coated paper did the quality improve. Even worse was the printing speed: we recorded an excruciating 1 page per minute (ppm) for normal, default printing. In comparison, HP's PSC 2210 prints text at 4.1ppm, and the inexpensive Dell A940 cruises at 5.5ppm. The copy speed on the MFC-4420c was even slower; particularly when using the reduction or enlargement features. The OCR functionality with ScanSoft's PaperPort and TextBridge was imprecise in informal tests.
Fortunately, the MFC-4420c's speeds in other tests were considerably better. It scanned at a competent rate, and the resulting images produced accurate, crisp colors The fax send-and-receive quality and times were decent.
Multifunction printer text speed (Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Laser printer quality|
Brother International provides a one-year limited warranty and replacement service for customers within the United States. Toll-free technical support is available by phone Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET. Brother's useful &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ebrother%2Ecom%2Fusa%2Fprinter%2Fprinter%5Fcntr%2Ehtml">Web site provides a home page for each product that takes you to product-specific FAQs, downloadable drivers, utilities, and manuals. For the Web impaired, there is also a 24-hour fax-back service.
We called Brother to clear up a streaking problem we encountered. After a 15-minute wait, we got a tentative but ultimately helpful person to talk us through a satisfactory resolution.