Brother MFC-685cw review: Brother MFC-685cw

In addition to the usual fax features, the MFC-685CW has an onboard answering machine and handset so you can use it to make and receive phone calls. It even has a speaker phone for hands-free operation.

Using the memory card slots and PictBridge port, you can print photos from cards, USB flash devices, or PictBridge devices such as digital cameras. The MFC-685CW lets you print all, scroll through the contents of your device or card to select individual files, or sort the contents by date. You can print an index of the contents of your card, but it's not scannable. Instead, the printer assigns file numbers to the images, allowing you to key in the file number to print that particular photo without having to click through all the images. Photo effects include autocorrect, enhance skin tone, enhance scenery, red-eye removal, black-and-white, and sepia. Photos may be trimmed (cropped), too.

Performance
When compared to other $200 office inkjet multifunctions, the Brother MFC-685CW didn't stand out. It was the slowest of the bunch at printing text, producing it at a pokey rate of 2.76 page per minute (ppm). The Canon Pixma MX700 was almost three times faster, scoring 7.41ppm. The Brother came out on top with 4x6 photo prints, scoring 1.30ppm. The Canon was the next fastest with a score of 1.05ppm. The Brother was in the middle for both scan tests, scoring 4.29ppm for mono scans and 3.65ppm for color scans. When copying via the ADF, it scored 2.78ppm; again, in the middle of the pack.

Inkjet multifunction printer performance (in pages per minute)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Copy  
Color scan  
Mono scan  
4x6 Photo  
Text  
Canon Pixma MX700
3.95 
4.74 
5.03 
1.05 
7.41 
Lexmark X9350
1.14 
5.61 
7.99 
0.56 
4.93 
Dell 966 All-in-One
1.19 
6.57 
4.71 
0.67 
4.82 
HP Officejet 6310
1.43 
1.61 
3.86 
0.85 
2.86 
Brother MFC-685CW
2.78 
3.65 
4.29 
1.3 
2.76 

Where the Brother MFC-685CW really falters is task quality. The black text prints were nicely dark, but every character showed jagged edges, to the point that text at small point sizes looked downright fuzzy. (We printed on the coated inkjet paper that Brother provided.) The color graphics print exhibited the same issue with fuzzy edges, plus photo elements looked grainy, color blocks weren't as saturated as we like, and the color had an overall dull, dark quality to it.

The grayscale scan showed severe compression on both ends of the grayscale, resulting in washed out details in highlight areas and lost details in shadow areas. The scanner also failed to capture some of the smaller-size text on the original. The color scan was the highlight of the Brother's performance, though it still has room for improvement. The color reproduction was decent, but the entire image was marred by faint horizontal striations, and details in the photo elements could be sharper. Overall, you can definitely get much better quality for $200.

Inkjet multifunction printer quality
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Color scan  
GrayScale scan  
Photo  
Graphics  
Text  
Canon Pixma MX700
Excellent 
Excellent 
Good 
Excellent 
Excellent 
HP Officejet 6310
Good 
Good 
Fair 
Fair 
Good 
Dell 966 All-in-One
Excellent 
Excellent 
Fair 
Fair 
Fair 
Lexmark X9350
Good 
Good 
Fair 
Good 
Fair 
Brother MFC-685CW
Good 
Fair 
Fair 
Fair 
Fair 

Service and support
Brother backs the MFC-685CW with a one-year warranty. Toll-free phone support is available 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. You can also e-mail tech support via an online form. Brother's site has FAQs, downloadable software and drivers, and user guides and manuals.

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