The Brother MFC-3360c multifunction might be one of the least expensive multifunction printers to hit the market, but it's far from the best. Aesthetically speaking, the boxy shape and drab color can't keep up with its competitors' modern designs, and although the print quality improves from other Brother printers we've tested, you can spend the same and get the Canon Pixma MX330, a more versatile printer with a color LCD. Most importantly, you'll feel confident using a machine that doesn't look, feel, or operate like it hasn't changed since the 1990s.
Once again, we're unsatisfied with what Brother has to offer in terms of forward-thinking design. The MFC-3360C seems to take much of its aesthetic influence from printers and fax machines of the early '90s. We'll concede that the device is small (16.1 inches wide by 19.3 inches deep and 12.8 inches tall), but we're disappointed by the boring, outdated look. Next to the Canon MX330's streamlined figure, the MFC-3360C's dusty rubber buttons and flimsy, matte plastic drawers look depressing. Like the Brother DC-165C, we struggle to believe that anyone will find this printer visually appealing.
The button layout on the control panel actually reminds me of my family's first dot-matrix printer back in the late '80s, with its small rubber buttons smashed around a one-line LCD that lacks a backlit screen, which makes it difficult to read in anything less than fluorescent office lights. The screen sits at an immovable angle that doesn't help, either. We actually found ourselves squinting to read the tiny characters during our lab tests.
The main Fax, Scan, and Copy function buttons sit directly below the LCD screen, and a larger row of shortcut buttons occupy the rest of the front panel. You also get the small bonus of a telephone handset for phone calls and auto-dialing on the keypad, which might come in handy but also adds to the "traditional" feel of its design. Finally, the 20-sheet auto-document feeder folds out from the top of the unit and also protects the control panel while not in use. Unfortunately, the printer lacks a memory card reader or a USB port for external media.
A removable plastic tray handles all of the incoming and outgoing paper from the printer, with adjustable tabs that corral small 4-inch-by-6-inch photo paper all the way up to full legal size slabs. The tray is a big improvement from the one on the DCP-165C, which sat too flush within the printer making it hard to grab outbound prints. The MFC-3360C doesn't suffer from this problem at all as a result of the shallow path.
The drivers on the MFC-5890CN's installation disc give you the option to adjust the printer's quality settings from normal to fine, fast, and fast normal. In addition, you get a box to check natural versus vivid photo printers and a unique "True2life" color enhancement tool with customizable changes to color density, white balance, contrast, brightness, and other settings. Finally, the driver also installs a status monitor that pops up during job processing to monitor ink cartridge levels and quality control.
Brother also gives you the option to install a third-party imaging application called Paperport by ScanSoft. This program lets you edit photos in a file browsing set up similar to Apple's iPhoto, with basic photo-editing solutions for auto-enhancement, blemish erasing, and red-eye elimination. We played around with the software for a while and enjoyed its simplicity compared with iPhoto, although don't expect editing quality on par with Adobe suites; this is geared more for light users and amateur photographers with limited time and editing resources.
The MFC-3360C's crippling disadvantage is its lack of a dedicated flatbed scanner and copier. If you plan on scanning thick books, large documents, or anything other than single sheets of letter-size paper, you'll be much happier elsewhere. Note that the Canon Pixma MX330 does have a built-in scanning bay with a 50-sheet auto-document feeder for roughly the same price.
The MFC-3360C uses a four-cartridge system with individual tanks for black, cyan, magenta, and yellow that load into the front bay. Brother offers standard and high-yield cartridges on its Web site, but we'll use the high-capacity price points and page yields for a cost-per-page analysis: color cartridges cost $17 for 750 pages and a black cartridge costs $32 and will last approximately 900 pages according to Brother; this factors out to 2.2 cents per page of color and 3.5 cents for black. Those prices are a bit cheaper than the average cost to print.
We didn't think that a printer could work any slower than the Brother DC-165C, but we stand corrected. The MFC-3360C manages scores so slow that it's frustrating to even look at the numbers. Obviously the printer comes in last place compared with others in the same price range, but the MFC-3360C wins biggest loser by a landslide with one measly page of text per minute, most of which was spent preparing itself to receive the document from the computer. Remember, this printer doesn't have Wi-Fi, so we're talking a direct USB connection here. It performed equally poor in the rest of the benchmark speed tests, as indicated below.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Presentation speed (PPM)
|Photo speed (1 sheet)
|Color graphics speed (PPM)
|Text speed (PPM)
The MFC-3360C redeems itself a bit in the output quality results, but it doesn't excuse the slow print speeds. It produced decent quality black text, even a bit sharper than the similarly priced Canon Pixma MX330, but still not nearly as sharp as the other photo inkjet devices in our Best 5 lists. The difference is clearest in the photo-quality tests. Photos printed off the Brother lose their pop and definition in finer lines and quick color transitions, lacking the even saturation we liked about the MX330. The photos and graphics are passable to the average consumer, but those with a keen eye for photography will immediately notice the fuzzy edges and spotty white blemishes that seem to infect every photo that comes out of this printer
Service and support
Brother backs the MFC-3360C with a one-year limited warranty that includes access to its phone support line 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. In addition to the hotline, Brother's online "Ask Us" program offers immediate e-mail replies for troubleshooting, and the company Web site provides more support by way of manuals, FAQs, service center locations, and software downloads.
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