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Brother MFC-6490CW review: Brother MFC-6490CW

We have to commend Brother for breaking new ground with the world's first A3 inkjet multifunction. It's not at all perfect but, for those in the market for a large format printer, it may just meet your requirements.

Lexy Savvides Principal Video Producer
Lexy is an on-air presenter and award-winning producer who covers consumer tech, including the latest smartphones, wearables and emerging trends like assistive robotics. She's won two Gold Telly Awards for her video series Beta Test. Prior to her career at CNET, she was a magazine editor, radio announcer and DJ. Lexy is based in San Francisco.
Expertise Wearables | Smartwatches | Mobile phones | Photography | Health tech | Assistive robotics Credentials
  • Webby Award honoree, 2x Gold Telly Award winner
Lexy Savvides
4 min read

Design
Here in the testing area at CNET Australia, we are quick (perhaps a little too quick), to point out the inherent design flaws, abnormalities and general unsightliness of the devices that pass through our hands each day. In the instance of the MFC-6490CW though, that should probably be changed to "hands, feet, legs and all matter of the anatomy" as this printer is huge.

7.4

Brother MFC-6490CW

The Good

Only multifunction that will print A3. Relatively affordable for its feature set. Acceptable black and white printing.

The Bad

Poor colour prints on plain A4 paper. Incredibly slow A3 prints. Huge size.

The Bottom Line

We have to commend Brother for breaking new ground with the world's first A3 inkjet multifunction. It's not at all perfect and it is incredibly cumbersome, but for those in the market for a large format printer, it may just meet your requirements.

Sharing a likeness more akin to the Incredible Hulk, the world's first A3 multifunction printer weighs in at a back-breaking 15.6 kilograms and measures 32.3x54.0x48.8cm. This is no ordinary household printer — its girth puts it strictly in the domain of small businesses and medium-sized offices. We almost had trouble finding a desk big enough to support the hulk considering that it dwarfed pretty much everything we put around it.

Setting aside our initial reservations about its appearance, the MFC-6490CW houses a full numeric keypad, as well as a host of other buttons and options on the front panel alongside the 3.3-inch colour LCD screen. The backlit fax, scan, copy and photo capture buttons add a nice touch, while all the consumables are accessible from the front of the printer.

Features
At the top sits a 50-page document feeder, a flatbed scanner, a 3.3-inch colour LCD screen and the standard SD/CF/MS/xD/PictBridge connections. Wireless, Ethernet and fax connectivity are provided, plus 64MB of memory, and a maximum resolution of 6000x1200dpi round out the package.

Inside, the colour cartridges are a CMY-BK configuration (that is, three colours and one black tank). The Innobella colour cartridges that Brother supplies are high yield, and each colour tank claims to be able to print 750 sheets of A4 paper.

In an act we can only put down to temporary insanity on the part of Brother's designers, the USB and Ethernet connections are located underneath the flatbed scanner, meaning the cords stick out rather precariously from a hole in the side of the printer.

Performance
Seeing as the MFC-6490CW is the first inkjet multifunction to handle A3 paper, our first test was — as you have probably guessed — to print a photo on the poster-sized page.

We sent a 12-megapixel source image straight to the printer, to see how the MFC-6490CW coped with a borderless colour print. The printer interface did warn us that the process might be a lengthy one; what we didn't realise was that we had time to invade a small island and make a cup of celebratory tea before the print finally emerged. All up it took the unit 16 minutes to deliver a colour, borderless, A3 result.

Plain black and white pages fared a little better in the speed test, though they still were not as quick as we'd hoped. Our five-page test document took one minute 16 seconds to complete all up, with the first page emerging after 27 seconds. On average, we managed a print speed of 15 seconds per page on normal quality — respectable, but not really commendable given the size of this machine.

In terms of print quality, apart from a few minor markings on our colour A3 print on matte inkjet paper, we were reasonably impressed. However, this is definitely not up to photo store standards. Colour prints on dedicated photo paper proved this further, as they lacked punch and sharpness, with details being washed over. We also found that the leading edge of the page was consistently smudged across different page sizes and media types. Plain A4 colour printing also disappointed us. Patches of black ran across block colours, the blacks themselves were not at all deep, and hues that appeared rich on screen failed to jump off the page at all. We would suggest steering clear of plain paper colour prints and instead head straight for the special papers.

Black and white text was relatively crisp, but not perfect; this isn't up to scratch with laser quality on normal settings. Our scan test turned the tables back in the MFC-6490CW's favour; 25 seconds for a 10x15cm scan, though the colours were not as punchy as the original source, and there was a fair amount of grain over the image. We also didn't like how the printer didn't automatically detect the size of the scan source.

Warranty and cost of ownership
Brother offers a two-year return-to-base warranty. At the time of writing, the retail price for each high yield colour cartridge was around AU$31.95 online, while the black and white cartridge retailed for AU$53.95. Given Brother's claims of each cartridge being able to deliver 750 pages, this works out at 4 cents per page, per cartridge.

Conclusion
We have to commend Brother for breaking new ground with the world's first A3 inkjet multifunction. It's not at all perfect given its only average print quality on certain types of media, and it is incredibly cumbersome, but for those in the market for a large format printer for under AU$500, it may just meet your requirements.