We normally don't see a lot of multifunction laser printers, mostly because inkjets are simply better for printing high-quality scans and photos. However, the printer industry recently started to push laser multifunction printers to the market, arguing that a laser cartridge can produce prints on a par with inkjets, but at substantially better speeds. In the case of the $250 Brother MFC-7440N, the latter is true but the output quality is lacking. It does have all the trappings of a multifunctional printer including one-touch fax, optical character recognition scanning, customizable presets, and an auto-feeding copier, but we'd still rather use an inkjet multifunction for printing presentations and color scans.
Design and features
The Brother MFC-7440N is supposed to work in a variety of work spaces, including the home office and work desktop, but Brother still has a lot to learn about aesthetic appeal. From the plain matte gray finish to the rubber buttons on the control panel, there's nothing that sets this printer apart from common, boring office printer design. While other manufacturers incorporate a distinctive style and unique design, the MFC-7440N looks like it's taken a few fashion tips from an Apple IIe. Looks aside, the unit itself is fairly small at 12 inches high by 16.9 inches wide by 15.6 inches deep and weighs 24.4 pounds.
The Brother's top loading auto document feeder can hold 35 pages of original material for scans, copies, and faxes. Typical of most laser printers, the bottom loading paper input tray holds 250 sheets and can accommodate up to 8.5 inch by 14 inch legal-size paper. Just above the input tray is Brother's standard manual feed tray for printing on labels, envelopes, and other forms. The integrated output tray sits above the feed tray and is slightly recessed in the machine, but it doesn't extend out of the printer, leaving you with very tight quarters to remove your finished prints. During our speed and quality tests, paper kept jamming in the tiny output slot.
The narrow control panel on the face of the printer contains a small, two-line LCD and a host of rubber buttons for navigation, quick start keys, dial pad, and four single touch fax. The LCD isn't backlit, making it difficult to read in low light. In addition, to conserve space on the panel, there's also a shift button that effectively adds four extra quick-dial fax keys. Next to the fax buttons are a set of buttons for each feature, including hook, resolution, and redial for the fax machine; options and enlarge for the copier; and cancel and secure buttons for the printer. The secure button makes it easy to access data saved in the memory by entering a self-selected four digit password.
The MFC-7440N ships with a low level toner that will last for 1,000 page cycles. Brother sells a $50 standard replacement cartridge good for 1,500 pages and a high yield 2,600 version for $65. About three cents per page, the cost is competitively low compared with the average laser printer, but standalone laser printers will do the job for less (about two cents per page). In either case, the price-per-page for this Brother printer will definitely be adequate for a small- to medium-size business environment.
Along with the typical USB connector cable, Brother includes the option to connect multiple users via built-in 10/100 BASE TX networking. It also has 32MB of onboard memory for direct data storage, but we've recently seen other printers in the same price range that have 64MB of memory.
The Brother MFC-7440N performed reasonably well in our speed tests, on a par if not slightly faster than the average single and multifunction black and white laser printer. We put it up against the Canon ImageClass MF4270, a full-feature $299 All-in-One and the Dell 1125, another $250 multifunction monolaser. The Brother easily pulled ahead in the text and graphics speed tests, but suffered most dramatically in black and white scanning: it scanned a black and white document at a rate of 4.48 pages per minute, while the Dell 1125 finished in 5.96 pages per minute and the Canon blazed in at 12.19 pages per minute.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Copy||Black-white scanning||Graphics printing||Text printing|
However, we wish that its print quality was as impressive as its speed. The text print tests at both 300 dots per inch (dpi) and 1,200 dpi. Each came out dark and consistent across the board with hardly any noticeable jagged edges in both large and micro fonts, but it's fairly typical for a laser printer to produce quality text results. Unfortunately, the graphics we printed out leave a lot to be desired. The grayscale graphics test showed visible cross hatching and banding in the black to white gradients, as well as a heavy amount of compression in the darker regions. The 600 by 2,400 dpi scans turned out the best out of all the features we tested, with excellent color reproduction and sharp, clear lines.
Service and support
Brother stands by all of their monochrome laser printers with a one-year Express Exchange limited warranty in addition to offering a toll-free customer service number for trouble-shooting information. Customers can also visit the Web site for driver downloads, FAQs, and comprehensive support center.
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