Although Brother's monochrome laser-based multifunction MFC-8440 has a price and features similar to HP's LaserJet 3030, it beat the HP printer in CNET Labs' speed and image-quality tests. The Brother MFC-8440 features a vendor-rated 21ppm, 600dpi print engine, a 600-by-2,400dpi flatbed color scanner with a 50-page automatic document feeder, and a fax engine with some unusual but useful capabilities. Our one serious complaint about the Brother MFC-8440 is its lousy scan quality, especially on color documents. But overall, the Brother MFC-8440 makes small-office tasks easy to perform. For most small-business users, the attractive print quality will offset the disappointing scans. The Brother MFC-8440's mushroom profile is functional. It includes a legal-size flatbed scanner looming over the top of the device, which measures 20 inches (width) by 18 inches (depth) by 19 inches (height). It weighs a manageable 35 pounds but has deep handgrips under the mushroom "cap" and at the base that make unpacking and moving it no problem.
We found the printer simple to set up. The toner cartridge and imaging unit snap together and slide straight into a slot in the Brother MFC-8440's front wall; the control panel, with a backlit LCD, walks you through entering the time, date, and fax station information. The PC driver installer even tells you when to connect the cable, not provided by Brother, from the USB 2.0 or parallel port to a Macintosh running any Mac OS since 8.6 or a PC running any version of Windows since 98.
While most multifunction printers connect to the office network and share only the print component, the Brother MFC-8440, when connected to the Ethernet (which requires an optional $200 Ethernet card), also allows its scans to be distributed over the network; unfortunately it can't send or distribute faxes across the network.
We encountered only two design elements on the Brother MFC-8440 that we didn't like. The lid telescopes about an inch to fit thick documents on the glass, but it doesn't come off to handle oversize documents (some ADF-equipped multifunction printers have a clip-on power connector for removing the lid). Also, the 8440's auxiliary tray holds only one sheet or envelope at a time, so you can't leave the machine stocked with, say, letterhead and second sheets unless you add an extra 250-sheet paper tray for $200. The Brother MFC-8440 comes with many onboard features that other multifunction printers lack. It can, for instance, copy and send faxes with or without a PC. The control panel's five-line LCD shows a menu hierarchy so that you won't get lost and also displays incoming caller ID information (if you have that service). The control panel has speed-dial buttons for 40 one-touch numbers; flash memory holds 300 more speed-dial and broadcast numbers. The Brother MFC-8440 alerts you with a special beep whenever it answers a voice call, and it can take over an incoming fax call if you mistakenly pick up a telephone on the same line.
The Brother MFC-8440 also has fax capabilities beyond the basics. It can ping your pager when a new fax arrives for you. And--our favorite feature--you can change the fax-forward number remotely to redirect incoming faxes to another destination when you travel. Brother claims the 32MB buffer holds up to 600 fax pages. Onboard copy commands can collate multiple copies of a multipage job, scan two or four pages and print them reduced on one page, and blow a page up onto multiple pages (called Poster format).
Brother's imaging unit is specified to last for 20,000 prints and costs $180, while the toner cartridge comes in two sizes: a 3,300-page model for $70 (the one Brother provides in the box), or a 6,500-page model for $92. According to the vendor, the smaller cartridge costs 3 cents per page, while the bigger cartridge cuts the price to 2.3 cents (both figures take into account the costs of the imaging drum).
Brother provides capable digital document archive software PaperPort 8.0 SE, however, the rest of the software bundle is lackluster, particularly for a multifunction printer with a color scanner. While the Brother MFC-8440 is one of the fastest multifunction laser printers we've tested, its scanning performance could be improved.
The Brother MFC-8440 performed very consistently and competently in CNET Labs' tests with a score of 15.6 pages per minute (ppm) and 15.3ppm for text and graphics, respectively. In our tests, the fastest multifunction laser printer is actually another one from Brother, the , which prints text at 16.2ppm and graphics at 15.2ppm.
Not only is it fast, the Brother MFC-8440 also offers good print quality. In CNET Labs' tests, our text sample was a little stark in contrast (bright) but other than that very crisp and sharp. All font sizes, including the smallest, were readable with the naked eye. While the overall brightness of the printed documents did not really affect the text, it did undermine the quality of the graphics. Our samples had a lot of bad gradients, imprecise shading, and sporadic banding.
Scan and copy performance
Contrary to its zippy print speed, the Brother MFC-8440 did not scan very quickly. It averaged about 3.4ppm for color images and 4.4ppm for grayscale images. However, thanks in part to its speedy print performance, the machine finished the copying test at 5.9ppm, which is very impressive.
Not impressive was the quality of its scanned images. The color images had almost all of the bad effects you can imagine for a scanned image: they were blurry and had bad color matching and gradients. The grayscale image was a little better, producing sharper details in the photos and better gradients, but overall it was far from good.
Other than that, the Brother MFC-8440 performed well throughout our testing process and was also very quiet. The printer was tested at the factory default settings, which you can adjust to improve the output and performance. Learn more about how CNET Labs tests printers.
Performance analysis written by CNET Labs project leader Dong Van Ngo.
|Black text speed||Black graphics speed||Color scan speed||Grayscale speed||Copy speed|
|Text quality||Graphics quality||Color scan quality||Grayscale quality|
The documentation provided in the box is also better than we're used to: a long, clear setup booklet and a very long, detailed manual, part of which is printed and part of which comes as a PDF file on the driver CD. Brother's Web site includes documentation, FAQs, e-mail access to tech support, and driver downloads.