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Brother MFC-J470DW review: Finally, a multifunction inkjet printer with low-cost ink refills

The Brother MFC-J470DW delivers cloud printing from mobile devices, business-friendly accessories like double-sided printing, lightning fast output speeds and cheaper-than-average ink refills.

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Justin Yu
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Justin Yu

Associate Editor / Reviews - Printers and peripherals

Justin Yu covered headphones and peripherals for CNET.

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5 min read

The Brother MFC-J470DW is an easy-to-use multifunction inkjet printer that also operates as a dedicated fax machine, copier and scanner. Its list price is $100 (£108, AU$149), but it's widely available online for up to 30 percent less. The MFC-J470DW offers faster than average output speeds and business-friendly features like an auto-document feeder (ADF), an auto-duplexer for printing on both sides of a single sheet of paper, and a software suite that opens the door to cloud prints and scans (including the ability to print from iOS and Android devices). The ink costs are also lower than many name-brand printers in the sub-$100 range, earning the MFC-J470DW a strong recommendation for use in any office or home work space.

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8.2

Brother MFC-J470DW

The Good

The Brother MFC-J470DW boasts fast print speeds, cloud connectivity, Apple AirPrint and Google Chrome Print compatibility, four separate ink tanks, and a supremely low cost of consumables.

The Bad

The cheap rubber buttons and an overall plastic feel of the unit don't transcend its bargain price tag.

The Bottom Line

If you only have $100 to spend on a multifunction inkjet printer for the office, you'll have a hard time finding a faster performer with ink refills as cheap as the Brother MFC-J470DW.

Design and features

Brother advances the design of the MFC-J470DW beyond that of its clunky older siblings with a compact footprint that measures 16.1 inches wide by 14.7 inches deep and 7.1 inches tall (that's 24.6 by 47.6 by 45.2 cm). It's not the smallest printer on the shelf, though -- Epson still holds the bragging rights for its "Small-in-one" series like the XP-420 , but the reason those are so tiny is because they don't have the productivity features of the MFC-J470DW.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Offices can save money on paper by using the duplexer, a useful piece of integrated hardware that automatically flips over a sheet of paper to print on both sides. There's also a 20-sheet auto-document feeder (ADF) tray on top that's useful for batch scanning or faxing using the dedicated phone line. Of course, if you want to go digital, you can also perform a "PC Fax" using an Internet connection to communicate directly from your computer to the unit -- faxing a document without first having to print it.

Brother MFC-J470DW

Price as reviewed $99.99
Dimensions in inches (width x depth x height) 16.1 x 14.7 x 7.1 inches (24.6 x 47.6 x 45.2cm)
Functions Print/copy/scan/fax
Inks 4-ink tank (black, cyan, magenta, yellow)
Automatic 2-sided printing (duplexer) Yes
Automatic document feeder Yes, 20 sheets
Memory card reader No
Connectivity USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, Google Cloud Print, Apple AirPrint, Brother Cloud apps
Paper input tray capacity 100 sheets
Display 1.8-inch color LCD screen

If you're looking for relics of Brother's older designs, check out the control panel. The buttons for mode selection, menu navigation and phone number entry are all made of mushy rubber that feels uncomfortable to use and brings the overall user experience down a step. At least you get a 1.8-inch color LCD display on the left side that shows you things like ink levels, setup assistance and the location of paper jams (although I thankfully experienced none during testing).

Sarah Tew/CNET

Brother bills the MFC-J470DW as a "Work Smart" printer, which might explain the lack of photocentric features like a memory card reader and a PictBridge-compatible USB port for pulling photos directly off flash storage drives and digital cameras.

But that doesn't mean you can't occasionally print photos on this machine. In fact, the removable paper tray on the bottom has plastic tabs that easily adjust to accommodate popular photo paper sizes like 4 by 6 and 5 by 7, in addition to the standard sizes like letter, legal, executive, and even envelopes and index cards.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The flatbed glass scanner also fits up to letter-size documents and can save projects in a variety of formats onto a hard-drive folder, an email message, a Microsoft Office project, or directly into the free Scansoft PaperPort document-viewing software that Brother bundles with the machine.

If you follow the simple manual instructions and connect the printer to your Wi-Fi network, you can even set the scanner to automatically send projects to your compatible mobile device running the Brother iPrint&Scan app for iOS, Android/Amazon Fire, Windows Phone 7 or 8, and BlackBerry (Cortado).

Like many of the big-name printer manufacturers, Brother offers a full suite of cloud printing software that lets you use your smartphone or tablet in conjunction with Web services like Facebook, Flickr, Dropbox, and more to view your projects across a wide landscape of services. Additionally, Brother also works nicely with Google Cloud Print and Apple AirPrint to send wireless jobs to and from the printer using the Google Chrome Web browser and Apple iOS devices, respectively.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Inks and supplies

The ink cartridge bay sits behind a flimsy plastic door to the right of the paper tray and houses the cyan, magenta, yellow, and black cartridges that feed to the printer. The cartridges are so easy to install that you probably won't even need the manual to figure it out, and the easy access door is convenient for swapping them out -- the process is much more convenient than lifting the whole scanning bay and auto-document feeder.

You'll also spend less on ink refills compared to competitive printers in the sub-$100 category, even more over time with continued use. Assuming you invest in Brother's XL capacity cartridges that offer more ink for less up front, the costs add up to 2.4 cents per page of color ink and 4.1 cents for a page of black ink.

That's less than the same XL ink costs of the Epson XP-420 (3.5 cents for color, 5 cents for black), so you'll save money if you do end up printing a lot of color photos and business handouts, even if you don't get a memory card reader to help you do so.

Performance

The MFC-J460DW registered high marks in CNET's speed tests, well within the acceptable range for a sub-$100 inkjet printer. It flew through our standard 10-page black text sample document at a consistent rate of 9.78 pages per minute, double the speed of the equally-priced HP Officejet 4630 all-in-one.

The Brother's print engine also bested the competition in the full-color graphics page tester with an average speed of 3.93 pages per minute. For comparison, the Epson XP-420 couldn't even churn out a single page in the same test, with only .42 pages printed per minute. If speed is a priority for your business, the Brother MFC-J460DW deserves your dollar.

Photo quality is also above average for what I expect out of a $100 printer. The separate ink tanks provide an extra level of detail that competing printers with a single tri-color tank can't offer, and there's a noticeable difference in the smoothness of color transitions, especially in facial tones and multicolor portraits.

The software driver lets you cycle through different print qualities to conserve remaining inks, and you'll be more than satisfied with the printer's color reproduction -- the darker spots of our sample image are dense and unmarred by bleeding colors. Bright colors pop as they should, and the text is well-formed all the way down to smaller font sizes.

Conclusion

Business environments require a versatile printer that offers cost-saving features and has the potential to increase productivity, and the Brother MFC-J470DW delivers strong results on both fronts. You get all the tools you need to get creative with print projects without paying too much of a premium on ink cartridge refills. In addition, the ability to use your mobile devices to view and send jobs to the printer through a host of cloud-based applications will keep this printer relevant in your office for years to come.

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8.2

Brother MFC-J470DW

Score Breakdown

Value 8Features 8Performance 9Design 7