Brother's enormous A3 MFC covers the SOHO basics well, but not particularly quickly.
The Brother MFC-J6710DW is a big multifunction printer, but then that's par for the course for anything that can spit out A3 pages; the needs of both storing and shifting A3 paper through a paper feed mechanism means that there's a limit to the amount of miniaturisation that's possible with any A3 printer model. At 540x489x257mm and 15kg with no paper loaded into it, it's a solid chunk of printer that'll need both a reasonable amount of desk space and a reasonably solid set of table legs to support it.
The front display includes fax and copy controls that flank a pop-up colour 3.3-inch LCD display, multi-card reader and USB port for direct printing access. Underneath you'll find two adjustable paper trays. The basic design style isn't anything fussy, but then a printer of this size is never going to look like anything but a printer anyway.
The MFC-J6710DW is part of Brother's professional line-up of A3 colour inkjet multifunction; for AU$50 less you could opt for the MFC-J6510DW; the chief difference there is that you forego the lower paper tray. Or you could opt for the top-of-the-line MFC-J6910DW, which also allows for A4 automatic double-sided scanning, copying and faxing; that model will set you back AU$479.
From a base specifications point of view, the MFC-J6710DW is an A3 printer/scanner/copier/fax multifunction centre. Brother opts to promote its print speeds in a weird mix of image per minute (ipm) and pages per minute (ppm) figures. Our testing tends towards ipm figures, which are more reliable in real-world testing, whereas ppm figures tend towards the over-inflated. For the MFC-J6710DW it's rated for 12ipm in mono and 10ipm in colour with normal coverage, and up to 35ppm for mono draft and 27ppm for colour draft pages. The scanner is a CIS type with an optical resolution of 2400x2400dpi, interpolated up to 19,200x19,200. On the connectivity front, it'll connect up via USB 2.0, 10/100 Ethernet and 802.11b/g/n wireless.
Setting up the MFC-J6710DW involves the usual process of removing bits of blue tape and installing cartridges, only on a slightly larger scale due to the MFC's larger physical size. The review box sent to us noted that it weighed a touch over 20kg — it may help to have a co-worker help you set it up. One upside of the larger body is that the four ink cartridges (black, cyan, yellow and magenta) install via a side slot; there's no mucking about lifting the large scanner tray involved. We found that the MFC-J6710DW was a little picky about properly detecting new cartridges. Cyan in particular on our review model was twitchy; it took us around half a dozen attempts before the MFC-J6710DW would agree that it was in fact installed.
When you first load A3 paper, you'll also discover that despite the larger size of the MFC-J6710DW, it won't actually accommodate A3 paper without the paper tray jutting out 13cm from the main unit body. For a unit this size it's not a killer intrusion, but worth keeping in mind when setting the MFC up, as it won't fit comfortably into smaller areas with A3 paper installed. The two paper trays that the MFC-J6710DW comes with are a definite advantage, and it's quite easy to set the paper size for each tray directly from the printer itself.
Print quality for colour and black-and-white documents in full coverage was quite crisp, although predictably photo prints aren't particularly stellar with only a three-colour ink cartridge set-up. In terms of print speed, with full coverage we were able to print a single full coverage text page in an average of 28.3 seconds. On a per minute basis we averaged 4ppm. Switching to draft didn't do much to improve speed matters, with a single page coming out at an average of 24.3 seconds, and 5ppm total. The difference between draft and normal coverage was quite noticeable; unless you needed to economise on ink the speed difference is so marginal that we'd suggest printing normal coverage anyway. Switching over to A3 printing predictably didn't do anything to speed matters up, with a single black-and-white A3 page taking an average of 1:35 to emerge, and a similar colour page taking 1:38.
A3 MFCs are still a relatively specialised breed, simply because most offices don't require too many A3 sheets printed on a regular basis. If you need a relatively low quantity of prints and can stand the sluggish print speeds the MFC-J6710DW delivers solid quality prints and is easy to use, but it's certainly not an MFC for everybody.