Brother MFC-J885DW review: Outgunned by faster do-it-all printers

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The Good The ink cartridges on the Brother MFC-J885DW cost less to refill than other name-brand printers and the output quality is also commendable down to small fonts and faint lines.

The Bad The plastic materials cheapen the overall feel of the printer, the 100-sheet paper input capacity will likely be too small for the average small office, and the output speed is lacking compared to the competition.

The Bottom Line Brother certainly makes a lot of very respectable work-friendly all-in-one printers, but the J885DW isn't one of them.

5.9 Overall
  • Value 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 5
  • Design 5

These days, $150 -- about £100 or AU$200 -- buys you an "average" multifunction inkjet printer. You know: the ones that do printing, scanning, copying -- and throw in good old-fashioned faxing capability for good measure. You can certainly get cheaper, but at this price, you can usually snag decent extras like an auto-duplexer (for double-sided printing), as well as a dual-paper input tray for both regular sized and photo paper.

Indeed, the Brother MFC-J885DW -- part of the company's Work Smart series for small offices -- has all those features at that $150 USD price point (£140 or AU$250). But, unlike so many other great Brother printers, this one just misses the mark in several key areas; its slow print speeds are easily outmoded by the competition, the design suffers at the hands of its cheap plastic materials and the paper input tray capacity is lacking for serious home office professionals. It's just a flat-out "don't buy."

Note that the MFC-J885DW reviewed here is identical to the MFC-J880DW (a model number exclusive to some online and international retailers).

Design and features

The Brother MFC-J885DW can fit into relatively small spaces thanks to its compact footprint that measures 15.7 inches (39.9cm) wide, 13.4 inches (34cm) deep, and 6.8 inches (17.3cm) tall. You'll need a little extra space for the paper input tray, though, and that's where my complaints begin.

The tray is removable, which is useful for loading paper into it, but why would a printer that positions itself as an asset for small offices only have room for 100 sheets of regular letter-sized paper? Brother says it's able to print up to 2,500 pages per month (also called the "duty cycle"), so get ready to refill the tray a lot if you think you'll approach that amount of printing volume. By comparison, the majority of printers for small businesses and home offices have a 150-sheet tray, at least.

Brother MFC-J885DW

Price as reviewed $149.99
Dimensions in Inches (Width x Depth x Height) 15.7 x 13.4 x 6.8 inches (39.9 x 34 x 17.3cm)
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 USB, MemoryStick, SD
Connectivity USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, Google Cloud Print, Apple AirPrint, Brother Cloud apps, Brother iPrint&Scan
Paper Input Tray Capacity 100 Sheets
Display 2.7" (6.9cm) color TouchScreen display

Brother tries to make up for it with a separate input tray on top of the main one that fits an additional 20 sheets of 4-inch-by-6-inch photo paper in there, but the build quality is a real point of issue, too. The plastic the company used is really thin and flimsy, and I kept worrying that parts of the tray would snap off every time I reinserted it back into the machine. Everything from the door of the media card reader to the fold-out auto-document feeder is made of the same plastic, and it gives the printer an overall cheap feel.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The good news, though, is that there's no shortage of features that Brother incorporates into the printer, and it's all stuff that businesses will find useful for workday productivity. As mentioned earlier, you get a 20-sheet auto-document feeder on top for sending multipage documents through, and there's also a duplexer built into the rear of the device that you can use to save money by printing on both sides of a single sheet of paper.

Since Brother hopes the average consumer will find as much utility in the J885DW as a small business would, there's also a media card bay just to the left of the center console. Behind it, there's a port for PictBridge-compatible USB cameras or just a USB key for data transfers, and you also get a dual card reader for Sony MemorySticks and SD cards.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As you've probably seen with other modern printers, the control panel is devoid of the buttons in lieu of a 2.7-inch (6.9cm) touch screen LCD. I personally prefer hard buttons for shortcuts and the number dial pad, but that's a matter of personal preference. The screen does register the touch of a finger with accuracy, though, and I can see it being useful to customize exactly which apps and settings you'd want to use for a particular office setup.

The color scanner is hidden on top underneath the lid, and you can use the scan-to feature to send a document directly to a variety of destinations: email, media card, computer file, flash memory, and more. You can also use the free Brother iPrint&Scan app to send jobs directly to a mobile device.

Connectivity and wireless

You can make a quick connection to any computer running Windows or Mac OS by using a simple USB cord, but if you do that you won't be able to take advantage of the multitude of extras you get with a wireless connection.

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