capsule review

Brother MFC-6890CDW

At a Glance
  • Brother MFC-6890CDW

    Macworld Rating

Brother’s MFC-6890CDW is a large format ink-jet multifunction device targeted at small- and medium-sized businesses. You can print, scan, and fax over USB, wired Ethernet, or wirelessly over Wi-Fi. The MFC-6890CDW has a 50-sheet automatic document feeder for copying and scanning, memory card slots, a PictBridge USB port, and can automatically print two-sided, letter sized documents. Unfortunately, this large, feature-packed printer was only an average performer with some irritating problems.

Set up

Since the MFC-6890CDW can print and scan documents as large as 11-by-17 inches, it’s big and bulky. There are two input trays; the top tray holds up to 100 sheets and the bottom tray can handle up to 250. Multiple trays make it easy to keep the printer loaded with paper or stocked with different types of paper, say plain paper in one tray and higher-quality presentation paper in the other. Loading paper into the flimsy paper trays was a bit of a struggle, however, with the cheap-feeling paper guides difficult to adjust.

Brother MFC-6890CDW

Once the trays were loaded, paper misfeeds were fairly common, with either the printer feeding multiple sheets at once, or reporting that the paper tray was empty even though it was just low. Adding more paper seemed to help, though multiple-sheet misfeeds still occurred occasionally.

Connecting directly to the printer over USB 2.0 was easy, as was connecting the printer to the office network via Ethernet. Wireless setup from the printer’s onboard controls was a challenge, however. The MFC-6890CDW’s built-in controls are less than intuitive and I was unable to successfully type in the password. I had better luck once I set up a smaller network using an AirPort base station not connected to the Internet and used the installation CD to go through the setup again.

The MCF-6890CDW can accommodate either high or standard capacity ink tanks. High capacity inks will yield, according to Brother’s calculations, approximately 750 pages each for cyan, magenta and yellow and 900 pages for the high capacity black cartridge. The cost per page is about 3 cents for a monochrome page and 10 cents for color. When using the standard-capacity ink cartridges (450 pages for black and 325 pages for color), the cost per page increases to 5 cents for monochrome and 15 cents for color.

Performance

Photos printed on Brother’s BP71 tabloid-sized glossy photo paper were overly dark and heavy with ink, especially when selecting that particular paper type in the printer’s software driver. Using the BP17 paper with a plain paper setting in the drive produced better photographic prints, if a little under-saturated. Photos looked best when using a high quality, third party glossy photo paper, but the prints were still a bit dark and overly red.

Timed trials: Print

Timed Trials: Print
10-page Word test 2:22
1-page Word test 0:21
22MB Photoshop image 3:52
4-page PDF 4:40

Scale = Minutes: Seconds

Jury tests: Print

Graphics: Fine Lines and Gradients Very Good
22MB Photoshop image quality Good
Text Quality Very Good

Scale = Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor

Timed trials: Scan

8-by-10-inch photo, 600 dpi scan 0:40
4-by-6-inch photo, 1,200 dpi scan 1:18

Scale = Minutes: Seconds

Jury tests: Scan

Color Good
Clarity Very Good
Copy Good

Scale = Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor

How we tested: We ran all tests with the ink-jet multifunction printer connected via USB 2.0 to a 2.66GHz Mac Pro with Mac OS X 10.5.3 installed and 1GB of RAM. We recorded the time it took the MFP to print a one-page Word document and a 10-page Word document, as well as the time it took to print a 22MB Photoshop image and a four-page PDF. We then recorded the time it took to scan an 8-by-10-inch photo at 600 dpi, as well as the time it took to scan a 4-by-6-inch photo at 1,200 dpi. A panel of experts examined sample output of the MFP to evaluate its print, scan, and copy quality as either Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair or Poor in comparison to the output of past color laser MFPs we’ve tested.—Macworld Lab Testing by James Galbraith

Our text test page, printed on plain paper, was of Very Good quality for an ink-jet. Not quite laser sharp, but very legible even at small point sizes. The printer also did well with our Graphics and Fine Lines test page, with smooth bended lines, neutral grayscale photos, and relatively little banding in our color blends.

Our scanning test, which involves a color photo, were dark and overly blue, but not bad overall. A scan of our lineart resolution test page turned out better, showing a good amount of captured detail. Copies made from the printer menus were deemed to be of Good quality, with colors a little muted and images a bit soft. There were also visible horizontal lines in darker areas of the copy reminiscent of lower resolution ink-jets from years past. When scanning, I was able to initiate the scan from the device, “pushing” it to my Mac over USB, Ethernet, and wirelessly.

The MFC-6890CDW was a little slower than many of the ink-jet printers we’ve tested, and quite a bit slower than the small office color laser printers we’ve recently reviewed. Printing a one-page monochrome document took about 21 seconds, while a 10-page document took 2 minutes, 22 seconds. Printing our letter-sized Photoshop color photo took nearly 4 minutes. Scan times were faster, but they were only 24-bit color, not 48-bit as many photo-centric MFPs are capable of capturing.

Specifications

Print resolution 1,200 dpi
Scan resolution: Optical 1,200 x 2,400
Max. scanning bit depth 24bit
Connection USB, Wi-Fi, 10/100 Ethernet
Paper sizes up to 11 x 17
Cost to replace Ink 82.50 high yield/$56 standard
Weight (in pounds) 34.4
Dimensions (height x depth x width in inches) 12.7 x 21.3 x 19.2
Paper capacity 350
Special features duplex, 50 sheet auto document feeder, fax

Macworld’s buying advice

For those looking for a tabloid-sized multifunction printer, the MFC-6890CDW is a decent option. It has a ton of features and prints good quality office documents. Photos are not its strong suit, however, and its paper handling leaves something to be desired.

[James Galbraith is Macworld’s lab director.]

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At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Automatic duplexing
    • Multiple connection options
    • Inexpensive ink-cost per page when using high capacity cartridges
    • Large format prints and scans

    Cons

    • Paper jams and misfeeds were common
    • Paper trays were difficult to adjust
    • Prints on Brother’s glossy photo paper were unattractive
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