Brother MFC-J6920dw review: a fast, capable MFP stuck with mediocre print quality
At a Glance
The Brother MFC-J6920DW’s most unique feature is its sideways paper path—paper is inserted long-side first, rather than short-side first. This allows outstanding performance out of a relatively inexpensive ($300) color inkjet MFP (copy/fax/print/scan). However, this is the second sideways printer from Brother we've seen (the MFC-J4510DW being the other) that suffers banding issues, especially in draft mode. Also, Brother has yet to shake the stereotypical inkjet's faded look in color graphics printed to plain paper. This printer’s strongest points are speed and super-cheap inks, plus, it has great scanning capabilities. It’s worth considering for a medium-volume small office with modest graphics needs.
A big, brawny printer
While my editor thinks the Brother MFC-J6920DW looks like an squared-off mushroom, I like the way it's larger on top than on the bottom. (Star Wars meets Gumby?) Of course, the reason for its bulk—a large, ledger/A3-sized scanner platen, which allows no-stitch scanning of larger documents, has a lot to do with my liking. There's also a 35-sheet automatic document feeder, and the MFC-J6920DWsports dual scanning elements so it can copy a two-sided document in a single pass. If you regularly scan both sides of the paper, that's the next best thing to a sheet-fed scanner.
Nearly everything is done via the 3.7-inch color touchscreen display with its intuitive menu structure. The ink cartridges are found under a flip-open panel to the right of the output tray. A similar door on the left houses the Memory Stick, Secure Digital, and PictBridge ports for direct printing and storing of scans. The MFC-J6920DW may be connected via Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or USB. Setup is easy, and the scanning software and drivers are top-notch.
Paper capacity is one of the MFC-J6920DW's strengths, with two 250-sheet paper cassettes on board. That's a good chunk of the unit's 1500-page recommended monthly volume (the official monthly duty cycle is 26,000 pages). Two-sided (duplex) printing is automatic, and in my hands-on, it didn't bog down printing as much as it does on other units.
One flaw I noted was that the MFC-J6920DW had difficulty picking up the last sheet of paper in the cassette. This even occurred when I was using photo paper. It's not the worst thing in the world having to put two sheets in the cassette instead of one, but it isn't confidence-inspiring. Also, after a last sheet mis-feed, the job wasn't automatically restarted, and the first subsequent page was a partial print.
Speed is excellent nearly throughout. Text and monochrome graphics print at 13.7 pages per minute on the Mac, and 12.8 pages per minute on the PC. Snapshots (4-inch by 6-inch) print at just over 4 ppm on plain paper and 1 minute, 1 second to print on glossy paper. A full-page photo printed on the Mac took a whopping 4 minutes, 14 seconds on the Mac, though in my hands-on with the PC, it was more around two minutes. Copies also arrived quickly at around 5 pages per minute.
Scans were decently quick at about 6 seconds for previewing, 30 seconds for 600 dpi, and about a minute at 1200 dpi.
The quality of the MFC-J6920DW's output is the usual Brother yin and yang. Text isn't the sharpest or blackest we've seen, but it's adequate even for correspondence. Photos printed on glossy stock are also good, though the colors are a bit over-saturated. Plain-paper graphics is where the quality dips. While okay for charts or spot color, there's a definite faded look to photos.
What it gains in speed, it loses in quality
An unfortunate print-quality effect is banding between passes of the printhead. When printing in draft mode, there was a noticeable difference in the brightness between the right and left sides of the page. There was no evidence of banding at the default or best settings, but in our color copy, which has a lot of solid color, we noticed fine white lines running vertically down the page at consistent intervals.
Scan quality was decent, but color images showed harsh, dark shadows, and line art tended to be a little fuzzy or jaggy.
The Brother MFC-J6920DW's ink comes in XL and XXL sizes, which are referred to by Brother as high-yield and super high-yield. While this begs the question of what happened to regular-yield, the ink is cheap regardless. You have to search around for the 2400-page LC109BK XXL black cartridge: We found it for online $38, off from $40 retail, which makes for a very attractive 1.5 cents per page.
Per the numbers at Brother's site, the LC103 XL cartridges all last for 600 pages with the black costing $25, or 4.165 cents per page. The colors cost $15 apiece, or 2.5 cents per page so you wind up with an approximately 11.5 cent four-color page. The more capacious, 1200-page LC105 colors cost $23 each, which drops per-page color costs to about 5.75 cents. With the LC109BK, that would make for super-cheap, four-color page of about 7.25 cents.
The MFC-J6920DW is a bit rough around the edges, but it could serve many mainstream offices competently. It's especially suitable if you regularly scan large and two-sided documents.