Brother MFC-J6955DW review: An A3 workhorse for small offices
If you need a flexible office multifunction that isn't phased by A3 paper, Brother's MFC-J6955DW fits the bill
If you thought laser printers had the monopoly on size and weight, think again. Brother's MFC-J6955DW is big and heavy - so much so that you might need two people to lift it safely. There's good reason for all that bulk. Not only can this inkjet multifunction peripheral (MFP) print, scan, fax and copy, it can do it all on paper sizes up to A3.
In its base, you'll find two fully enclosed 250-sheet paper trays, each capable of handling regular media including A4 or A3. At the back, a 100-sheet multipurpose tray can take anything from A3 down to 10x15cm photo paper.
Brother hasn't overlooked the scanner, which is also fully A3 capable. It's enhanced with a 50-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF). Best of all, both the printer and ADF support automatic duplex printing, allowing double-sided prints, copies, scans and faxes on A4 or A3 paper. Happily, the ADF has dual image sensors, allowing for a higher throughput and greater reliability than if it were mechanically flipping pages over.
Tying everything together, there's on-device control through an 8.8cm colour touchscreen, and a front-facing USB port. This MFP has 10/100 wired Ethernet connectivity, but it also supports wireless networks in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz ranges.
Brother MFC-J6955DW review: Setting up
Aside from the fact you might need two people to lift it, this is an easy MFP to get up and running. It does demand a reasonable amount of desk space, though, particularly if you'll be printing on A3. Extend one of the paper trays for A3 media, open up the rear multipurpose feed, and the MFC-J6955DW is more than 70cm deep.
Brother supplies a set of full-capacity ink cartridges in the box. In theory, they're good for 3,000 black pages or 1,500 in colour. However, this printer's one-time priming process will eat into that. Brother says you'll be left with at least 2,250 black and 975 colour pages - we've seen worse from inbox supplies.
You can buy high-capacity replacements rated for 6,000 black pages and 5,000 colour pages. Using these, running costs work out at 0.8p per black page or 3.7p for a full-colour page of text and graphics. While that's quite a bit more than inkjets with refillable tanks such as the Canon MAXIFY GX7050, it's still very competitive, beating many laser equivalents hands-down.
Brother's PC driver bundle covers printing and scanning and includes PaperPort scan management software that, among other things, can use optical character recognition (OCR) to output searchable PDFs. Potentially that's a great boon for smaller offices looking to tackle a paperwork or archival backlog - particularly once you consider this machine's fast, duplexing ADF. As you'd expect, Brother has a print and scan app for Android and iOS devices.
Brother MFC-J6955DW review: Printing, scanning and copying
In use, this MFP is something of a mixed bag, but there's plenty to impress. It has one of the faster scanners we've tested, capable of previewing an A4 document in just five seconds and capturing it at 150 dots-per-inch (dpi) in only seven seconds. A more detailed 300dpi scan completed in eight seconds.
As you might expect, A3 scans were a little slower but still impressive: we timed a preview at 6 seconds, a 150dpi scan at nine seconds, and even a 300dpi scan was over in 12 seconds. The MFC-J6955DW despatched our 10x15cm photo scan at 600dpi in only 11 seconds. This job needed 26 seconds at the maximum 1,200dpi, but this is still faster than average.
Single-page photocopies were quick, with A4 copies completed in eight seconds in black, or 11 seconds for colour. This MFP could dash off a black A3 copy in 15 seconds, needing only an extra second for colour. We timed a 10-page mono A4 copy at 39 seconds, rising to 64 seconds in colour. Making a 10-page, 20-side A4 copy of a double-sided original took a reasonable two minutes and 39 seconds.
It's on our more straightforward print tests that things started to go off a little, though. This isn't the fastest inkjet out of the blocks, needing 15 or 16 seconds to deliver a first black or colour page. It rattled off 25 copies of a single-page formal letter at a decent 23 pages per minute (ppm), but our 50-page document - usually a chance for fast printers to really stretch their legs - traipsed out at only 12.6ppm.
This slower performance didn't fit with what we'd expect. After a bit of network troubleshooting to no avail, we switched to a new host PC, which seemed to cure the problem. Now the 50-page job rattled through at 29.1ppm, almost a match for Brother's claimed 30ppm.
The MFC-J6955DW printed 10 sides onto five pages at a reasonable rate of 4.5 images per minute. It also delivered our graphics-rich colour document at 6.2ppm - fair, but much slower than an equivalent colour laser.
Brother MFC-J6955DW review: Switching to A3
Our A3 tests consist of printing the same black text and colour graphics pages five times. The MFC-J6955DW delivered a first A3 page of text in 21 seconds, needing 56 seconds to print five copies (5.4ppm). It completed the first page of colour graphics in 40 seconds, needing a minute and a half to finish the job (3.4ppm).
This MFP generally delivered satisfactory prints. Black text was bold and crisp, and colour graphics were reasonably punchy, if not quite the best we've seen from an office inkjet. We noticed a subtle banding on solid colour fills, but nothing that would be a problem in everyday office use.
While this isn't really a photo printer, it made a reasonable job of borderless 10x15" prints, completing six in a little over seven minutes. Our only real criticism is that its plain paper-orientated pigment inks didn't deliver a full gloss finish on coated photo paper. The Brother MFC-J6955DW produced acceptable copies: there was some loss of detail among dark shades in mono jobs, but colour copies were better.
Unfortunately, this MFP couldn't back up its very fast scanner with great scan quality. Scanned images were sharply focused and quite faithful to the colours in original documents. Digitised photos were good all-round, but documents were a little too dark by default, leading to the washing out of detail in dark graphics.
Our colour target test revealed the extent of the problem; at the default setting, the nine darkest of 24 shades were indistinguishable. While it's possible to tweak the exposure using the TWAIN interface's advanced settings, it shouldn't be necessary to this extent.
Brother MFC-J6955DW review: Verdict
Without a doubt, there is a lot to like about this big inkjet multifunction. The Brother MFC-J6955DW is easy to set up and has a friendly touchscreen interface that makes it easier to use than many office MFPs. It's a fast printer, scanner and copier has excellent paper handling, and is generally well specified. Unfortunately, it's let down a little by disappointingly dark scans and mono photocopies, and to a lesser extent by the subtle banding in some colour prints. We should also point out that its standard warranty is a stingy 12 months.
On balance then, this is a solid but unexceptional A3 MFP for a small office. It is a shame its default scan and copy settings don't produce better results, but we very much like its flexibility and reasonable running costs. If you aren't set on an A3-capable device, Canon's Maxify GX7050 covers a similar set of features with even lower running costs. But if you do need A3 print, scans, copies or faxes, the Brother MFC-J6955DW makes a good alternative to a colour laser.
Brother MFC-J6955DW Specifications
|Maximum Print Resolution||1,200x4,800dpi|
|Maximum Paper Size||A3, custom length to 900mm|
|Mixed colour speed||6.2ppm|
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