How to buy the best Brother printer

We run you through the differences between Brother printers and show you how to pick the best Brother printer for home or small business use

The Brother MFC-6890CDW multifunction inkjet printer.

The Brother MFC-6890CDW multifunction inkjet printer.

Brother is one of the world's most popular printer manufacturers, making both inkjet and laser printers for a wide range of users. We've put together a run-through of the basic prices, features and uses of Brother's entire printer line-up for home and small business users.

Read PC World reviews of Brother printers.

Brother inkjet multifunction printers

Brother makes inkjet multifunction devices that are aimed at smaller businesses. If you're working from a home office, or if you're running a small business, they offer appropriate printing speeds and monthly duty cycle ratings.

Two of the cheapest Brother printers are the Brother DCP-195C and DCP-J125, both of which are $99. These A4 printers may be cheap but they still use individual colour ink cartridges, allowing you to replace cyan, magenta and yellow ink tanks when they run dry instead of replacing a tri-colour tank and wasting ink. The DCP-J125 also has a 1.9in colour screen allowing you to view photos and scanned images. You can also get other cheap Brother inkjet printers like the $89 DCP-145C, $109 DCP-385N and $119 MFC-J220.

Spending slightly more money gets you upgraded specifications and some extra features. The $149 Brother DCP-J515W is slightly faster than cheaper printers; it's able to print off up to 35 pages in a minute at its fastest settings, according to Brother. It also has a larger colour screen and integrated wireless networking, making it easier to connect the printer to multiple notebooks or desktop PCs simultaneously. Other Brother printers at a similar price point include the $199 MFC-J415W and $169 MFC-295CN.

For $200 to $400 you can buy a range of Brother printers suitable for a small business or busy home office. Some models, like the $299 MFC-790CW, have an integrated fax and phone handset, while the $299 Brother MFC-5890CN is the cheapest Brother printer that can produce A3 colour documents. Most Brother multifunction printers in this price range have automatic document feeders that allow multi-page documents to be scanned. Brother has a wide range of mid-priced inkjet multifunction printers, including the $249 MFC-490CW, $219 DCP-J715W and $229 MFC-J615W.

Brother's most expensive inkjet multifunction printers combine all the features of less expensive models and add superior performance. The $579 Brother MFC-6890CDW, for example, can print up to 35 pages per minute and can also produce excellent quality photos. It's got a fax machine, a high quality scanner with an automatic document feeder, dual paper tray inputs for A3 and A4 paper, and can do doublesided A4 printing. Other top-of-the-line Brother inkjet printers are the $529 MFC-6490CW, $429 MFC-990CW and $499 DCP-6690CW.

Brother monochrome laser printers

Brother makes both single-function and multifunction monochrome laser and LED printers. For less than $500, you can buy a single-function Brother laser printer — the $499 HL-5370DW — that's able to be connected to a wireless network and print doublesided A4 documents. The cheapest Brother laser printer, the $169 HL-2140, can print up to 22 pages per minute and holds 250 sheets of A4 paper. Spending a moderate amount nets you the $399 MFC-7340, which has most of the abilities of a high-end inkjet — like an automatic document feeder, fax and a large paper tray — with up to 20 pages per minute output.

You can spend up to $1299 on a Brother monochrome laser printer — this nets you a serious performer in the HL-7050N. Buying a high-end laser printer is a good choice if you're running a business that prints off a high volume of paper daily — the HL-7050N can hold up to 600 A4 sheets at once, and its output tray can hold 500. This printer is a great choice if you're producing lots of documents, but you don't want to spend all your time walking to the printer and retrieving paper. Brother makes a variety of printers from $500 upwards, each with incrementally better paper handling and better extra features. You could spend $549 on the HL-5380DN and get a fast, network-ready laser printer that can print doublesided A4 documents, or get the versatile MFC-8370DN for $699.

Brother colour laser/LED printers

Like its monochrome laser printers, Brother makes multifunction as well as single-function colour laser printers. You can spend anywhere from $429 to $1599 and get commensurate print speeds, paper handling and included features.

Cheap Brother colour laser printers include the $429 HL-3040CN and $599 HL-4040CN. They can both connect to a wired office network via Ethernet, and the HL-4040CN can print directly from USB devices like a flash drive or memory stick. The reason they're cheap is that they can both only hold 250 sheets of A4 paper in their input trays, and their print speeds are only moderately fast at 16 colour A4 pages per minute.

Read more: Brother PDS-5000 desktop scanner

Paying a few hundred dollars more will net you an entry-level Brother colour LED multifunction printer. Brother uses LED lights instead of lasers in their colour multifunction printers. According to Brother, this cuts down on power consumption, and, because of the long lifespan of LEDs, increases reliability. The cheapest Brother colour LED multifunction printer you can buy is the $729 DCP-9010CN, which has comparable print handling specifications to entry-level single-function models but the additional benefit of scanning and copying with a 35-sheet automatic document feeder. Other low-priced Brother colour LED multifunction devices you can buy are the $829 MFC-9120CN and the $929 MFC-9320CW.

Brother's best printer in terms of features and performance is the MFC-9460CDN, which costs $1299. It's suitable for anything up to a medium business — it can print 24 colour A4 pages per minute, has a fax machine integrated and includes a host of network features like fax forwarding to email. It's still relatively compact, though, and could fit on a desk — if office space is a concern then buying a printer like this could be a smart move.

If all-out printing capacity and speed is your aim, then you'd be well advised to look at a dedicated high speed single-function colour laser printer. The HL-4570CDW is the best printer that Brother makes for this purpose, and can reach up to 28 pages per minute for both black and white and colour page prints. Other fast Brother printers include the HL-4050CDN, which is also $799, and the $599 HL-4150DN.

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Campbell Simpson

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