Versatility is the main virtue of the MFC-685CW, which is a multifunction printer aimed at the small business market. It features comprehensive fax capabilities, as well as easy-to-use copy and scan functions, and it even has 802.11g wireless networking built in.
- Built-in 802.11g wireless networking, it can print while it scans, built-in memory card reader and direct USB port
- Photo prints look too washed out; scans can't be sent to a memory card, nor to another PC on the network
The MFC-685CW is a burger with the lot, with wireless connectivity thrown in for good measure. Its print quality for documents is adequate, and its scanning capability is good, but it's not a good choice for photo prints.
Price$ 399.00 (AUD)
Brother has done a good job cramming so many functions into a relatively compact footprint that will take up about 35x45cm of desk space. The paper tray cassette resides inside the perimeter of the unit, so there aren't any messy, protruding tray flaps to deal with, and it has a curved paper path. There is a separate tray atop the main tray cassette for photo paper, so you won't have to remove your plain paper to print photos. But, it is a little fiddly to set up as the whole tray needs to be removed and the photo portion slid into place. In any case, you probably won't want to print too many photos with this unit, as it's not one of its strong points.
Colour photos printed on Brother's glossy paper looked very washed out and suffered from banding. The prints also took a while to dry, so were prone to smudging when mishandled. Conversely, its text output is more than acceptable. Despite being a little soft around the edges (much like this reviewer), text was still clearly legible and easy to read, and it handled reversed and highlighted text with ease -- that is, white and black text on different coloured backgrounds. Meanwhile, bold lettering and different sized fonts were also handled well, despite the feathering.
These tests were conducted using 'normal' mode, but the quality was almost just as good when using 'fast normal' mode... and much quicker. In fact, the printer averaged five pages per minute in 'fast normal' mode and only just over two pages per minute in 'normal' mode.
For scanning, this unit is quite good. It'll pick up fine details and it'll complete scans quickly (it took 34sec for a 300dpi A4 scan). The best part is that the unit can scan and print simultaneously. So if a big print job is under way, instead of waiting until it's over, you can start scanning straight away. The automatic document feeder makes it easy to scan in multi-page documents, too.
The USB port on the front of the machine can be used to connect PictBridge-capable cameras, or USB keys, which will be viewable on your PC screen. The 3.3in colour LCD screen on the printer itself is large and provides a good view for changing all of its settings, including the wireless function, which can be setup using a wizard.
While scans can be initiated from the unit and sent to a PC, they can only be sent to the host PC. It doesn't give you the option of sending a scan to another PC on the network. Likewise for any memory cards that are inserted in the printer's reader, they will only show up on the locally connected PC. Scans also can't be sent to a memory card, which is a little inconvenient.
Still, these are minor points and, overall, the functions of the MFC-685CW are useful and fairly well-performing (except for photo prints). It's a more than decent unit for a small or home office that requires fax and answering machine capabilities in addition to printing, scanning and copying.
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