So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
A low-end multifunction printer from Brother.
- Media card compatibility, automatic document feeder, front-facing paper tray, acceptable document print quality
- Slow print speeds, no CompactFlash card slot, photo print quality could be improved
Brother's MFC-290C won't amaze you, but this multifunction printer is a decent budget buy for a family or home office.
Price$ 199.00 (AUD)
The Brother MFC-290C is a basic inkjet multifunction printer fit for the home that also has some business-friendly features. Though its colour reproduction could be better when printing photos, the Brother MFC-290C is sufficient for printing documents and school work.
The Brother MFC-290C has a single-line mono LCD on its front that makes it easy to choose between basic copy, scan and fax functions. Unlike the HP Officejet J4580 All-in-One, the Brother MFC-290C has an integrated PictBridge-capable USB port, as well as slots for SD, xD and MemoryStick memory cards.
The paper input tray is on the front of the Brother MFC-290C rather than rear, and it is fully retractable into the body of the multifunction, so it won't increase its footprint. An automatic document feeder is also included.
In our printing tests, the Brother MFC-290C performed adequately for its price, though its speed certainly won't amaze you. When conducting our draft quality mono and colour tests, the first page was out in an average 13.4sec. When printing normal quality documents the first page was out in 27.5sec.
The Brother MFC-290C printed draft quality mono documents at 15.8 pages per minute; when printing mono documents at normal quality the speed dropped dramatically to 3.2ppm. The multifunction also offers a "fast normal" setting which provides a compromise between speed and quality; we achieved speeds of 5.7ppm using this setting.
Colour printing speeds were roughly the same (unlike the HP Officejet J4580 All-in-One which performed noticeably worse in these tests). Draft printing averaged 15.5ppm, while normal printing achieved the same 3.2ppm we saw when printing mono documents. The fast normal setting yielded a speed of 5.8ppm.Though these results aren't especially appealing, the Brother MFC-290C can print photos at a reasonable speed. Standard 4x6in photos took an average of 20sec each, while A4 photos took 35.5sec.
Print quality is adequate without though not overly accurate. Mono text documents are readable, with no noticeable aberrations at standard font sizes. The Brother MFC-290C lacks the pinpoint accuracy necessary for printing 7pt font sizes perfectly, and we noticed some pixilation as well as misaligned characters. Larger font sizes revealed no problems.
Colour quality is acceptable for a multifunction printer commanding the Brother MFC-290C's price. Blues are slightly oversaturated in graphical documents, but apart from this the colour palette is neutral. The Brother MFC-290C has different colour settings for different media, so printing using the plain paper setting will deliver different results to printing on photo paper. As a result the colour palette changes when printing photos, with reds looking oversaturated. While this gives photos a luscious look in some respects, it can also lead to overly dark shades of purple. Photos printed by the Brother MFC-290C lack the vividness of photos printed by some other printers, and there is some slight banding.
A total of eight different scan presets are available when using the included software, with four of these accessible directly through the device's control panel. These are all customisable in regards to resolution, format and the application opened upon completion. With an optical 1200x2400 scanning resolution, the Brother MFC-290C has the ability to pick up fine detail in scanned images, though we found some detail was lost as images were under-saturated compared to the source. This doesn’t affect document scanning, but it can mar photos slightly.
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