So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
The Brother MFC-490CW inkjet multifunction offers both wired and wireless networking for a reasonable price.
- Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity, good colour accuracy
- No automatic duplex, poor print speeds, photo paper tray isn't motorised
The Brother MFC-490CW offers good colour accuracy, but it delivers poor print speeds and has issues with text clarity.
Price$ 249.00 (AUD)
There are better options on the market than Brother's MFC-490CW multifunction printer, despite it offering accurate colour printing and good network connectivity.
The Brother MFC-490CW's strongest suit is its comprehensive connectivity, with Ethernet and USB ports tucked neatly away under the scanner cover. Wireless connectivity is also available and can be initiated directly from the device. However you cannot use both network interfaces simultaneously.
The Brother MFC-490CW doesn’t offer automatic duplexing or CD/DVD printing, but it does provide an automatic document feeder and media card slots supporting SD, CompactFlash, MemoryStick and xD cards, as well as a PictBridge-capable USB port.
Paper capacity is limited but sufficient for home use, with a front-facing, 100-sheet paper input cassette and a separate 20-sheet photo paper tray. We like the separate trays, as this keeps different sized media separate. The photo tray isn't motorised like the one on the HP Photosmart D5460 and must be moved into position before use.
The Brother MFC-490CW looks fairly similar to any other Brother printer released in the last few years. A tilting 3.3in display sits front and centre on the printer, with fax controls on the left, and copy and menu navigation controls on the right. Users can use quick access buttons to fax, copy, capture photos or scan using various presets. An ink management button takes users straight to cleaning and ink status menus.
Brother quotes speeds of up to 33 pages per minute for mono pages at 450x150 dots per inch and up to 27ppm at 600x150dpi for colour printing. During our tests the Brother MFC-490CW only achieved 16.1 pages per minute while printing mono pages using fastest (draft) setting. Text at this setting was dim and barely readable.
Using the "fast normal" quality setting — which makes the text more readable — this speed dropped to 5.8ppm. Normal quality documents printed at an abysmally slow 3.2ppm. Colour printing isn't any better: draft colour documents printed at 15.5ppm (with the first page out in an average 13.6 seconds). "Fast normal" and normal quality colour documents printed at the same speed as mono documents. These print speeds are very similar to those we saw with the Brother MFC-990CW.
The speed of photo printing was better. Using the normal quality setting, a standard 4x6in photo printed in an average of 17.5 seconds, and an A4 photo printed in 42.3 seconds. These speeds are fairly fast, but the end results aren't as good as some other inkjet printers.
At its best the Brother MFC-490CW produces acceptable quality documents and photos. Standard text documents are readable when using a standard font size, though the printer struggles to print smaller characters without noticeable grain. Printing at larger font sizes also results in a loss of clarity, and character edges tend to become frayed. Colour documents are of decent quality; the Brother MFC-490CW combines text and colour highlights well without sacrificing character clarity. Reds are slightly too saturated and have a "wet ink" look on standard paper.
The colour palette in photos is surprisingly vivid, with accurate yellows and reds. The major flaw was with blacks and colour gradients — we noticed a slight banding issue, along with some pixelation that results from the comparatively low hardware resolution used to print A4 photos. Though the Brother MFC-490CW does an acceptable job, it certainly isn't the best in its field.
Scan quality is somewhat better, and scanning is relatively fast. Images scanned at 600dpi are detailed and largely true to the source image, if slightly light. The scanner is best suited to documents rather than photos, though the results of photo scans are still acceptable.
Genuine Brother consumables for the MFC-490CW are on the cheaper side, and the printer will retain an average running cost of 20.5c per page.
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