Brother MFC-J6920DW multifunction A3 review

Multifunctional printers are cheap, but 9 out of 10 still doesn’t go beyond the A4 paper format. Enter the Brother MFC-J6920DW multifunction A3. It can scan and print up to A3 format and even scan and print double-sided. It has both a document feeder and a flatbed scanner option. It doubles as a photocopier. Documents can be printed via WiFi, USB and memory cards en sticks. A first for a multifunctional printer for under € 300. I’ve used it for two years now. Let’s take a look at the devil in the details of the Brother MFC-J6920DW.

The pros and cons of the Brother MFC-J6920DW

This article is about the MFC-J6920DW. However, most, if not all that is said here about the ’69’ is also applicable to the ’45’ and probably all other MFC-J models.

Differences with other Brother MFC’s

Like all the MFC-series, it can print and scan at the same time. This can save time and irritation in small offices or even if you use it intensively yourself. It has more memory, which seems to be the bottleneck with serial scanning on the 128 megabyte MFC-J4510DW I used before. The ’45’ freezes after about two dozen of continuous scanning via the document feeder.

Talking about model numbers: Yes, I wholeheartedly agree there are way too many printer models, even Brother MFC models. Or maybe I should say: The differences are often poorly communicated and therefore unclear to the general public. All models have 802.11b/g/n WiFi. If you study their specifications on the Brother website though, you’ll find that indeed they differ on details that may or may not be important for you. For example, the MFC-J4420DW has only one A4 paper drawer where the MFC-J6720DW has two A4 paper drawers, while only the MFC-J6920DW can hold A3 paper thanks to its two extendible paper drawers.

A3 printing

All these MFC’s can print to A3 format, except that with most models this can only be done via the manual paper feed slit that can be reached by opening a latch on the back. This method often makes the paper go into the machine at a slicht angle, resulting in a print that is also out of plumb. Not very practical if you want to print A3 regularly.

With a bigger touch screen panel, A3 paper drawer, 256 MB memory instead of 128 MB is the ‘top of the line’.

Ink pricing and usage

To prevent the ink heads from drying in, the Brother MFC-J6920DW cleans the printer heads daily, even in sleep mode, but without excessive use ink. It uses relatively little ink.

Ink is readily available online from both ‘official Brother’ as white labels for competitive prices.

The ink cartridges have their own chips that keep track of a ‘countdown’ number of prints after which the cartridges are assumed to be empty. So far, they keep working, even after firmware updates.

Quality of scanning, printing and copying and noise level

Compared to similar multifunctionals, the Brother MFC-J6920DW A3 has a slightly loud paper feed. Printing itself is quite silent. More importantly, it prints fast, wether it’s a color print or not. Brother claims up to 35 pages per minute in color. While the quality of the prints is not as perfect as a folder from an expensive copier/printer from a professional printing service, it is not bad for a SOHO printer/scanner.

Printing quality greatly depends on the settings you use. For bookkeeping purposes the standard settings are more than sufficient. Sometimes you can see a tiny shift between two printed strokes though. If this bothers you, there is a silent mode option. I’m not sure if it’s that much more silent. I think it’s not loud to begin with. With silent mode activated though, the printer takes a bit more time and there won’t be any slightly shifted parts.

Copying is fast an accurate. I haven’t noticed the slightest shift there. The color touchscreen is large enough, bright and easy to operate and  can be tilted more horizontally for a better view. Double-sided, also called duplex copying is also quite easy with the document feeder and a pre-set button for this option. I’ve noticed that using the document feeder tends to give slightly tilted scans though.

Photo prints

When you select photographic printing quality and paper, the print will take a few minutes longer for a full A4 borderless print. I rarely need this but it’s a nice feature. I am impressed by the clarity and bright colors of these prints.

Double-sided printing or borderless

These printers can print from edge to edge. Brother calls this borderless. There’s a catch to the double-side printing option: You can’t print double-sided while printing borderless. I suppose this has to do with the possibility that the ink is still wet while the paper is turned.

Borderless printing at 100%

There are more counterintuitive things. You’d think that A4 borderless printing at 100% does what it sounds like, but I found out it doesn’t. The Brother printer firmware has some strange quirks. The bottom line is that you can either print with 3 mm white borders around the paper’s edge or have a 103% enlarged print with 3 mm image cut-off. A 100% print is possible, but not with the settings you’d expect. You’ll have to put some extra effort in it. Basically, you’ll have to trick the printer software. I wrote a separate article about the strange, undocumented methods of the Brother MFC’s printer drivers and how to work around them to still get borderless printing at 100%.

Bundled software

The Mac OS X Brother ControlCenter scanner software that comes with every Brother printer and MFC looks and feels outdated. That’s because it is. It basically hasn’t changed a bit since 2003, except for some updates to keep it running on versions of Mac OS X that are not over a decade old.

Another way of printing is via the System Preferences panel for Printers and Scanners. When the ‘wireless’ version of the driver is used, printing options are limited though. No matter what driver is used, the scanner preferences for size don’t stick, while other setting do.

Of course, via TWAIN the scanner is still also available for other applications, such as Photoshop.

There are options for faxing as well, but it’s beyond me why anyone would want want to go back to this archaic method.

Other quirks and deviations

According to the manual, printing is either possible via USB or WiFi, but I found USB printing works fine while the WiFi option is active. It works fine with AirPrint too. It was unnecessary hard to set it up for AirPrint though, thanks to the documentation that is for some reason split up in different .pdf’s on the Brother site, with names that are not very descriptive. AirPrint is a wireless printing option on Apple iOS and Mac OS.

Soft reset

Once a month or few months, the MFC-J6920DW seems to become unresponsive via WiFi. The old ‘switch it off and on again’ trick usually makes it come to life again. If that doesn’t fix it, it usually also doesn’t help to pull the plug and reconnect it. Instead, pull the plug and hold down the on/off button while you plug it in again. This will cause a soft reset. The printer is reset but without losing your personal settings. It worked for me.