At a Glance
Priced at a modest $200, the Brother MFC-5840CN offers a host of features perfect for office tasks. Besides offering built-in networking, the unit lets you drop 35 sheets into its automatic document feeder or lift the cover to scan larger documents, such as books. Dual paper trays permit you to load different types of print media in each--say, 250 sheets of plain paper in the lower drawer and photo paper in the flimsy upper cassette. The fax machine can send color documents. There are even memory card slots for digital photographers, though no PictBridge port for printing directly from a digital camera.
The clearly laid-out control panel is built around a backlit two-line LCD. The software package includes ScanSoft's useful PaperPort document management suite.
The MFC-5840CN's four inks come in individual cartridges. Though the inks are all dye-based, text printing is dark. Nevertheless, considering that this is an office-oriented MFP, we were disappointed with text quality: Lettering looked spidery, small fonts disappeared into fuzz, and white horizontal lines appeared in the solid parts of large characters. Blocks of closely spaced lines blurred together in our line art test, and we saw lots of cloudy horizontal banding.
Photos printed on plain paper looked dull and washed out, producing gray skin tones, and they showed some of the most intense banding we've seen. Photos printed on glossy paper looked bright, with a slight (but not unpleasant) yellow-green cast. Fine details were evident even in shadows, and color transitions blended smoothly. Scan quality was adequate, but didn't stand out from that of competing MFPs.
The Brother ran slow across the board. Text printed at a sluggish 3.4 pages per minute--far below the 6.2 ppm average for the nine MFPs we tested for the June 2005 chart. Color graphics emerged at a snail's pace of 1.1 ppm, slower than any other model on the chart. And the MFC-5840CN also took 30 seconds to scan a 4-by-5-inch photo at 100 dpi--longer than any other MFP. Copying a page of text took 25 seconds, only a couple of seconds slower than the average.
The Brother MFC-5840CN is a good value for a networked MFP, but slow speeds and middling print quality limit its usefulness in an office setting.