At a Glance
Brother MFC-640CW Multifunction Center With Built-in Wireless Networking
Feature-packed and well priced, the MFC-640CW boasts fax capabilities, an ADF, and ethernet and Wi-Fi networking.
The versatile and compact MFC-640CW multifunction printer provides plenty of features for its $200 price (as of 3/27/06).
In addition to the usual print, scan, and copy functions, the unit can send and receive color faxes, print photos directly from most common media cards, and operate as a full duplex speakerphone (a handset is included), all without a PC if you so wish. A digital answering machine capable of recording up to 29 minutes' worth of messages is also integrated, as is an automatic document feeder that supports documents up to ten pages in length.
The MFC-640CW has a built-in 802.11b/g network interface along with both USB 2.0 and ethernet connections, allowing it to print from networked PCs as well as to scan and fax to or from them. If you go don't go the Wi-Fi route, you'll need to purchase your own cables and connect them to ports located within the printer, just next to where the four ink cartridges are installed.
The process of opening the unit's cover is fairly painless and akin to popping the hood on a car. That said, the plastic hood prop seems as if it could be prone to breakage over time; the basic 100-sheet paper tray also feels a bit flimsy. The rest of the unit, however, feels well enough constructed, and the control panel sports rubber-texture buttons that have the feel of quality to them. For ease of use, dedicated and backlit buttons for photo capture, copying, faxing, and scanning are located directly underneath the two-line, yellow-backlit alphanumeric LCD. The unit's 16MB of memory allows the 14.4-kbps fax function to store up to 480 pages and 80 speed-dial programs.
Our judging panel deemed the quality of both text and graphics printed on plain paper fair overall, but nothing special. Text wasn't as sharp or as black as that of some other printers (particularly models that benefit from a pigment black cartridge), while photos and charts printed on plain paper had traces of banding and looked a little washed out. Our panel rated photo prints on photo paper a little better, but still noticed a washed-out look and skin tones with a slight green tinge, which created an unnatural appearance overall and made some people seem slightly pasty. The MFC-640CW garnered performance and scan/copy quality ratings pretty much in the middle to low range among the models in our chart. For instance, it produced text and graphics pages at 3.4 pages per minute and 1.1 ppm, respectively, and it scanned our 4-by-5-inch color photomontage at 100 dpi in 14 seconds.
The MFC-640CW is a true all-in-one printer. It may lack duplex abilities and provide only average performance overall, but if you're hunting for an affordably priced multipurpose, space-saving unit for your home office or small business, it's worth popping down to your local computer shop to take a closer look.