capsule review

Brother MFC-845CW

At a Glance
  • Brother MFC-845CW All-In-One Printer

    PCWorld Rating

    This unit neatly mixes Wi-Fi networking and an answering machine with its smooth scanning and printing functions.

The Brother MFC-845CW is almost identical to the recently reviewed Brother MFC-665CW, except that it replaces its sibling's wired handset with a 5.8-GHz cordless phone. At $250 (as of June 6, 2007), this model costs $50 more than the MFC-665CW. But if you work from home, that may seem a small price to pay for the freedom to roam about the house with your laptop.

For $90 each, you can add one to three more cordless stations to the setup. The unit supports a single incoming phone line, so it isn't designed to accommodate the needs of several small-office users wishing to make calls at the same time.

Despite occupying relatively little space, the MFC-845CW packs a slew of features that will appeal to small businesses. In addition to handling printing, scanning, and color copying, it includes a fax, an answering machine, and a speakerphone. The fax is rated to send and receive pages at just 14.4 kbps (compared to most rivals' 33.6 kbps), but it can store up to 480 pages of received faxes in case it runs out of paper while you're away. The integrated answering machine, meanwhile, can store up to 29 minutes of messages in the 32MB of memory it shares with the fax. You also get 80 speed-dial entries to fill with frequently used fax and phone numbers. And if you don't have a wired ethernet connection in your office, you can connect wirelessly to the Brother via its built-in 802.11b/g networking.

The MFC-845CW permits you to print photos directly from a digital camera connected to its PictBridge port or by inserting your camera's memory card into one of the printer's media slots, which collectively accept all major card types. You can preview images on the unit's 2.5-inch color LCD.

The printer lacks two features that many of its rivals offer: the ability to print photos from a USB flash drive attached to the MFP's PictBridge port, and the ability to mark up proof sheets of your shots and scan them to select which images to print. In addition, you get few functions for editing and adjusting the photos on the screen prior to printing.

Brother has arranged the control panel sensibly around the LCD screen, with clearly labeled buttons that have a pleasant rubberized feel. You can scan letter-size documents from the glass platen, and up to ten sheets of legal paper through the automatic document feeder. An OCR program comes in the box.

The cassette in the base of the printer holds 100 sheets of plain paper., and you can feed 20 sheets of 4-by-6-inch photo paper from a slot in the top of the output tray, though pushing this feeder into place takes some effort. A fold-down door on the front of the unit makes replacing the four individual ink cartridges easy.

In our print quality tests, the MFC-845CW produced mediocre results. Though the printer output densely packed lines cleanly and distinctly in our challenging line-art test, evidence of horizontal banding and graininess left it with a lower score than the MFC-665CW earned. We also noticed banding throughout our text prints, as well as fuzzy edges on the characters. Our grayscale print had a greenish tinge and showed little shadow detail. Plain-paper graphics were grainy with dull, lifeless colors. On glossy paper, photos exhibited nice, smooth tones; but colors weren't as vivid and natural as those we saw in output from rival MFPs. Scanning quality and copying quality were just average.

The MFC-845CW's output rate of 3.8 pages per minute for text is less than one-third the speed of other inkjet MFPs. Plain paper graphics printed well below average at 2.0 ppm, and our photo printed slowly (2 minutes, 9 seconds) on letter-size photo paper. Our 4-by-5-inch color photomontage 100-dpi scan stretched to 14 seconds, while plain paper copying averaged a sluggish 2.1 ppm.

The Brother MFC-845CW will appeal to small businesses that are pressed for space. The cordless phone and Wi-Fi networking let you work elsewhere in your home or office without tethering you to a desk. You get many functions at an affordable price, but undistinguished quality and performance.

Paul Jasper

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This unit neatly mixes Wi-Fi networking and an answering machine with its smooth scanning and printing functions.

    Pros

    • Includes faxing capability
    • Built-in answering machine

    Cons

    • Prints and faxes slowly
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