capsule review

Brother MFC-685CW Color Inkjet MFP

At a Glance
  • Brother MFC-685CW

    PCWorld Rating

Brother's MFC-685CW is a well-equipped color inkjet multifunction printer. Unfortunately, it's very slow.

None of the inkjet multifunction printers we test are as fast as the spec the vendors publicize. That's usually because they are quoting the machine's speed in draft mode, rather than the default mode used by most people (and the PC World Test Center). The MFC-685CW has the dubious honor of being one of the slowest units we've tested. Text pages averaged an abysmal 3.8 pages per minute. Graphics pages plodded at a rate of 2.2 ppm (average). Other Brother units we've tested (the MFC-665CW and the MFC-845CW) have performed similarly.

The actual output varies in quality. Copies were a bit rougher than we'd like, but scan samples looked good and the prints are mostly nice. On plain paper, letters appeared a little light but finely drawn, while graphics came out faded, yellowish, and slightly grainy. On Brother's photo paper, the yellowish cast remains, but colors look more natural and details are more pronounced.

The cost per page is high: 4.6 cents per half-page of plain text, and 14.3 cents for a page with small amounts of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. A 4-by-6-inch photo print would use far more ink.

The machine is generally easy to use. It offers wireless 802.11b/g connectivity as well as USB and ethernet. The control panel arranges primary-function buttons next to a 3.3-inch color LCD for viewing photos and menus. The layout for the remaining phone/fax and menu buttons is mostly logical. From your PC, Brother's ControlCenter3 interface offers access to most machine functions, while a pop-up Status Monitor shows alerts and ink levels.

Media slots on the MFC-685CW's front can take major card types, plus PictBridge or USB. From the machine, you can perform basic photo tasks such as printing an index; apply a few effects (for example, red-eye reduction, or conversion to sepia-tone or monochrome output); or run a slide show.

The MFC-685CW's paper handling needs improvement. The input tray is skimpy (just 100 sheets), and its legal-size extension is flimsy. Its hinged lid also functions as a 20-sheet input tray for 4-by-6-inch photo media and the 50-sheet output tray. The photo input tray loads from the back-not the most obvious location. To extend the output tray, you have to restrain the input tray from pulling out simultaneously. Duplexing is not available.

The CD-based installation includes ScanSoft's PaperPort 11 SE for OCR. All the documentation is thorough and easy to understand. 

The MFC-685CW's slowness hampers an otherwise solid machine. Only a very patient person would put up with that in exchange for everything else.

--Melissa Riofrio

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This underpowered MFP is painfully slow at default settings, rendering moot its many good points.


    • Connectivity includes Wi-Fi, Ethernet
    • Excellent manuals; sharp text quality


    • Very slow; no duplex capability
    • Pricey inks; paper trays are complex
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