capsule review

Brother MFC-5890CN Inkjet Multifunction Printer

At a Glance
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    PCWorld Rating

    Small offices will like this machine's versatility and its cheap inks; however, it's pretty slow.

Brother aims at the ambitious small office with its $200 MFC-5890CN color inkjet multifunction printer, whose wide-format capability and cheap inks increase your in-house publishing potential without breaking the bank. Unfortunately, it's slow, and its design has a few drawbacks.

I like the control panel. The buttons are clearly marked and logically arranged, and the 3.3-inch color LCD makes navigating options easy. My only quibbles: The menus don't rotate, and the difference between the 'Clear/Back' and 'Stop/Exit' button can be confusing.

The paper trays have generous capacity: You get a 50-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF) as well as a 150-sheet, A3/ledger input tray--an unusual find at this price. The tray's top lid can catch up to 50 sheets of output. Both loading and adjusting the tray involve some tricky techniques, such as retracting the output extensions to remove the input tray, and then holding the input tray in place when you pull the extensions out again. The documentation for these processes is thorough (as it is for most topics), but the number of warnings should tell you something. This printer lacks duplexing of any sort.

Brother deserves credit for its mostly economical inks. It relies on separate cartridges for each color, which reduces waste. The company also bundles the high-yield versions of its ink cartridges with the machine. Why so generous? Brother says the initialization process uses a lot of ink; with these cartridges, you'll still have plenty left. Whatever the size, however, the black ink is surprisingly costly. Based on industry-standard ISO measurements, the high-yield black cartridge costs $30 and lasts 900 pages, or 3.3 cents per page--a cost we'd expect more from a standard-size cartridge. The high-yield cyan, magenta, and yellow cartridges each cost $16 and last 750 pages, or 2.1 cents per color, per page. The standard sizes are reasonably priced, except for black: At $23.50 for 450 pages, that's a hefty 5.2 cents per page.

The biggest drag on the MFC-5890CN's rating was its plodding text speed: It churned out just 5.7 pages per minute in the PC World Test Center's speed tests. Its 2.4-ppm speed in printing graphics was more in line with the pack. At least the results were pleasing: Text samples fell short of true black but were still crisp. Color photos looked dull and fuzzy on plain paper, but very nice on Brother's own photo paper. Scan and copy samples looked good.

If time is money, the Brother MFC-5890CN hurts on both counts: It makes you wait forever for plain-text pages that also cost more because of the pricey black ink. Wide-format printing remains rare in this price range, however, so if you need that feature this machine is still worth considering.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Small offices will like this machine's versatility and its cheap inks; however, it's pretty slow.

    Pros

    • Wide-format printing; good documentation
    • High-yield inks bundled with unit

    Cons

    • Slow text printing; pricey black ink
    • No duplexing
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