At a Glance
- Fast; low purchase price
- Autoduplexing included
- Pale, yellowish color prints
- Lack of detail in color scans
Speed and thrift make this a good small-office deal–assuming your color needs are basic.
Brother’s MFC-9450CDN color laser multifunction printer juggles speed, features, output quality, and design well enough to be a worthy choice for most small offices or small workgroups. The only people it is likely to disappoint are those who need sophisticated color imaging.
The MFC-9450CDN ($650 as of April 6, 2009) performed capably in our speed tests. Brother claims that the unit can print both black-and-white text and color images as fast as 21 pages per minute–and it came close to that mark for text (20.4 ppm), with perfect-looking output. But its color graphics performance was much slower 4.9 ppm, and print quality was underwhelming: On plain paper, our test photos looked washed-out and blurry; and on special paper with optimized settings, the colors still had a yellow cast and exhibited moiré patterns. Scans and copies were sometimes a bit too dark but overall they looked good.
The level of color quality will be adequate for many office users; but if you’re more exacting, you should consider the Xerox Phaser 6128MFP, which handled photos better and costs slightly less than brother’s color laser MFP. The MFC-9450CDN has a lot to offer, though we also noticed a few quirks. Among its pluses are an automatic duplexer and a USB/PictBridge port. Augmenting the unit’s 35-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF) for scan and copy input, you get a 250-sheet main input tray and a 50-sheet multipurpose tray. An optional 500-sheet paper tray lists for $250. On the control panel, buttons for fax, scan, and copy functions are not grouped–but everything is clearly labeled, so the arrangement is more annoying than confusing.
At this writing, the MFC-9450CDN’s toner cartridges are tolerably priced. The standard-size cartridges that ship with the MFC-9450CDN consist of a 2500-page black toner cartridge for $60 (2.4 cents per page), and four 1500-page color cartridges for $70 each (4.7 cents per color per page), which works out to a somewhat high four-color page cost of 16.4 cents. If you print a lot, the high-yield cartridges are a sensible choice: The 5000-page black costs $93 (1.9 cents per page), and each 4000-page color cartridge costs $130 (3.2 cents per color, reducing the cost of a full-color page to 12 cents).
Replacing the toner, though, is no ice cream sundae in the shade: Even with clear instructions, I had to manhandle the cartridge tray release lever to open it. Also, since the bays are not keyed, you might insert the wrong cartridge in the wrong bay–and print bizarrely colored images. We can’t believe that Brother hasn’t idiot-proofed this area, though the company says that it has had no complaints and assures us that switching colors won’t damage the printer.
Brother’s MFC-9450CDN offers speed, features, and economy along with tolerable shortcomings. It’s well worth considering for a small office that doesn’t need high-quality color graphics.