Review: Brother MFC-9320CW

Our score: 5/5
Reviewed: April 19, 2010 11:00 PM
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Published: April 19, 2010 11:00 PM
By Vincent Alzieu
Hardware

Brother has put together a very wide range of colour laser printers aimed at professional users, whether they're working form home or in a small business.

The printers are designed to be small, powerful and, above all to be affordable for models that offer colour.  With its new range, Brother is aiming to convince a whole section of its customer base to move over to colour printing, despite their long-term loyalty to cheaper black-and-white lasers. 

To encourage them to make the switch, the manufacturer is relying on a printer that comes at the same off-the-shelf price as a monochrome printer (and it's true: there are both black-and-white all-in-one printers as well as colour inkjets for around the same price), with comparable running costs in black and white--but that can also print in colour when necessary.  Brother also claims that its new LED range is more energy efficient than ever before with an even smaller footprint.

To look at the family in more detail, the same basic printer comes in five different versions.  They're all colour LED laser printers, but add extra features as you move up the range:
  • Brother HL-3040CM: basic printer with Ethernet
  • Brother HL-3070CW: basic printer with Ethernet and WiFi
  • Brother DCP-9010CN: 3-in-1 multifunction with Ethernet
  • Brother MFC-9120CN: 4-in-1 multifunction with Ethernet and fax
  • Brother MFC-9320CW: 4-in-1 multifunction with Ethernet, fax, WiFi and 64 MB of memory (for a team of up to ten people or so) (this model)
They all come with Windows, Mac and Linux drivers, although for those which can send and receive faxes, you can only do that directly from your computer in Windows.  You don't get automatic double-sided printing or support for either PCL or PS3.

Speeds

Brother's spec claims 16 pages per minute in both black-and-white and colour, but we found the MFC-9320CW reached almost 17 ppm.


There are certainly faster printers out there, but we think this one is speedy enough to satisfy Brother's target audience.  What we would have liked, though, is to have seen it start up more quickly from standby.  The time it takes to print the first page (see inset) could have been reduced.

Quality

The quality of office documents is absolutely superb.  Blocks of colour are even, and the colours themselves are lively, if a little too dark.  Text is perfectly clear and the black is very dark.  It's excellent stuff!

 Compare the Brother MFC-9320CW to other printers in our Product Face-Off

As good as it is, this print quality isn't up to producing photos.  These are lacking in detail and we found that they suffered from a red tinge.
 
Scanner & Copier

The scanner works fast: it takes 12 seconds to get a preview of a photo and then 10 seconds to do the whole thing at 300 dpi.  That's also true at higher resolutions: it only takes thirty second or so to scan a stamp at 2400 dpi, a job that can take other products more than two minutes.

That said, we don't recommend you use the scanner that intensively: this is a scanner that will get you out of a fix, not something for doing detailed graphics work with.  Despite producing generally accurate colours--the average discrepancy that we measured was just over 5%, which is great--apart from with yellows, it's the detail that's missing, as you can see very easily in the sample on the right.

When making copies, the lack of detail is of noticeable, and the problems with the colours lead to a rapid fall in contrast.  Black text begins to look grey, and coloured areas are less striking.  Copies, which take 13 seconds in black and white and 17 seconds in colour, are still perfectly useable, even for work.

Energy Consumption & Noise Levels

On both of these fronts, this printer was entirely average, which is rather disappointing given that Brother had promised energy savings which we just couldn't see.

The MFC-9320CW ended up using 525 W while printing and 11 W on standby, and produces 58 dB of noise while working, which is entirely average for a laser printer.  As a guide, a multifunction inkjet uses around 20 W to print and 1 W on standby, with under 50 dB of noise.  That's why it scored so poorly in this section, despite performing perfectly normally for a laser printer.


Cost per page

Unfortunately, the consumables that come supplied with the printer aren't full-sized: the four basic cartridges only last for 1000 pages, meaning Brother has left a half-empty black print cartridge and a third less than normal in each of the three colour cartridges.

Cartridge Price ISO Lifespan Cost per page
TN-230BK (black) £62.56 2200 2.8 p
TN-230C (cyan) £52.48 1400 3.7 p
TN-230M (magenta) £52.48 1400 3.7 p
TN-230Y (yellow) £52.48 1400 3.7 p

With a cost per page of 2.8 p when printing in black and white, this printer has running costs that are entirely in keeping with its price point.  It still has rivals that are much cheaper to run, like the Oki B440dn which brings the cost per page down below a penny per page.  If you add up the cost of all four cartridges, the total cost per page is a much higher 14.1 p.  Colour printing doesn't come cheap, so we suggest you stick with monochrome unless you actually need it.

As well as the toner cartridges, you need to factor in two other accessories:

Consumable Price ISO Lifespan Cost per page
Drum Unit DR-2030CL £88.32 15 000 0.6 p
Waste Toner Pack £31.78 50 000 0.06 p

To finish with, we did a few back of the envelope calculations to see how much you will have spent when you factor in buying the printer, using up all of the cartridges that come with it and then replacing them. These are figures are just for the consumables, and don't include the cost of the printer itself:
  • After 3 000 pages: £280
  • After 10 000 pages: £1 268
5/5 Brother MFC-9320CW DigitalVersus 2010-04-20 00:00:00

Pros

  • Excellent quality printing
  • Good speeds
  • WiFi, Ethernet and fax
  • Scanner reproduces colours accurately
  • Windows, Mac and Linux drivers

Cons

  • Disappointing: no automatic double-sided printing
  • Colour printing expensive
  • Consumables are supplied, but they're only half full
  • Scanner lacks detail
  • Energy consumption higher than in the spec, loud

Conclusion

This is a good quality printer that's pretty fast too. It's perfectly to run if you only print in black and white, but more expensive if you use colour.

OUR SCORE 5/5
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