Review: Brother MFC-9970CDW

Our score: 5/5
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August 3, 2011 12:06 PM
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Published: August 2, 2011 11:00 PM
By Marine Goy
Translated by: Jack Sims
This 4-in-1 figures among the biggest tested here. This is because it's mainly targeted at very busy offices, companies looking for a rapid machine that can do everything they want it to do, with fast printing and low cost per page. Its 256 MB memory ensures easy sharing within an office environment.

Hardware

Robust is the first word that comes to mind here. More of a mother (49 x 52 x 53 cm and 30 Kg) than a brother?! Nevertheless, the touchscreen (12.6 cm colour) gives it a nicely pared down and comfortable look.

Inside you'll find four large cartridges (black, yellow, magenta, cyan) and you can print, copy, scan and fax to your heart's content, using the double-sided feature if need be.

Brother MFC-9970CDW review

It has a 250 page paper loader as standard (additional paper loader on option), supports PCL6 (66 vector fonts, 12 bitmap fonts, 13 barcodes) and BR-Script3, and can easily be shared on an Ethernet or wi-fi network as alternatives to a USB cable. Compatible with Mac, Linux and Windows operating systems, we can say without hesitation, this machine covers all the bases.

Brother MFC-9970CDW review
Control panel: touchscreen and buttons


Using this Brother is very intuitive. To the left of the screen, there are 20 buttons for direct access to 40 previously recorded numbers. You can select the address book, the menu, printing from a USB key, or the print feature all from the screen: when you want to print a confidential document, you enter a pin code at your workstation before launching it.

The buttons to the right of the screen are all useful and practical: Fax/Scan/Copy. The indispensable cancel print button is also on the programme as well as the start/stop and mono/colour buttons.

Speeds: fast

Brother is claiming 28 pages per minute (ppm) and we scored it at 30 with our test documents. It's rate to see such rapidity, with just the Konica Minolta getting close at 25 ppm on the speedo. Here the double-sided speeds drop off more than on the Konica Minolta (15 ppm), falling to 11 ppm, which is still pretty decent.

Brother MFC-9970CDW review

Quality

The graph is nice and legible, though the fussiest will note that the contours round the letters could be more precise. If you push the default mode up from 600 dpi to 2400 x 600 dpi, single tone areas become much smoother (less printhead lines) and characters look sharper and more precise, making them more legible.


In black and white, prints aren't as good. There's a slight banding effect (white vertical bands) though it isn't pronounced enough to compromise the legibility of the graph. Once again, if you're fussy you'll fault the slight lack of sharpness in characters. Again, this disappears when you print at 2400 dpi.

Brother MFC-9970CDW review - print quality

Brother MFC-9970CDW review - print quality
2400 dpi image

Laser printers aren't designed primarily for photo prints, though you can print photos straight from JPEG and TIFF files on this machine . Out of curiosity, we tried the MFC-9970CDW out but, as expected, the results aren't great. Printhead lines are much too visible to give decent results.
 
Brother MFC-9970CDW review - print quality
300 dpi image

Scanner and copier

The resolution on the scanner goes up to a maximum of 600 dpi. The scanner is very easy to use and it also recognises documents placed on it and scans them intelligently without you having to make sure you've placed them in exactly the right position, which is very nice.

You can choose to scan to a USB key, a network, the FTP or email.

Scanning a 300 dpi document is very fast, just 5 seconds and the colour difference is among the lowest we've ever tested (3 %). The results are however slightly blurred and the photo, as you can see, lacks precision.

The settings on the copier can be adapted according to whether you're printing a photo, text or a graph or you can opt for the auto default mode. We achieved the best results with our test document (text and graphs) in auto.

Once again, there are numerous copy mode features. Depending on what you want to copy, you can choose between auto, graph, photo or text. Times vary according to the mode you go for. By default, we based our tests on auto mode, which in any case seemed the most convincing quality-wise.

Speeds are good: it takes 11 seconds for a black & white copy and 13 seconds for a colour.

The double-sided feature also works in copy mode and you can increase or reduce the size of the document to be copied and set the contrast, brightness and colours. It's all there.


Energy consumption & Noise levels

Something to be proud of: this printer consumes just 1 Watt in standby, one of the lowest we've seen on a laser printer. Inkjets, generally so much more economical than lasers, often struggle to score as low in standby. The efforts made to reduce energy consumption in what is the mode most printers spend a large majority of their time in, is to be applauded. When printing, it consumes 640 Watts, common for a laser, although some, such as the Lexmark X543dn do go down as low as 450 W.

Moving on to noise levels, this Brother is among the noisiest at 56 dB(A).
 

Cost per page: 8.9 pence with XXL cartridges

The starter toners give 2500 pages in black & white and 1500 CMY (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow), which corresponds to the standard size cartridges on this model. There are three toner sizes (1500, 3500 and 6000 pages for colour). Our calculations are based on the biggest cartridges, which obviously involve a bigger initial outlay but give better economy per page. By adding up the columns of the table, cost per page works out at 8.3 pence. When you factor in the transfer belt unit (£70 per 50,000 pages) and the drum (£118 per 25,000 pages) this goes up to 8.9 pence.


ISO lifespan with XXL toner

Cartridge Price ISO lifespan Cost per page
TN-328BK (black) £67 6000 1.1 pence
TN-328C (cyan) £145 6000 2.4 pence
TN-328M (magenta) £145 6000 2.4 pence
TN-328Y (yellow) £145 6000 2.4 pence


5/5 Brother MFC-9970CDW DigitalVersus 2011-08-03 00:00:00

Pros

  • Cost per page: 8.9 pence / Several toner sizes
  • Good print quality / Rapid, including in double-sided mode
  • Secure document feature
  • Wi-fi / Double-sided / Mac, Windows, Linux compatible
  • Low power consumption / Energy Star and Blue Angel

Cons

  • Copy quality is rather average
  • Noisy: 56 dB(A) when printing

Conclusion

The Brother MFC-9970CDW is full pro model that combines speed and quality. It's cost per page and low standby power consumption make it an economical machine to run. We particularly like its design and ease of use.

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