Brother's colour inkjet multifunction printer (MFP), the Brother MFC-6490CW, adds wide-format printing capability to an already long list of functions. Unfortunately, extremely slow performance is the tradeoff.
For £299 (it's cheaper if you shop around) the Brother MFC-6490CW gives you features galore. The integrated scanner takes wide-format media, as do the two input trays, which together take a generous 400 sheets of plain paper.
The trays feel a bit flimsy, and their lids can be tricky. You also get a 50-sheet output tray and a 50-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF) with the Brother MFC-6490CW.
Automatic duplexing is not available, but its cousin, the Brother MFC-6490CW, offers it for a slightly higher purchase price. Connectivity includes USB, ethernet, and Wi-Fi. The first two ports are hidden within the machine, under the scanner unit, which is odd. Media slots take CF, MS, SD, SM, and xD cards. There is also a USB/PictBridge port.
The control panel is mostly easy to understand. A 3.3-inch, colour LCD shows menu items, photo images, and other info; the Brother MFC-6490CW also divides fax buttons on the left from major-function and navigation buttons on the right - all labeled clearly. Our one quibble: it's sometimes unclear which button you use to back out of a menu.
Ink costs are very fair. Brother ships the Brother MFC-6490CW with high-yield cartridges to compensate for the ink typically lost during the initialization process. Standard-size ink costs are average. One oddity: None of the ink cartridges are keyed; you can put them in the wrong slot. The unit performs normally anyway, but we're surprised at this oversight.
The Brother MFC-6490CW's subpar performance overshadows its many nice attributes. In our tests, it did everything slowly: plain text exited at a snail's pace of 5.7 pages per minute (ppm), while the best graphics speed was just 2.4 ppm. Even its scanning and copying speeds were far slower than average. Wide-format output would take even longer. On plain paper, text looked fuzzy and charcoal-like instead of black, while photos looked dull and grainy. Brother's own photo papers improved photo quality considerably.
The Brother MFC-6490CW is hobbled by its lacklustre speed and variable print quality. If you really need wide-format printing, check out options such as HP's OfficeJet 7000 (a stand-alone inkjet), which is faster and has better print quality.
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