Brother MFC-990CW review

It's a great package if you need all the features, but shop around if print quality is your number-one priority.

16 Feb 2009
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
(£199 ex VAT)


The Brother MFC-990CW is an all-in-one device aimed squarely at the home and small business market.

It has plenty of features and its low-slung profile will appeal to those with a lack of space. However, its £230 price tag means it's going to have to perform well to justify its cost.

Its features include integrated fax, auto-sheet feeder, phone, LCD screen and a host of connectivity options, in addition to the printer and scanner. There's wifi and Bluetooth options, as well as wired Ethernet and USB ports. The need for a fax may well be less of a necessity, but there's one included nonetheless. The phone can store 100 speed dials and 99 messages, which, unless you're extremely popular, should be plenty.

The features don't stop there, though, as there's a digital memory card reader that supports all the popular card formats and a PictBridge port for direct camera connections. The paper tray is built into the unit so there's nothing sticking out. There's a 20-sheet tray for photo paper, too, so you don't have to fiddle about with different stocks to print out a photo.

The MFC-990CW is very well put together and, with one tiny exception, looks stylish and well thought out. The exception is the phone and holder, which looks like the designer forgot it was to be a feature and instead of integrating the phone simply stuck it on the side and left it at that. Hardly a crime, but it does somewhat spoil the design.

The touchscreen LCD is becoming a more and more popular method for navigating this types of device and the Brother is no exception. The 4.2in widescreen version on this printer is very good and, although not quite as groundbreaking as the multi-touch iPhone screen, it does the job well.

Setting up the printer is very easy and the ink tanks are very simple to install. The cyan, magenta, yellow and black cartridges slot in to the front and after a minute of random noises are ready to go. Wireless setup was fairly smooth, too, and it only took a few minutes to access our protected network. The only downside to the configuration is that the LCD screen requires you to cycle through letters and numbers mobile phone fashion when typing, rather than displaying a full keyboard. This means you'll be a while logging in if you've got a long security key.

Print output was a mixed bag with some good, some bad and some a little indifferent. Just over four seconds for a sheet of draft text wasn't bad, but nearly 38 seconds for best text was less impressive. The quality of the text print in draft mode was a fairly anaemic grey, but fit for the purpose. Best mode output was okay, but not as fine as we'd have liked with some ill-defined edges and excess spatter around smaller point sizes. An eight-page colour brochure took nearly four minutes on plain paper and the colour accuracy was a little off. Solid colours lacked punch and were washed out - not terrible, but bland. The colour copies suffered from the same lack of vivid punch as prints, but we were impressed by how sharp the results were.

Sometimes it's easy to be impressed by a seemingly endless feature set but at the end of the day it's the output and performance that really matters. The MFC-990CW certainly doesn't embarrass itself, but neither does it quite reach the heights we'd expect from a high-end all-in-one.

On paper, the MFC-990CW is excellent, with a plethora of useful features. The touchscreen LCD is responsive and makes for simple navigation of the menus. The design is compact and as pleasing as can be expected from a printer/copier combination, although the phone does look like it was bolted on as an afterthought. Print quality isn't particularly impressive, and that's really not acceptable for a device at this end of the market. Overall, then, you won't be disappointed with the output from MFC-990CW, but neither would you be elated.

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