A sub-£100 multifunction printer with very reasonable running costs and decent print quality - to a point
- Reasonable printing costs
- Decent basic print quality
- Washed-out copies
- Average photo prints
- Basic control panel
The Brother DCP-J1200W is, at the time of writing, Brother’s most affordable inkjet multifunction printer (MFP). For under £100 you get a plain, uncomplicated white box that can scan, copy and print any document you care to send to it.
At this price, it doesn’t come with a fancy touchscreen or an automatic sheet feeder for the scanner, but it does have a fairly high-capacity paper tray and a functional design with just enough buttons to let you pump out copies of documents without having to switch on your computer.
It’s in software that its true power resides, though. It uses the same applications across Windows, macOS, iOS and Android that you’ll find on Brother’s more expensive inkjet printers and this brings a touch of class to what is otherwise a rather basic-looking device.
Brother DCP-J1200W review: What do you get for the money?
The Brother DCP-J1200W isn’t the most compact printer in Brother’s range – it measures 435 x 359 x 161mm (WDH), which makes it larger than the DCP-J1140DW – so if you’re tight on space that’s something worth taking note of.
The lid on the top lifts to reveal the glass of the flatbed scanner, and the hinge can expand by about 1cm, so it can still close on books that have a bit of thickness to them. The USB port is also tucked away under here, with a gully to hold the cable and route it out of a gap at the back.
To the left is the control panel, which comprises five buttons and a selection of lights and is used to control the standalone copier function. At the bottom of the printer is a paper tray, which can be loaded with 150 sheets of standard A4 paper. This is the only way to add paper to the printer, so you’ll need to empty it if you want to switch paper size. The lid of the paper tray is also the base of the output tray and it can hold 50 sheets.
Ink comes in cartridge form and is loaded simply and easily into a compartment on the right. The DCP-J1200W comes with enough black ink to print 720 pages (based on the 5% coverage standard of ISO 24711) and enough colour ink to produce 480 pages across three colours (one each of cyan, magenta and yellow). These starter cartridges are slightly smaller than the standard replacement cartridges, which contain enough ink to print 750 mono pages, or 750 colour pages from a full set of three colour cartridges.
Brother DCP-J1200W review: Is it easy to use?
Setting up the Brother DCP-J1200W is fast and easy. The ink cartridges simply slot into place and a test print is produced that lets you visually check the alignment of the print head.
The Wi-Fi connection can be configured from any device on the same network by visiting a configuration web page. You can also use a USB cable and skip the Wi-Fi, but I’d recommend using the Wi-Fi and the Brother app to get the most from the printer.
With so few controls available on the printer itself, it’s very easy to operate. Complication sets in if something goes wrong and you don’t have your laptop or mobile device to hand as you’ll need to reach for the manual to decode the printer’s bank of LED lights.
However, stick with using your phone or laptop and the lack of screen isn’t a problem. Install Brother Mobile Connect on your smartphone, for example, and you can perform all the tasks you’d normally expect to access through a more expensive printer’s built-in screen.
From the app you can print documents and photos, make copies of whatever is placed on the scanner glass and scan straight to your device. You can also perform maintenance tasks, and similar functions are available through the Windows and macOS software.
The printer also has a web-based control panel to which you can connect via any browser on any device and can be used to control the printer, change settings and see how much ink you have left.
One thing the printer doesn’t have is automatic duplex printing. Instead, if you want to print on both sides of a sheet, you have to print the first side then load the printed sheets back into the paper tray for printing on the reverse.
Brother DCP-J1200W review: How fast is it and how much does it cost to run?
You don’t usually expect a cheap printer to produce pages at a rate of knots and the Brother DCP-J1200W does nothing to dispel the stereotype. In my tests, from the moment I pressed the print button, it took ten seconds to fully produce the first page of our mono test document. While this is significantly slower than the slightly more expensive Brother DCP-J1140DW, it’s equal to or faster than other sub-£100 models, such as the Epson Expression Home XP-4100 and the HP Envy Pro 6420.
It’s a similar story when it comes to general print speeds. With a mono printing rate of 14.6ppm and a colour speed of 3.5ppm, it beats similarly priced rivals from Epson and HP. However, you don’t have to spend much more money to see an increase in mono printing speed and a serious hike in colour speed, as you can see from the performance of the Brother DCP-J1140DW in the chart below.
However, there’s a fly in the ointment when it comes to photo printing, with six 6 x 4in photos taking more than 20 minutes to churn out. It’s not quite twice as long as some rivals, but it’s not far off.
The good news is that the price of prints are reasonable. Brother’s 750-page replacement black cartridge works out to 3p per mono print if you buy direct from the company, so you might be able to reduce that a fraction by shopping around. Colour prints require three cartridges that produce 750 pages between them, which works out at 6.2p per A4 page.
As you can see from the chart below, this compares well to Epson and HP’s prices on their affordably priced printers. It even works out a little bit cheaper to run than the Brother DCP-J1140DW.
Brother DCP-J1200W review: What’s the print quality like?
Considering how affordable this printer is, I was pleasantly surprised by the print quality in my tests. Text looks sharp, even under close inspection through a magnifying glass, and it looks better than the same prints from both the Epson Expression Home XP-4100 and the HP Envy Pro 6420.
Colour printing is also pretty good. Prints lacks a little vibrancy when printing presentations and the like, but they don’t suffer from banding and definition is generally excellent. Copies were disappointing, however, washing out considerably on their way through the process to leave them as pale imitations of the originals.
Photos are never going to be brilliant on a four-colour system such as this but comparing them to the Epson XP-4100 and HP Envy Pro 6420, they aren’t terrible. Dark areas were richer than Epson and HP could muster, although I found subtle shades such as lighter skin tones had a tendency to look oversaturated. The Brother DCP-J1140DW is a better bet if you’re thinking of printing a lot of photos, although a model with six or more inks would be better still.
READ NEXT: Our pick of the best photo printers to buy
Brother DCP-J1200W review: Should you buy it?
I’d normally hesitate before recommending that someone go out and buy a printer that costs less than £100, as you generally get what you pay for and that means not a lot. While the rule holds true with the Brother DCP-J1200W, I was genuinely surprised by the quality of basic printing and the reasonable price of replacement ink, which can often be a hidden pitfall when buying cheaper printers.
There are still downsides, however. The basic control panel is mitigated by Brother’s apps and software, but you still have to reach for a device if you want to do anything more than make a simple copy. The copying side of the device is a bit disappointing in terms of quality, too, and photo printing, while good for the price, can be improved by spending slightly more.
The Brother DCP-J1140DW is a good example. It’s a lot more sophisticated, costs only £40 more and comes with a touchscreen and better photo printing. It’s definitely a price worth paying unless your budget is really tight.
If you’re looking for better-value print costs, you have to spend a bit more up front. The Epson EcoTank ET-2850 costs around £240 at the time of writing, comes with enough ink to print thousands of pages, and when you do run out, replacement ink only costs 0.2p per mono page and 0.4p for colour.
Finally, for printing photos, a printer that uses more inks will produce better results. The Canon Pixma TS-8350 is our current recommendation, producing stunning-looking photos from its six-ink system.