Brother MFC-J870DW review

Kat Orphanides
13 Nov 2013
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

We love this MFP's interface and comprehensive features, but both print and scan quality are disappointing



33ppm print speed, USB, 10/100 Ethernet, 802.11n wireless, 180x410x374mm

The Brother MFC-J870DW is a small business-oriented MFP with a comprehensive specification. There's a fax machine, direct printing and scanning from its USB port and memory card reader, wired and wireless networking and the ability to print from a smartphone or tablet using NFC. The MFP has a 6.8mm touchscreen and numeric pad which lights up when required.

Brother MFC-J870DW

When you plug in the MFP, you're prompted to insert the ink cartridges into slots located behind a neat flap on the front right of the unit. As you push each of the four cartridges into place, they're instantly recognised and removed from the on-screen list of required colours. The printer comes with a set of LC-121 cartridges, but our cost estimates are based on the larger, better-value LC-123 cartridges, which work out a somewhat expensive 3p per mono page and 9p per page of mixed colour and black printing.

The J870DW's main paper tray takes up to 100 sheets of plain A4 paper. Mounted above it is a second tray capable of accommodating 20 sheets of 4x6in photo paper. To load and print on 6x4in paper, you have to manually pull this tray forwards with a blue plastic tab. If you want to print on normal paper, though, you have to remember to retract the 6x4in tray manually. It's a little annoying, but at least the printer tells you if you're trying to print on the wrong paper type.

We also found that the photo tray didn't always hold our paper in perfect alignment, so there were sometimes bits of white at the edges of pictures. Photo printing is not this MFP's strong suit, partly because of this alignment issue, partly because of poor contrast and shading, and partly because six 6x4in photos take a long 14m 15s to print. That said, its photos aren't entirely dire, with colourful images looking pleasingly vivid.

Brother MFC-J870DW

Colour A4 print speeds were generally slow even by inkjet standards. A 24-page colour document printed at 1.9ppm, with occasional pauses. Our colour duplex text, which prints five double-sided pages, was completed at a fast rate of 2.7ppm, but this is because the printer pauses during long print jobs, creating a situation in which longer print jobs can print at a slower rate than shorter ones. High-quality colour prints looked unremarkable. Images were a little dull and large images had faint lines across them.

Close examination also revealed lines on our mono text print, but from a standard reading distance, text documents were solid and readable. They printed quickly, too, with an output speed of 12.1ppm. Switching to draft mode raises this to 16ppm but produces dull grey text.