An all-in-one printer for under £55 has a head-start in the value stakes before the flag drops. Brother has a range of them and the MFC-150C appears to have a good specification for the home or smaller SOHO customer. But as we know when looking at printers, specs rarely tell the whole story.
Like many of Brother's other all-in-ones, this squat box with its gently sloping top panel looks more like a fax machine than a printer. Coloured in cream and pale grey, it does its best to look like this year's model, but is hampered by actually looking like previous models from at least the last three years.
Its all-plastic, slide-in paper tray takes up to 100 sheets of plain A4 paper, though you have to remove this to print photos, using the same tray to take A4 or 15 x 10cm photo blanks. The tray slides well into the depths of the machine, so there's little tray projecting from the front, other than a pull-out paper stop.
The control panel includes a number pad for dialling fax numbers and a navigation pad for moving around the machine's menus. In between these two is a single-line, 16-character LCD display, with no backlight. Given the four, illuminated mode buttons directly in front of this you'd think a couple of extra LEDs to light the display wouldn't break the budget.
Down the extreme right-hand side of the control panel are buttons to start mono and colour print jobs and to cancel a printing document. Down the extreme left-hand end are fax function buttons and a power save button for when the machine is not in use.
Below the control panel set into the machine's front is a single USB socket, for connecting a PictBridge camera or a USB drive. If you plug in a drive the machine uploads any graphics files to a connected PC, rather than giving you standalone print facilities.
To the right of the paper tray, behind a pull-down cover, are four ink cartridges, which slide in and clip into place, offering around 300 ISO pages before they're spent. Set into the left side of the machine are sockets for fax line and telephone handset, as well as the mains cable. These would all be better at the back of the device.
Lift the top cover and you have an A4, flatbed scanner. Lifting the top section, meanwhile, gains you access to the print mechanism and to feed the USB cable into its socket, buried behind the control panel.
Bundled software includes a copy of Nuance's PaperPort, as well as Brother's own utilities for scanning and photo upload. They all install easily and make up a good bundle given the price of the MFC-150C.