Brother has a wide range of all-in-one printers aimed at the home and home office markets - so much so it must be quite difficult to differentiate between them. Take the MFC-490CW, for example. It has an Automatic Document Feeder (ADF) on its flatbed scanner, wireless connection, a widescreen LCD and the exact same print engine as the MFC-990CW, reviewed recently. So why buy that machine at £195, when the 490CW is £85 cheaper?
Virtually all Brother all-in-ones have the same basic design: low to the desk, with a curved top surface containing an integrated control panel at the front. In the case of the MFC-490CW, there's a 15-sheet ADF fitted in the lid of the flatbed scanner.
The print engine is a pretty standard unit for all-in-ones in this range, but the MFC-490CW can only take standard-yield cartridges. There are high-yield versions of all four cartridges, which fit and work in the MFC-990CW, reviewed recently. We imagine Brother has deliberately disabled the use of high-yield cartridges on the MFC-490CW to help maintain the differential between the two.
However, the main things the MFC-490CW doesn't include that the MFC-990CW does are a digital answering machine and a DECT wireless phone. The cheaper device does have fax built in, though, with an 'up to' 400 page memory, while its more expensive sibling is rated at 170 fax pages. If you receive a lot of faxes, we guess the larger capacity might be important, though 170 should be plenty.
The control panel has a fairly conventional layout, with a fax-dialling pad on the left-hand side and function keys and menu navigation buttons on the right, along with buttons to start and stop a copy or scan job. In the middle is a widescreen, colour LCD display, with a diagonal of 84mm. The wide screen enables menu and picture thumbnail viewing at the same time.
Below the control panel is a 100-sheet paper tray, which has a 20-sheet photo paper tray built into its lid. To feed from the photo tray, you have to remove the entire paper cassette and slide the photo section forward, so it sits under the pickup roller. Brother claims the machine can handle 220g/sm paper, though we suspect this is an underestimate, as it supplies samples of its standard 260g/sm photo paper with the machine.
Installation is quite simple - plug the four ink cartridges in and install the support software, from the supplied CD. Brother includes Nuance PaperPort 11SE, which handles input of scanned documents and photos, as well as OCR for extracting editable text.