Brother's print speed claims are as preposterous as always on their inkjet machines. The company claims 33ppm for black print and 27ppm for colour, both in draft mode. Very few pages will be printed in draft mode and in normal print mode we saw a maximum of 3.0ppm when printing black pages and just 2.4ppm when printing colour. That's around a tenth of the rated speeds.
A single page colour copy took 42 seconds and a five-page, black-text copy from the ADF took 1:53. Neither of these speeds is particularly impressive, but for short-run jobs they may be acceptable. Copying documents from the ADF didn't work too well, as we had sheets being fed out of the ADF and catching on ones already sitting in the output tray, pushing them onto the desk.
15 x 10cm photo prints took on average of 1:40, except when using 'highest' print mode, which took over twice as long. Photo mode is, in any case, little different from highest mode, except in the quality of shadow detail. This is poor in both modes, but in photo mode virtually all detail bleeds to black.
Other aspects of photo print are better, with natural colours, smooth gradations in shade and sharp foreground detail. Colour graphics print on plain paper is rather pallid and is much more so when you produce a copy from a printed original. Scan quality is very similar to what you get when you copy. Black text print is reasonable, though not as densely black as from some of the competition.
The standard-yield cartridges gives poorer page costs than with the high-yield ones in the more expensive machine and we calculate an ISO black text page will cost just over 3.4p, while an ISO colour page comes in at 9.3p. These costs are a little on the high side, but by less than one penny per page in both cases.
Overall, the MFC-490CW looks like a better deal to us than the MFC-990CW. Although it can only use standard-yield cartridges and has no answering device or portable phone, you can buy both of these separately for less than the difference in price between the two machines.
The print quality and speed of these Brother all-in-ones isn't up to what Canon or HP routinely produce, but they're probably adequate for home and sole-trader business tasks. The convenience of wireless connection, the widescreen LCD display and the comparatively small footprint all work in the MFC-490CW's favour, as a true multifunction device for home and small business.