If you're building the same basic print mechanism into a £200 all-in-one as into a £70 one, you've got to put something into the mix to differentiate between them. Brother has done just that by adding an Automatic Document Feeder (ADF), a touchscreen, WiFi and a DECT phone with answering machine into its MFC-990CW. But are all the bells and whistles worth the extra money?
This is a top-of-the-range device, so it has to be in piano black and this Brother machine doesn't disappoint with a shiny black control panel and the main part of the ADF suitably reflective, too.
It follows Brother's usual squat lines for all-in-ones, with a slightly sloped top panel and an ADF with a very low profile. Unusually, it feeds paper from its top surface to two, blade-style supports sitting above, which means the pages being scanned move upwards rather than down.
The control panel itself is surprisingly busy, considering all the menu navigation is done on the widescreen touch-panel Brother has built in. The touch-panel is not as responsive to use as ones we've seen recently on Epson and Kodak machines and has a slightly soft feel to its surface, but it serves its purpose and makes controlling the machine simpler.
To the left of the touch-panel is a numberpad for phone and fax dialling. Outside of this is a digital telephone answering machine, which works in conjunction with the DECT phone that sits in a cradle on the left of the machine. The phone is a reasonable, wireless device, with a three-line LCD display and an intercom function for talking to other DECT devices.
To the right of the touchscreen are four function buttons for scan, copy, fax and photo capture and at the extreme right are buttons to start and stop mono and colour copies. Set into the front face of the machine are memory card slots for all the common types and a PictBridge socket, which doubles as a walk-up-and-print USB port for memory drives.
The 100-sheet paper tray has a photo tray set into its top, but this has to be pushed forward manually into the machine when you want to print photos. In a device costing £200, you might expect it to be powered and automatically pulled into the printer on demand.
Setup is pretty easy, as the four ink cartridges slide into a bay to the right of the paper tray and there's no need to delve inside the machine. Because the MFC-990CW comes as standard with wireless networking, as well as cabled Ethernet and USB connections, you don't even have to raise the main scanner section to feed the cables into the bowels of the machine, as is the case with its non-WiFi-enabled siblings.
Brother's bundled software suite handles all main functions, such as scanning and OCR, uploading photos and of course printing.