The main thing you pay extra for in a laser printer is speed and the MFC-9970CDW is rated at 28ppm in black and colour. While we can confirm it’s as fast printing black pages as it is printing colour, we couldn't get anywhere near the specified speed. Our five-page black text print completed in 27s, giving a speed of 11.1ppm and this was the same as when printing with toner save turned on, the nearest this machine gets to a draft mode.
It's also exactly the same speed as we got from our five-page black text and colour graphics document, so full marks for consistency. Increasing the page count to 20 pages also increased the speed to 20ppm, as it completed in exactly 1 minute. This is still a way short of the headline rate, though.
If we put this slower speed down to the fact that most printer makers ignore the document processing time before printing starts, it still doesn't account for how the companion MFC-9465CDN, rated at 24ppm, completed the five-page text print in 20s, a speed of 15ppm and over 35 per cent faster than the MFC-9970CDW. We ran the test three times, getting 27s for each run.
Duplex print is standard on this machine and the 20-page document printed duplex on 10 sheets produced a very creditable speed of 12.8 sides per minute. Even better, it took only eight seconds more for a 20-page duplex copy from the ADF. The single pass, duplex scanner is a big factor in this low copy time.
With an identical engine to the other new Brother colour laser printers and multi-functions, we expected a similar print quality, and that's what we saw. Black text is clean and well-formed and toner save mode text, while noticeably fainter, is still fine for internal documents.
Colours are bright and solid, though greens and blues tend to be darker than the original colours, which can make black overprint hard to read. A colour copy is pretty close to the original, though looks rather fuzzier. Colour rendition on photos is more natural than we often see from lasers, though smoothly varying colour shades can appear banded.
As well as the low-yield and standard-yield consumables available to the lower models in this range, the MFC-9970CDW can use the high-yield, 6,000-page toner cartridges to give a lower cost per page. There are still four different consumables, but fortunately the transfer belt and waste toner unit have yields of 50,000 pages each, so won't need much maintenance.
Working through the maths gives a cost per ISO black page of 2.8p and a cost per ISO colour page of 10.7p. The black page cost is a good 0.5p cheaper than most other colour laser multifunctions we've tested recently and the colour page cost is closer to 2p less than from any of those same machines.
While the purchase price of the MFC-9970CDW may be a little high, given the actual throughput speed we measured, there's no doubt that its feature set, print quality and print costs are well up to the mark. With duplex printing and single-pass, duplex copying, as well as extensive, single-press quick dials, secure and direct print, wireless connection and an easy-to-use, wide aspect touchscreen, it's a strong contender in any medium-sized workgroup.