Brother headlines the fact that this A3 all-in-one can produce duplex prints and copies. So it can, but with some provisos. For a start, it can only print and copy A4 documents duplex, not A3. When it comes to duplex copies, it can copy a document printed on one side and produce one printed on both sides, but it can't reproduce a duplexed document, unless you're prepared to use the flatbed and turn each source sheet over during copying. In other words, the MFC-6890CDW has a single-sided scanner head.
The other proviso is speed. This is a very slow duplex, A4 printer, taking 8:51 to print our 20-side, 10-page text document. Copying a 20-page simplex document to a 10-page duplex one took even longer, at 14:25. These speeds are so slow, customers may well be unwilling to spend the time printing and copying duplex and will forgo the cost and environmental economies.
A4 speeds in general sit around 4-4.5ppm, which isn't quick, but beats some Lexmark all-in-ones. As usual, they don't' bear much relation to the quoted figures of 35ppm for black and 28ppm for colour, which are daft print figures. Sorry, draft print figures.
A3 paper, of course, has twice the area of A4, so you might expect the machine to take twice as long to print an A3 page as its A4 equivalent. In fact, our A3 text and graphics document only took 1:41, as opposed to 1:14 and the five-page black text document was marginally quicker than its A4 equivalent, at 1:09. Ink priming, which happens at random times during print jobs, accounts for this apparent discrepancy.
Photo prints, if you choose 'Highest' rather 'Photo' mode, are natural and well balanced, with smooth gradations of shade and detail, in shadow as well as brightly-lit areas. Unfortunately, 'Highest' mode takes a long while, with a 15 x 10cm print completing in 3:46, rather than 1:39. Photo mode loses a lot of the shadow detail, but otherwise retains most of the best attributes.
Plain paper print quality has always let Brother inkjets down and continues to do so here. Black text, surely the simplest of the things to get right, manages to show the spikiness of feathering, caused by the spread of ink down the paper fibres, and also under-saturated print, where the white paper shows through parts of the black print.
Colour graphics are insipid and look pastel even when the originals aren't and colour copies are even paler. Colour photos, on Brother's own glossy photo paper, are much better, and show strong hues, giving the finished images bold and effective colouring.
Ink cartridges, which are the only consumables in this machine, are available in two capacities. Black ink cartridges give 450 and 900-page yields and colour ones give 325 and 750 pages. When you work through the maths, this produces page costs of 2.77p for black and 6.54p for colour. Both these are good, when compared with many other machines in the same target market. The colour print cost is particularly good.
The MFC-6890CDW has quite a bit going for it, if you need A3 prints and copies. It's versatile in the sizes and shapes of paper it can handle, though neither the speed nor print quality is particularly impressive. Duplex printing is restricted to A4 pages and is very slow so, although it can print on both sides of the paper, the machine's good roster of facilities may not be that useful.