As far as we know, Brother has a complete monopoly of inkjet all-in-ones capable of printing A3 pages. Clearly the company sees this as a useful niche market, as it has a range of machines that can handle the larger size. The MFC-6890CDW is the first, Brother claims, that can also print on both sides of the page in a single job.
Like the other A3 all-in-ones in its range, this machine has a surprisingly compact case, something like a mono A4 photocopier from 10 years ago. This machine has a lot more built into its case than the old mono copier, though, starting with a 30-sheet automatic document feed (ADF) at the top, with feed tray folding in half, to provide a neat finish when you're not copying.
The flatbed scanner is, of course, A3, but is well marked out for smaller sizes of original, too. The full-width control panel is well laid-out, with 12 fax number preset buttons and a number pad, to the left of Brother's trademark, wide-screen LCD display. To the right of this are illuminated mode buttons for fax, scan, copy and photo upload, finishing off with colour and mono copy buttons and one for cancelling a current job.
Set into the front edge of the control panel are a PictBridge socket and two others for CompactFlash and SD, Memory Card and xD. The PictBridge socket can also be used for USB drives and can download scans, as well as uploading photos.
Each of the two paper trays can take A3 or A4 paper and the top one is more flexible, coping with sizes down to 15 x 10cm photo blanks. When the trays are set for the smaller sizes, they can be telescoped in, so they reduce the machine's footprint. A slide-out support, set into the cover of the top paper tray, takes finished pages.
Sockets for fax line and handset are set into the left-hand side, which isn't as convenient as having them at the back, and you have to reeve USB and Ethernet cables inside the machine, in typical Brother fashion, which is also messy.
It seems to us that wireless setup is getting harder, rather than easier; we suspect this is because of the proliferation of encryption standards and automated logons. Brother provides a Wizard to help out, but you still need to know your WEP from your WPA to get signed up - so many routers supplied with ISP accounts simply talk of a 'wireless key'. Brother could help here by providing a quick start guide, with details for the best-known routers.
Software provision includes Nuance Paperport 11 and Brother's own MFL-Pro Suite. These two applications work well together to provide good support for the machine's main functions.