The mono laser multifunction has held up surprisingly well against its colour compatriot on one side and a stealth attack from the colour inkjet on the other. If your business has little use for colour, a mono laser machine delivers better consumables economy, faster print and extra functions, such as duplexing, for the same money. Brother's new MFC-8380DN is a mid-range, all-singing multifunction intended for small businesses or the smaller workgroup
Brother has done quite a bit work to improve the lines of this printer-with-a-scanner-on-top machine, so there's only a slight flare from the width of the printer to the A4 scanner above. This isn't a basic flatbed scanner, either, as it's a duplex device, so can scan double-sided originals in one job. There's only a single scanner head, though, so each sheet has to make two passes. Paper feeds upwards from the top of the scanner lid to a fold-out support, above.
The control panel is busy, but the buttons are divided into functional groups, making it pretty easy to operate. Moving from left to right there's a panel of 16 fast-dial buttons for the integrated fax facility, specific option buttons for fax, copy and print functions, a 2-line by 16-character, backlit LCD display with mode buttons in front, a set of navigation buttons for the menu system, a number pad for phone dialling and secure print and finally Start and Cancel buttons for scan and copy jobs.
Below the control panel on the left-hand side is a USB socket, which provides a walk-up print facility. Navigating the folder hierarchy on a USB drive can be challenging using just the LCD display but, against this, the MFC-8380DN supports secure print, so you can institute a regime of pass-codes for casual printing.
At the bottom of the front panel is a 250-sheet paper tray, with a 50-sheet fold-down multi-purpose feed just above that. We still feel 250-sheets is too small a capacity for a small business machine, but the multi-purpose tray helps alleviate the shortfall.
At the back are sockets for USB and network connections, as well as for phone line and a third-party handset.
Physical set up for the machine is very easy, as there's a combined drum and toner cartridge, where the toner cartridges clip into a cradle in the drum unit, so both can be inserted and removed as one. It also reduces running costs, as the drum has a comparatively long service life of 25,000 pages.
Software includes Brother's well-appointed MFL-Pro support suite and a copy of PaperPort 11SE for document management and OCR. Drivers are provided for Windows and OS X and are available for Linux as downloads from the Brother site.