Brother introduced its 'occasional A3' inkjet printers last year, and the MFC-J4420DW sits just above the entry-level MFC-J4120DW in the current range. It's designed for the small or home office, majoring on a full spec list and low running costs, particularly when printing colour.
As with the original range, this is a good-looking, small-footprint machine – small, that is, for a printer which can load and print single A3 pages, as well as stacking A4 in its 250-sheet tray.
Set into its completely flat top is a 20-sheet Automatic Document Feeder (ADF), which feeds sheets from the bottom of the stack and outputs them on top of the ADF – a neat design, which reduces the overall height of the printer.
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The control panel's set into the front of the machine, and can be pulled up to a convenient working angle. It features a 68mm touchscreen and three dedicated touch buttons, and is reasonably sensitive in use. Most controls are easy to access, although paper setup is missing from the main menu. Instead, the printer asks you for size and type details every time you pull the paper tray out to change media.
When you come to print photos, you load photo paper into the main tray and select the print quality you require, from Normal and Photo. We assumed Photo was the best choice, but this is only true if you want to wait four times as long for your print with little appreciable improvement in quality. Stick to Normal and a 15 x 10cm print takes just over a minute.
To the left of the MFC-J4420DW's control panel is a flip-down cover, revealing a single USB socket, which can be used for uploading images to print and for downloading document scans. Sockets, hidden under the scanner, inside the machine, include USB and phone line, the latter for the built-in fax.
There's also a wireless connection, of course, giving Android and iOS devices access to printing and scanning. There's no NFC connection on this machine, although others in the new range include it.
The four ink cartridges slide in behind a cover to the right of the paper tray and you can use standard or high-yield versions, which offer up to 1200 pages in both mono and colour.
Brother rates the MFC-J4420DW at 35ppm in mono and 27ppm in colour, although these are sheet-to-sheet speeds and don't represent real-world performance. We include the pre-processing time for each document, which in this case can be up to 20 secs, making quite a difference to print speeds on typical, five-page print jobs.
Our five-page mono text print gave 8.6ppm, while the 20-page document increased this to 12.4ppm, still only around a third of the specification. The same document printed duplex gave 5.9 sides per minute, while the five-page text and colour graphics test produced 6.8ppm.
A single-colour A3 print took 41 secs, while 15 x 10cm photos took around a minute in normal mode from USB and wireless, or 1 min 31 secs in Best mode from a PC. These are all reasonable speeds for this class of machine.
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Print quality is variable. Black text on plain paper is fuzzier than from thermal inkjets such as Canon’s and HP’s, and there’s the occasional pass-to-pass glitch, though these are minor. Colour graphics on plain paper are slightly mottled and a colour copy loses quite a bit of its colour density. Photos are well reproduced with smooth gradations, although there's a little loss of detail in dark areas.
Although the measured noise level of 63dBA at 0.5m is in line with competitors, the flutter before each sheet is fed can be quote intrusive. It's a small penalty for feeding the paper in landscape mode, which keeps the footprint of the MFC-J4420DW down.
Page costs are impressively low, when using the high-yield cartridges. A black page costs 2.2p and a colour one just 2.5p higher at 4.7p, both including 0.7p for paper. You won't find that on any colour laser we can think of, and only on very few inkjets at this price.
This machine has quite a bit going for it, but you might also consider the Canon PIXMA MX535, which is a bit cheaper to buy and offers good wireless provision, but no front USB port. The Canon’s print quality is better, too.
Then there’s the Epson Expression Premium XP-615, cheaper still, but with memory card slots and direct CD/DVD print. Both of these, though, lose out if you need to print the occasional A3 page, as only the Brother does this.
Brother's MFC-J4420DW is a neat, purposeful all-in-one A3 printer, which can handle print, copy, scan, fax and wireless print with flair. It's also quick and very cheap to run.
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