With related print engines in both machines, we expected comparable results in terms of both speed and print quality. Those expectations started out being fulfilled, with the five-page text document on this printer taking 1:46, a speed of 2.83ppm, just marginally faster than its stablemate. The 20-page document completed in 6:49, or a speed of 2.93ppm. Neither of these, of course, is anywhere near Brother’s speed claims of 30ppm for black print and 27ppm for colour. Even when we printed in Fast mode, which produces greyed-out documents really only suitable for drafts, the speed was still only 9.68ppm.
Things started to get more interesting when we printed photos from PC and SD cards. Our 15 x 10cm photo test from PC is always run in the highest quality mode available on the machines we test and Brother does warn that this full 6,000 x 1,200dpi equivalent print mode will be slow.
On this machine it took 3:41 to complete, while on the DCP-375CW, it took only 2:39. Print from SD card in standard mode, though and the fortunes are reversed, with this machine taking 1:41, to the wireless machine’s 3:05.
Print quality has never been Brother’s strong suit, but the DCP-385C doesn’t do badly at reproducing black text. It’s clean and dark and quite acceptable for general-purpose home and small-business use. Colours on plain paper are pallid and don’t do a lot to attract attention, but a colour photocopy produced a reasonable facsimile of the original, without the colours fading much more.
Our test photo print was troubled by being too dark and losing nearly all detail in darker sections of the image. Although you can compensate for this, it’s annoying having to move from the default settings. 15 x 10cm photos reproduced from card and camera also suffered from this over-exposed reproduction.
The high-capacity ink cartridges the DCP-385C can use give lower running costs than from the DCP-375CW and we produced figures of 3.66p for black and 9.94p for colour, including 0.7p for paper in both cases. These compare with 4.79p and 12.31p, so noticeable savings across the board. The DCP-385C’s figures are on a par with equivalent machines from both Canon and HP, so you won’t be paying a premium for going the Brother route.
We weren’t too impressed with the DCP-375CW, because of various problems during testing and the lack of some pretty useful features. Although the DCP-385C reviewed here has no wireless connection, if you’re happy to connect directly, you get a considerably higher spec machine. With its widescreen LCD display, full set of memory card slots and PictBridge, dual-media paper tray and higher capacity cartridges, in most ways it’s much better value.