Print quality is less than spectacular. There was noticeable feathering of black ink into the nap of the paper in text prints and areas of supposedly solid colour in graphics prints showed unwanted textures. This was worse in colour photocopies, where solid colours look washed out and were mis-coloured in places.
The only redeeming feature of colour print, somewhat surprisingly, was the printer’s photo imaging. The exceptionally high print resolution produced clean and smooth gradients and good detail, including in areas of shadow.
You do have to wait for photo prints, though. In fact, you’re not going to buy this machine for speed at all. Despite its quoted page rates of 20ppm for black and 15ppm for colour print, it took one minute 32 seconds to print our five page black text file, or roughly 3.25ppm. Colour print came out at about 1.3ppm and our colour photo at top quality took over seven minutes to complete. We don’t know where Brother got its figures from, but even selecting draft mode would not bring these figures close to the claims.
Perhaps because the ink tanks are independent of the print heads in the Brother device, the firmware doesn’t want to risk the heads running dry, so when it says ink is low, it stops you printing. Even though we saw no sign of any drop in black print quality, the MFC-410CN wouldn’t let us print beyond 450 sheets of our five per cent test page. This gives a black text running cost of 3.09p per page, which is at the high end of the typical range.
Strangely, although the black cartridge is rated at 500 pages to the colour cartridges’ 400 pages each, it was the black that ran out first in the 20 per cent colour page test, too, at 428 pages. There was no sign of colour ink running out at this stage but, again, we couldn’t continue printing.
Brother recommends its BP60GLA glossy photo paper for top quality photo images, but we couldn’t find a source for this media. We costed prints with the general-purpose PC Line glossy paper from PC World, which was rated highly in a recent group test of photo print media. Using this paper, a 20 per cent colour page costs 56.4p, again relatively high.
The all-in-one philosophy is a big space saver and the MFC-410CN integrates its functions well, but print quality and speed hold it back. Buy it for convenience by all means, but you can get better, faster prints for your money.