Brother MFC-6490CW A3 Multi-Function Printer Review - Brother MFC-6490CW A3 Multi-Function Printer Review


Perhaps we’ve been watching too much AI-based SF, but we somehow assumed if a printer has two paper trays, each of which can take A4 or A3 paper, it would be able to tell which size it has in each. Print an A4 document, and we would expect it to go, by default, to the tray with the A4 paper. Likewise, print an A3 document and we would expect it to go to the tray with the A3 paper whichever way round they were.

Brother is clearly not aware of this concept and just pops up ‘wrong paper size’ messages until you’re ready to hit it with something heavy and pointed. You have to explicitly tell it from the front panel which paper sizes are stashed in each tray and select the correct tray in the print driver to send the document to. This means everybody on any network linked to the machine needs to know which tray holds which paper size and be instructed to select the correct tray whenever they print. Wouldn’t you like to be that IT support person?

Print speeds from our standard tests came out at 4.17ppm for black print and 2.68ppm for colour at A4, so way below the draft mode 30ppm and 28ppm quoted by Brother. Move up to A3 prints and a five-page, black text print takes 1:53, just 2.7ppm.

An A3 copy took around half a minute and, unexpectedly, was around 15 seconds quicker than an A4 one. 15 x 10cm photo prints took a reasonable 1:40, unless in ‘Highest’ print quality, when they took over 3:45. This isn’t a particularly quick printer, though it is quiet while printing.

There’s not a lot of advantage in choosing highest print quality, as photo quality – the next level down – is hard to tell from it. Both print modes produce very naturally coloured photo prints with high levels of detail and smoothly gradated tints. We spotted details in our test prints which often aren’t well delineated from standard consumer inkjets.

There are two capacities of cartridges for the Brother machine and, as usual, we used the higher yield versions to show the best economies. We produced figures of 3.3p for black print and 8.23p for colour, including paper costs and VAT. This puts the machine in the middle of the field for black print, but on the high side for colour. However, the MFC-6490CW is so new that street prices for its consumables aren’t available on the UK Web yet, so we had to use Brother’s SRPs. You should expect prices to come down from these, once the cartridges are more widely available.


The idea of including A3 print in a mainstream, SOHO all-in-one is a good one and Brother has done most of the job well with the MFC-6490CW. However, there are a few odd design glitches that need sorting out before we can give it a recommendation. Automatic paper detection would be prime among these.