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Brother MFC-9970CDW Review

Verdict

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Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £854.59

Brother’s stated desire to get into the workgroup printer and multifunction market has been well realised with its new range of machines. At the top of these, the MFC-9970CDW is a multifunction with all the trimmings.


This printer’s most obvious differences from those lower down the range are its 130mm touchscreen and its 20-button quick-dial fax pad. Between them, these two components take up two thirds of the machine’s control panel and the touchscreen is sensitive and positive to the touch.


Large, easy to read icons and well-designed menus make it easy to access features such as secure print and direct print from the front panel USB socket. The other third is made up with a number pad, illuminated mode buttons and others to start and stop jobs.


The A4 scanner, complete with 50-sheet Automatic Document Feeder (ADF), has a fold-shut paper feed and a full duplex scanner head, so it can copy any combination of single and double-sided pages.


Even though the machine is intended for busy office environments, the main paper tray can still only take 250 sheets. There’s a pull-down, 50-sheet multipurpose tray fitted as standard and a second, 250-sheet tray is available as an option, but it still seems a little under-specced.


As well as USB and 10/100 Ethernet, the MFC-9970CDW supports wireless connection and automatic setup through systems such as Buffalo Technologies’ AOSS (AirStation One-Touch Secure System). Drivers for Windows and OS X are provided and Linux support is also available from the Brother website. A full copy of Nuance PaperPort 12 is provided for Windows users.


The four toner cartridges are supplied pre-installed, though you have to remove plastic packing pieces and tapes before running the machine. Separate drums, as well as a transfer belt and waste toner unit are all separate consumables.

The main thing you pay extra for in a laser printer is speed and the MFC-9970CDW is rated at 28ppm in black and colour. While we can confirm it’s as fast printing black pages as it is printing colour, we couldn’t get anywhere near the specified speed. Our five-page black text print completed in 27s, giving a speed of 11.1ppm and this was the same as when printing with toner save turned on, the nearest this machine gets to a draft mode.


It’s also exactly the same speed as we got from our five-page black text and colour graphics document, so full marks for consistency. Increasing the page count to 20 pages also increased the speed to 20ppm, as it completed in exactly 1 minute. This is still a way short of the headline rate, though.


If we put this slower speed down to the fact that most printer makers ignore the document processing time before printing starts, it still doesn’t account for how the companion MFC-9465CDN, rated at 24ppm, completed the five-page text print in 20s, a speed of 15ppm and over 35 per cent faster than the MFC-9970CDW. We ran the test three times, getting 27s for each run.


Duplex print is standard on this machine and the 20-page document printed duplex on 10 sheets produced a very creditable speed of 12.8 sides per minute. Even better, it took only eight seconds more for a 20-page duplex copy from the ADF. The single pass, duplex scanner is a big factor in this low copy time.


With an identical engine to the other new Brother colour laser printers and multi-functions, we expected a similar print quality, and that’s what we saw. Black text is clean and well-formed and toner save mode text, while noticeably fainter, is still fine for internal documents.


Colours are bright and solid, though greens and blues tend to be darker than the original colours, which can make black overprint hard to read. A colour copy is pretty close to the original, though looks rather fuzzier. Colour rendition on photos is more natural than we often see from lasers, though smoothly varying colour shades can appear banded.


As well as the low-yield and standard-yield consumables available to the lower models in this range, the MFC-9970CDW can use the high-yield, 6,000-page toner cartridges to give a lower cost per page. There are still four different consumables, but fortunately the transfer belt and waste toner unit have yields of 50,000 pages each, so won’t need much maintenance.


Working through the maths gives a cost per ISO black page of 2.8p and a cost per ISO colour page of 10.7p. The black page cost is a good 0.5p cheaper than most other colour laser multifunctions we’ve tested recently and the colour page cost is closer to 2p less than from any of those same machines.

Verdict


While the purchase price of the MFC-9970CDW may be a little high, given the actual throughput speed we measured, there’s no doubt that its feature set, print quality and print costs are well up to the mark. With duplex printing and single-pass, duplex copying, as well as extensive, single-press quick dials, secure and direct print, wireless connection and an easy-to-use, wide aspect touchscreen, it’s a strong contender in any medium-sized workgroup.

Trusted Score

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Score in detail

  • Print Speed 8
  • Features 10
  • Value 7
  • Print Quality 8

Features

Networking IEEE 802.11b/g

Printing

Duplex Automatic
Paper Size A4 - 8.27" x 11.69", A5 - 5.83" x 8.27", B6 - 4.92" x 6.93", Letter - 8.50" x 11", Legal - 8.50" x 14", Executive - 10.51" x 7.24", Folio - 8.27" x 13", Custom Size
Sheet Capacity 300 sheets

Scanning

Scan Resolution (Dots per inch) 1200 dpi

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