Category: Printers and Scanners

Product Review – Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner

Previously, I reviewed the Brother PDS-6000 sheet-fed document scanner which scans both sides of a document at once very quickly. This model connects directly to a host computer and would work with most document-management software. Now Brother have released the ADS-2800W which is a network-capable sheet-fed document scanner that allows you to direct a scanning job to a computer or a file server / NAS, and this is the machine that I am reviewing now.

RRP AUD$899

There are some more expensive variants of this network document scanner that can scan at higher speeds but I am reviewing the entry-level model.

Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner

Scan Scan to Connection
Sheet-fed

600 dpi

Single-pass Auto-duplex

USB Mass-Storage

CIFS/FTP/HTTP network storage

Online Services

SMTP E-mail

USB 3.0

Ethernet

802.11g/n Wi-Fi

The scanner itself

Setup

Brother ADS-2800W document scanner document path

Single-pass document scan, easy to service if anything goes wrong

Brother have avoided the tendency to create a separate setup regime for the ADS-2800W network document scanner, which will be a bonus if you have stuck with this brand for your multifunction printer. Here, the software interface both at the scanner and at the computer are very similar and you can even use the ControlCenter 4 software to process your documents.

Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner Wi-Fi connectivity

Wi-Fi connectivity

It was simple to connect this scanner to the home network although I used the Ethernet connection which is what I would prefer for normally-sessile devices. Here, it can be connected to a Wi-Fi wireless network segment or a wired Ethernet network segment (which also works with a HomePlug network segment) with the former network type working properly if nearer the wireless router. Personally, I would recommend that you use the wired network (Ethernet or HomePlug) at your home or office as I would recommend for sessile equipment.

Walk-up and mobile operation

Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner - Web services

It scans directly to Dropbox

There is the ability to use a Web-based interface to set the Brother ADS-2800W network scanner to be able to scan to a computer, file server or NAS without the need to run a scan monitor on that computer. Here, the unit deposits the files to a known directory on the destination device in a predetermined form. As well, it can be set up to “scan and send” where it can send a document via SMTP-based email.

It also exploits the Brother Web Connect infrastructure to allow you to enrol it with Evernote, OneDrive, Dropbox, Facebook and other online services so you can use them as a destination for your scanned documents. You can also scan documents and images to your mobile device as long as you run the Brother iPrint&Scan mobile app, which is how I scanned some snapshots to be destined to Dropbox. An improvement I would like to have would be to see the scanned picture appear on the scanner’s screen so you can have the picture or document the correct way up.

Computer-based operation

The fact that this scanner makes use of Brother’s ControlCenter 4 software and uses the same scan monitor if you are running a Brother MFC alongside it means that you are not having to install extra software on your computer. When I ran the CD to install the drivers because I had issues with the Website, the installer detected the existence of the driver software associated with Brother printers and effectively updated the scan monitor to work with this scanner.

I even had the software set up so that blank pages were skipped even though the Brother scanner scanned both sides of the document when I was handling regular documents. This allowed for a single-side document to be worked on yet be ready to scan double-sided documents when dealing with “print-sign-scan-send” documents.

Scanning results

The Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner, like its stablemate the PDS-6000 implements a straight-through document feed which makes the scanning job quick but is kind to the documents because there is no curved path involved.

A job that I have been putting the Brother ADS-2800W network document scanner to over the past week is to scan a collection of snapshots due to the passing of someone whom I knew well. Here, I had set the Brother scanner to scan at the normal-for-35mm-snapshots “10x15cm” size with a resolution of 600dpi and fed the minilab prints in vertically. The document scanner had turned out the high-quality images while it was able to handle small batches of prints at a time like as though I was handling a multiple-page document. But I would like to see a “photo-optimised” scanning profile that copes with the glossy snapshots and works at a high resolution. As well, there could be the ability to determine whether a photo has a landscape or portrait orientation.

I had found that a bit of dust had ruined a scan of a photo and it was a cinch to remove that bit of dust from the scan head simply by opening up the scanner so I can see the scan heads. Then I was able to blow off the dust from the scan heads.

When I scanned a regular “print-sign-scan-send” document, the Brother ADS-2800W scanner made light work of this job and turned out the right number of pages based on what was marked. This avoided the creation of a 2-page PDF for a document that was written on one side only.

Limitations and points of improvement

A feature that would benefit the Brother sheet-fed document scanners, especially the network-capable units, would be to have functionality that gains the best out of photo scanning. This could be in the form of a “photo-optimised” high-resolution scan mode for scanning snapshots and / or a transparent-media scan mode with negative conversion for scanning film strips such as negatives.

Conclusion

I would recommend the Brother ADS-2800W network sheet-fed document scanner as a network-focused high-speed document-scanning solution especially if you want a high-speed dedicated-purpose scanner that can work independent of a regular computer.

For example, this could work well if you destine documents to the like of Evernote or Dropbox or to a NAS. Similarly, if you are wanting to get that hard copy document to be able to be viewed on something like an iPad, the Brother ADS-2800W and its peers can do the job properly.

But these devices would earn their keep if you scan many documents rather than the occasional few documents that have few pages and I would see it perform well with most businesses including tax agents who scan the receipts that are part of their clients’ “shoeboxes”.

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Product Review–Brother PDS-6000 document scanner

I am reviewing the Brother PDS-6000 high-speed sheet-fed document scanner which is intended for use as part of workflows where many paper documents have to be scanned. This machine offers a higher throughput than the scanners integrated in most multi-function devices due to the fact that it implements a “straight-through” paper path.

There are two variants of this scanner – the Brother PDS-5000 which can scan at 60 pages per minute and the Brother PDS-6000 which can scan at 80 pages per minute. The model I am reviewing is the Brother PDS-6000.

Scanning speed Price (RRP – tax inclusive)
PDS-5000 60 pages / minute AUD$1399
PDS-6000 80 pages / minute AUD$2199

Brother PDS-6000 high-speed document scanner

The scanner itself

Brother PDS-6000 high-speed document scanner - loaded deck

Ready to scan a document

The Brother PDS-6000 connects to your computer using a USB 3.0 cable and requires you to use the CD-ROM optical disc to install its driver and utility software. I would like to see Brother provide a complete always-updated one-click-install software package on its Website especially as we are moving away from optical discs as an installation medium especially with ultraportable computers.  For people who own Brother multifunction devices, they could provide a software plug-in that works with the existing Brother Utilities and ControlCenter4 software so you can scan in to that from this machine.

I scanned an old police-statement document using DS Capture and this worked properly, turning it in to a multi-page PDF very quickly. I also scanned a snapshot photo that I took in the 1990s using this same scanner and it turned out as a very sharp JPEG and without destroying the original photo. Similarly, this scanner worked well on single-pass duplex-scanning when I scanned a memento letter for someone else.

USB 3.0 connectivity on Brother PDS-6000 document scanner

USB 3.0 connectivity on Brother PDS Series scanners

As well, I raided my wallet and scanned a payment-terminal receipt that I had in it using this scanner to see how it handles those thermal-printed till receipts associated with many a transaction. This represented the typical crumpled condition that a lot of these receipts end up in when they live in wallets or shoeboxes until it comes the time to reconcile them for tax or reimbursement purposes. Similarly, you may be tempted to run the transaction journal from your cash register or your payment terminal through this machine to save it as a PDF file.

Brother PDS-6000 document scanner control panel detail

Control panel

The Brother PDS-6000 was able to handle this job well and turned out an accurate copy of this receipt without jamming. Brother recommends you using a carrier sheet that they sell as an optional accessory if you are doing many of these receipts or other small or brittle documents at a time. It is because the scanner uses a simple straight-through paper path that doesn’t involve going around bends which primarily allows for high-speed scanning but is gentle on documents.

There is the ability to start scan jobs from the scanner’s control surface but I primarily started these jobs from the computer more as a way to configure the machine for job-specific requirements.

Easy access for maintenance or rectifying paper jams

Easy access for maintenance or rectifying paper jams

As well, the Brother PDS-6000 document scanner opens like a clamshell so you can easily rectify paper jams or perform maintenance on it. This avoids you having to grope around the inside of the machine and ruin your fingernails if the paper was jammed in it.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

One improvement would be to supply an always-updated installation package that can be downloaded from Brother’s Website or use local storage within the machine as a more valid alternative for deploying the driver and scanning software on optical disc. The software could support tying in with the software that Brother supplies with their multifunction printers so that you don’t need to go to different programs to scan from different devices.

It could then be a chance for Brother to build out an improved document/image scanning application that allows for functions like page reordering or deletion so you can effectively edit out scanning mistakes for that document you are electronically archiving like deleting pages or manually split and combine PDFs. This application, which could come with their scanners and MFCs or be available as a separate download, can come in handy if you are scanning parts of a document from your MFC’s platen while scanning other parts from a sheet-feed scanner or your MFC’s automatic document feeder. Such an application would appeal to those who do a lot of “scan-to-PDF” work.

As well, Brother could have it feasible that this device connects directly to one of their MFCs to supplement the integrated scanner on these machines. This could allow quick “scan-to-copy” for their laser products or quick “scan-to-fax / scan-to-email” for fax-enabled products and could allow the unit to integrate with the business’s network. Even connecting this to an HL-series laser or LED printer could enable these printers to work as copiers.

A feature that these scanners could have is a “slow throughput” mode which allows you to run delicate documents through the machine without a risk of them being damaged. Here, this may work with various optimised imaging modes such as being able to scan letters written on thin paper including the “aerogramme” letters that were commonly used for sending personal correspondence by airmail.

Conclusion

I would recommend the Brother PDS family of high-speed document scanners for professionals where there is a requirement to scan many paper documents to electronic form. This is especially with tax accountants who are working for employees or small businesses and need to scan all the receipts in their client’s receipt shoeboxes.

Similarly a law firm will find this useful for handling all the paperwork associated with litigation or other legal processes so they can have their electronic copies of the documents.

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Rollei sells slide scanners suitable for large slide collections

Article

Rollei DF-S 290 slide scanner press picture courtesy of Rollei Gmbh

This slide scanner can scan 10 of the old memories at a time to an SD card

Diascanner: Negative und Dias digitalisieren | Netzwelt.de (German language / Deutsche Sprache)

From the horse’s mouth

Rollei

DF-S 290 HD Product Page

My Comments

Those of us who lived through the 1950s to the 1970s often dealt with 35mm photo slides being par for the course for family photography. This was most often through people keeping large collections of these slides or sitting through many evenings where it was time to drag out the slide projector and show these slides on a screen. It was infact the kind of activity that tended to take place once someone came back from a long trip overseas.

These people valued the slides as a photographic medium because they were compact and you could either show them to many using that projector or view them personally using a handheld viewer.

WD MyCloud EX2 dual-disk NAS

A fast-track path for your old photographic memories to end up on that DLNA-capable NAS

There have been some unsatisfactory attempts to get these slides along with 35mm negatives on to a computer form. This typically involved a very expensive process of sending the pictures out to a digitizing service who would scan them to a CD or you were dealing with a scanning device that would turn out low-resolution images of these pictures and allow you to handle up to five of them at a time.

Rollei have raised the game with this class of device by selling a range of standalone slide / film scanners that had a 10-slide “continuous-feed” tray as standard. Here you could place 10 slides in this tray and work a lever to feed each slide through the machine once you scan them using the machine’s control surface.

Here, you could scan the slides stored in one of those classic yellow Kodachrome slide trays with very little fuss and is an improvement on similar scanner devices and multifunction printers that have transparency-scanning abilities because you don’t have to place slides in to a carrier like ducks in a row. It can also be of benefit to those of us who have limited dexterity, something that will come about as we get older.

Where do the images end up? They end up on an SD card that you provide and you transfer this card to your laptop to download the images. There is the ability to correct exposure or colour balance using the Rolei slide scanners’ controls, along with the ability to correct slides or negatives that were put in the scanner the wrong way. Some of you may find these options superfluous if you use software on your computer like iPhoto or Windows Live Photo Gallery to adjust the picture quality as part of using your computer to add metadata to your image scans. But this can come in handy if the goal is to have those memories appear on an electronic picture frame or similar device, or simply to “dump” them to a DLNA-capable NAS to be available on your home network or a Dropbox folder that you share with your family .

As well, the Rollei DF-S 290 also has an HDMI connection so you can use your large-screen TV or computer monitor as a preview screen or as a playback screen for showing those slides.

Of course, there is still a gap in the marketplace for certain “off-the-film” image-scanning jobs.

One of these is handling large slide collections that are stored in slide-projector magazines like the Kodak Carousel. This is because most of the scanners that support these magazine systems tend to fetch premium prices and are typically designed to work as peripherals for computer systems.

Another gap is being able to reliably scan film that isn’t held in a carrier that is supplied with a film scanner. This is of annoyance for people who deal with long flimstrips such as slide film that is “strip-processed” or negatives that you developed in the darkroom but didn’t cut in to the standard strips.

Yet another gap is being able to handle film formats other than the common 35mm film. In the consumer space, these surface as the 110 or 126 “Instamatic” cartridge films whereas in the hobbyist and professional space, these surface as the 120 or 220 “medium-format” roll films. It also is true for people who use equipment that uses variants of the 35mm film format like half-frame or panorama cameras.

Here, a scanner design could answer these needs through the use of optical zoom or digital zoom with a high-resolution imaging device. As well, for “on-device” editing, there could be the ability to crop to various aspect ratios supported by these films or stitch together panorama images taken by multi-frame panorama cameras.

At least someone is taking a proactive step towards providing affordable equipment for scanning those large slide collections and making them available to view on our home networks.

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Expecting your printer to be the home or small business printing press? What does it need?

This is an updated version of the article I had published in February 2012

Most small organisations such as micro-businesses and other small businesses will place an expectation on desktop-style computer printers to be used as an “organisational short-run printing press”.

HP OfficeJet Pro 8600a Plus all-in-one printer

HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 Series – a desktop multifunction printer that has been pitched as something that can turn out flyers and brochures

This expectation has been brought around through the availability of software with varying levels of desktop-publishing functionality at prices most people and small business can afford. This ranges from software in a typical office-software package offering elementary desktop publishing functionality like Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, through to dedicated mid-tier desktop publishing software of the Microsoft Publisher class that is at a price most people can afford and is easy to understand.

The same expectation has been underscored by the various printer manufacturers with their recent desktop-printer designs, especially with the high-end business models of their product range like HP’s OfficeJet Pro lineup. Here, they are bringing printing abilities, output speeds and document quality associated with workgroup-grade freestanding printers to this class of printer with such examples as Brother offering business-grade desktop inkjet multifunctions that can turn out A3 documents.

It has been underscored in the advertising that these printer manufacturers provide and is more evident with Websites and, especially, TV commercials that are run on prime-time TV which reaches most consumers more easily. Examples include a recent Canon TV commercial for their PIXMA printers, HP’s website for their OfficeJet Pro inkjet printers highlighting their prowess with turning out brochures, or Brother underscoring their business printers’ prowess with desktop publishing through a series of TV commercials.

What features does it need to have?

High-yield printing

HP OfficeJet 6700 Premium front-load ink cartridges

The printer should have separate colour ink cartridges and be able to accept high-yield cartridges

It should be feasible for customers to purchase high-yield ink or toner cartridges as an option for the printer alongside the standard-yield cartridges. Some vendors like Brother are known to offer “super-high-yield” cartridges for some of their printers alongside the high-yield and standard-yield cartridges. This is more important for inkjet machines because the ink cartridges are typically very small and aren’t able to hold a lot of ink.

It is worth noting that most of the equipment pitched at business users like the HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 will typically have the larger-capacity ink or toner cartridges even for their standard-yield variants and have a higher duty cycle therefore being able to do this kind of work.

As well, you should prefer to use an inkjet printer that uses individually-replaceable ink tanks for each colour. These printers also become more cost-effective to run because you only need to replace the colours that you run out of when you run out of them.

The print mechanism has to be able to support large print runs without failing mid-job. This includes having it perform advanced printing functionalities like auto-duplex or use of anciliary trays. It also has to work reliably with jobs that are based around media other than regular paper.

Automatic duplexing

This brings me to automatic duplexing. An increasing number of home-office printers and small-business printers are being equipped with an automatic duplex mechanism so that the unit can print on both sides of the paper. This is usually to permit you to save paper but people may find this function useful for turning out booklets, brochures, greeting cards and the like where they want to print on both sides of the paper. For that matter, most of these printers have a “booklet printing” function built in to their driver software where they can use the duplex functionality to turn out booklets such as a four-page booklet on one sheet of paper. Similarly, automatic duplexing may come in handy for making flyers and signage that is to be seen on both sides such as a sign that is fixed to a window, or a sign used in a freestanding sign holder.

Brother MFC-J5720DW colour inkjet printer

A Brother desktop printer that can print on A3 paper

A common problem with some of these mechanisms is that they don’t print to the narrow edge of Letter or A4 paper during a duplex print run especially if the paper size determined in the driver software or print job doesn’t match the paper in the printer. The problem has been more so with most Hewlett-Packard inkjet printers except the OfficeJet Pro 8600, which was pitched as a brochure-printing machine. This can cause problems with registration shifting or a requirement to have large margins on the document. Some Canon printers such as the PIXMA MX-870 have improved automatic duplex mechanisms that can work to the edge of the paper.

In the same case, you may find that some automatic duplexers may have problems with page registration. That is where the page is lined up properly on both sides of the paper and can be of concern if you are turning out work like luggage tags, door hangers or bookmarks where it is critical to have the back of the document lined up with the front of the document. You can work around this by allowing a margin on both sides of the design.

Another problem is that there is a time penalty of up to 15 seconds per page with inkjet printers when they use automatic duplexing with this happening when the front side of the document is being printed. This is to allow the ink to dry on the front side of the paper before the printer draws the paper in to print on the back and is being reduced with newer equipment that uses quick-drying ink.

Another limitation that I have found with automatic duplexers is that they don’t handle card stock or similar paper easily because they have to turn the paper around one or more rollers. Here, you may have to use manual duplexing where you reinsert the work in the machine with the other side facing the print head to print it double-sided.

Issues concerning use of the printer

Special printing media requirements

Plastic-based media

Plastic-based media like overhead-projector transparencies, back-print film and vinyl stickers / decals have special requirements when it comes to printing them on your printer.

They range from being able to “hold” ink that is sprayed on to them by the inkjet process or passing through a heat-based printing process such as the xerographic process used in laser and LED printers.

Laser printers and special media
Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser printer

Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser printer

If you use a laser printer, you need to use laser-optimised media for plastic-based media and stickers. This is because the printed documents have to pass through “fuser rollers” that are heated at a very high temperature in order to melt the toner on to the media. This can be a problem with the adhesive and plastic backing associated with stickers or the plastic media melting inside the machine and causing damage that is costly in both money and serviceability terms.

It also can extend to glossy or silk-look “presentation / brochure” paper which uses some form of glazing to provide the sheen, and this can cause problems with different printers.

So you have to use special media that is designed for laser-printer or xerographic photocopier use. This media is designed to work at very high temperatures so it can pass through the hot fuser rollers without damaging the printer.  Some of the media that is made by particular printer manufacturers is designed for the printers made by that manufacturer and, in some cases, printers based on a certain print-engine type. This is due to the manufacturer knowing the operating temperature for the printers in question.

But there are some kinds of special media that is made by third parties and pitched at a range of printers offered by many different manufacturers. Some of these also may be available under the private labels that different stationers and office-supply stores use. For example, Avery make a large range of laser labels that are compatible with most laser printers that are in circulation nowadays.

Inkjet-compliant plastic media

To get best results out of inkjet printers with plastic media, you have to use inkjet-optimised plastic media that has a rough surface on the printed side. This is to catch the droplets left by the inkjet printer as part of its printing process and avoid the ink smearing over the medium as it passes through the printer or is handled by the user.

As well, you will need to set the printer’s driver software to work with “overhead transparencies” or “back print film” when you print to plastic media. This is to allow the printer to optimise its printing process for the media such as slowing the print-head action so as to make sure the ink ends up properly on the medium.

When you load the media, you have to make sure that the rough “printing” side faces the print head as it feeds through the printer. This may be harder to understand with Hewlett-Packard and Brother printers because they use a U-shaped paper-feed path and eject the printed document above the paper storage trays. Here, you would have to put the media in with the rough side facing down when loading the printer.

Card stock, art board and similarly-thick media

Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser printer special-media tray

“Manual-bypass” special media tray in a colour laser printer

Another medium that may prove itself to be difficult for desktop printers is art board, card stock and similarly-thick papers. Most of these papers can cause problems with printers that implement any paper path that has a U-turn in it like most desktop printers.

Here, you may have to use a “straight-through” paper path on them for these papers to work properly and use manual duplexing if you are printing on both sides. Most inkjet multifunction printers have a rear-mounted multifunction tray where you load this paper while laser printers will require you to use a “manual bypass” tray or slot at the front as the loading tray and have a drop-down door at the rear as the output tray.

Increasingly, budget and some midrange printers will have a limit on the number of sheets of paper that you can load through this way with some of them even requiring you to load one sheet at a time in to the printer.  This can be an inconvenience to you if you are turning out multiple copies of the same document.

Use your printer or outsource your printing for that print run

HP LaserJet Pro 400 Series colour laser printer

HP LaserJet Pro 400 Series colour laser printer

The main question that a lot of users will end up asking will be whether to have the print runs made by an outside printing house or print the documents with their printer. Some of you may prefer to outsource your printing rather than use your printer especially with public-facing documents like brochures and flyers. This is because the print shop that you use has better equipment than what you would have and it is increasingly true of large office-supply chains like Office Depot, Officeworks or Staples who provide on-site printing and copying facilities.

I have talked with two men who pastor churches with medium-sized congregations about this issue through the time I was reviewing the Brother MFC-J5720DW desktop inkjet multifunction printer. This is a class of user who could be tempted to use one of these printers to turn out flyers and tracts as a way to make the offering dollar go further. One of these men, who happens to be my pastor, raised the issue of output quality from outsourced work versus work turned out on one of these printers and remarked that the outsourced work is of much better quality. The other pastor raised the fact that these printers wouldn’t work well for turning out large print runs like what would be expected for promoting an upcoming special event at the church.

Brother MFC-J6720DW A3 inkjet multifunction printer

Brother MFC-J6720DW A3 desktop inkjet multifunction printer

One factor to consider is how many copies you will be eventually needing for your design. If you are turning out up to 20 to 40 copies of your design at a time, you can get by with using your machine. If you end up running more than that, you would need to outsource your printing. This is because of the cost of ink and paper involved in the large print runs, the costs associated with the wear and tear on your machine and the time it takes to run the large print jobs on the typical home-office or small-business printer. This last factor will be of importance with fax-enabled printers serving as fax machines that have to be ready to receive faxes or printers that are required to turn out hard copy as part of business processes.

Another factor worth considering is how often your design is likely to change. This also includes situations where you want to adopt a “print-as-needed” policy such as to run a small-enough quantity of flyers for an appearance like a house inspection. If the design is likely to change frequently or be suited to an occasion, you may have to use your printer for the short runs or outsource larger runs to a print shop that supports quick-turnaround printing such as a copy shop that relies on inkjet or xerographic technology or a printing house that uses digital presses.

Examples of this may include a café, restaurant or bar turning out menus or drinks lists that are centred around particular food and drink specials, a church or funeral home turning out an order-of-service for a particular occasion or an estate agent or auctioneer running flyers about the property that they are auctionning to hand out to customers.

Other factors worth considering include the printing cost per copy if you are intending to use a premium paper stock like coated paper, glossy paper or art board when you are wanting that special look for your public-facing documents.It also includes using finished-document page sizes and forms that are out of the ordinary document-paper sizes like A4 or Letter.  Here, you may have to factor in any extra handling that you our your staff may have to do for manual duplexing or cutting to small sizes.

It is worth knowing that your machine would keep its worth in the equation as part of the design-approval process before you commit to having them printed. This is where you would be turning out proofs so you are sure they are what you want them to be; or to turn out short “test-runs” to assess the effectiveness of a design.

Your printer can also complement the print shop you use for outsourced printing by being able to provide short supplementary print runs of the final document on request. Here, you may want to:

  • do a preview run which you would give to special customers or partners while the main print run is being turned out;
  • turn out a short “infill run” of the documents when you find that you have run short of copies and you don’t want to commit to another large print run due to cost or turnaround-time reasons; or
  • want to keep some copies on hand and ready to distribute so you can get your campaign off the ground without waiting for the printing to be finished especially if you find that your print job has been delayed for some reason.

Conclusion

Here, small businesses can consider the use of a desktop printer as the “small-business printing press” if they know what their machine is capable of and they are using the right media for the job. This includes whether to work it hard on a large print job or assign the job to the local print shop.

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Product Review–ZCan Plus scanner mouse

Introduction

I have been given a chance to review an advance sample of the ZCan+ scanner mouse. This is a USB-connected mouse that works also as a convenience scanner using an integrated digital camera and supplied software.

There is a variant of the ZCan mouse that is coming soon and will implement Wi-Fi Direct connectivity and software for smartphones and tablets that run the mobile operating environments.

ZCan+ USB scanner mouse

The ZCan+ Mouse itself

The Zcan+ Mouse works properly as a USB-connected plug-and-play three-button scroll mouse using the standard operating-system drivers and configuration options.

Where the scanning takes place in the ZCan+ scanner mouse

Where the scanning takes place in the ZCan+ scanner mouse

But as a scanner, this works in a manner that is totally different to early-generation handheld scanners which worked on a “line-by-line” basis. You have to install a special program on your Windows or Macintosh computer from a supplied DVD or download the program from the manufacturer’s Website listed in the instruction manual if your computer doesn’t have an optical drive. This software is important because when you scan with this mouse, it “stitches” the images taken with the mouse’s camera together in a similar vein to the software you may use to create “panorama” photos with your digital camera.

You have to connect the ZCan+ mouse directly to your computer’s USB ports rather than via a bus-powered USB hub or a keyboard that has USB sockets especially if you want to use the scanner functionality. This is because the scanner functionality demands more power than if the device is just working as a mouse.

ZCan application screenshot - scanning

Screen-grab during my scanning of a business card

To start scanning, you press the illuminated blue button on the mouse and drag it over the item you want to scan in a zig-zag motion. When you press that illuminated blue button, the software will start and show the object on the screen. It will also highlight areas you need to re-scan if you missed parts of them. Once you stop scanning, you have the ability to crop the area you scanned and it makes it easier to identify the area to crop. The resultant images are shown as high-resolution images which would please anyone who is doing desktop publishing, wants to print the images or work with them on high-resolution displays.

You can save what you scanned as a JPEG, PNG or PDF image file or use the software to “read the text” to save as a Word document, text document or Excel spreadsheet.

ZCan application with scanned business card

ZCan application with scanned business card

It works well with scanning small areas like newspaper articles, snapshot photos, till receipts and the like and can even scan actual object surfaces very well. But I wouldn’t ask it to work a complete A4 or Letter page because you can find you end up with a messy scanning result as I have tried for myself after scanning a magazine page.

The OCR function only works with images you have created with the ZCan+ scanner and works properly when you have the document held still such as having it in the “scanner mat”. As well, the software has the ability to use Google Translate to allow you to translate printed text to another language. The software also supports direct “in-place” sharing to Facebook, Dropbox, Evernote and Flickr along with the ability to “read” QR codes. This function is so useful if you use a regular desktop or laptop computer and want to “delve in to” that link in a newspaper or magazine that is represented as a QR code using that computer.

Where do I see this scanner mouse fit in?

I see the scanner mouse work as a “convenience” scanner for whenever you are targeting small items. For example, I would use it for scanning business cards so I can get the contact details in to Outlook, scan till receipts as PDF files for expense-claim purposes, scan snapshots to JPEG image files to send to someone or share using Dropbox or Facebook, or transcribe newspaper and magazine articles. People who dabble with various hobbies or crafts may find the ZCan+ useful for scanning a pattern from clothing, soft-furnishings or similar items that they like to save as a JPEG image for “taking further” in the digital space.

It wouldn’t really replace the regular A4 desktop scanner or the multifunction printer’s scanning function for scanning most business documents or newspaper articles that cover an A4 or similar-sized sheet.

Point of improvement

The  ZCan+ scanner mouse could implement a setup method that I have seen with some USB 3G modems or with some HP printers that I have reviewed in order to make it easier to install on computers that neither have an optical drive nor access to an Internet connection. This is where the device contains the necessary software on memory integrated in the device and exposed to the computer as if it is a USB memory stick.

Similarly, it could use a TWAIN or WIA scanning application interface so it can work as a scanner for third-party applications like a lot of graphics and image-management packages.

Conclusion – Is the ZCan+ a tool or a toy?

I would call the ZCan+ scanner mouse a tool for supplementary or convenience scanning needs when handling small documents.

This device will strongly appeal to the traveller with a Windows or Macintosh-based laptop or tablet who is scanning business cards, receipts, images, etc; business or home computing applications where you want to quickly scan small objects and documents but find the regular scanner in “all-in-one” unwieldy or unsuitable for the job, and people who are involved with genealogy and want to scan family snapshot photos or small documents for archival purposes.

The “two-in-one” ability of a convenience scanner and a mouse would strongly appeal to laptop users who like the regular mouse over the touch-pad as their pointing device, along with the highlighted convenience scanning feature.

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Product Review–Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser printer

Introduction

I am reviewing the Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser printer which is similar in capability to the HL-4150CDN and HL-4570CDW colour laser printers. This is the kind of printer one would consider as being useful for high-throughput printing of presentations and marketing collateral for a small business i.e. the organisational “short-run” printing press. The classic example of this would be a real-estate agent or auctioneer who has to turn out flyers that describe the property or goods that are for sale to hand to prospective purchasers when the property or auction lot is available for inspection. Or a church or funeral home could use these printers to bring colour in to those “order-of-service” cards or other similar short-run printing jobs.

There is a cheaper variant of this printer, known as the Brother HL-L8250CDN. This has a slower output speed and only has Ethernet as its network connection but is fast enough for most colour printing applications.

Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser printer

Print Paper Trays Connections
Colour / B/W 1 x A4 USB 2.0
Laser xerographic Optional high-capacity A4 tray Ethernet,
802.11g/n Wi-Fi,
Wi-Fi Direct
Auto-duplex multi-purpose tray IPv6

Prices

Printer

Recommended Retail Price:

HL-L8250CDN: AUD$399

HL-L8350CDW: AUD$499

Optional Extras:

High-capacity paper tray: AUD$249

Inks and Toners

Standard High-Capacity
Price Pages Price Pages
Black AUD$109 2500 AUD$123.95 4500
Cyan AUD$109 1500 AUD$179.95 3500
Magenta AUD$109 1500 AUD$179.95 3500
Yellow AUD$109 1500 AUD$179.95 3500

 

Servicing and Other Parts (Laser Printers)

Price Pages
Drum Unit AUD$267.45 25000
Belt Unit AUD$179.95 50000
Waste Toner Unit AUD$29.95 50000

The printer itself

Setup

The Brother HL-L8350CDW printer is apparently easy to set up or prepare for transport compared to previous-generation Brother colour laser printers. Here, there isn’t a need to remove catches and other pieces to prepare the HL-J8350CDW for use. There isn’t also a need to prepare the printer’s print engine for transport such as installing special fittings if the machine needs to be transported.

Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser printer toner cartridges and drum unit

Toner cartridges and drum unit as a drawer

Like the Brother HL-4150CDN, the HL-L8350CDW has the drum unit working effectively as a “drawer” when you have to change toners, which would make this process a lot more easier. As well, like all of the Brother printers or multi-function units that implement laser or LED xerographic technology, these use a print engine with running parts like the imaging drum and/or transfer belt that the user can separately replace, along with the option to purchase toner cartridges that have a higher yield. These features allow for the printers to be effectively cheap to keep going.

It is capable of being setup for an Ethernet of Wi-Fi wireless network or even supporting Wi-Fi Direct so you can print directly from your mobile device without the need for the printer to be connected to a network. But the Wi-FI Direct function cannot be operated at the same time as the printer being connected to your network.

There is the ability to set these printers up for advanced print jobs such as working with envelopes or thicker media. This is through a drop-down “manual-bypass” tray that accommodates up to 50 sheets of the media along with the back of the printer being able to be dropped down for “straight-path” printing of envelopes. This ability places the Brother HL-L8350CDW and its peers along with the higher-capacity monochrome laser printers at an advantage compared with cheaper Brother printers for working wiht special media.

Walk-up functions

Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser printer USB walk-up socket

USB socket for plugging in USB flash drives

You can print PDF or similar files from a USB memory stick by plugging it in to a USB port on the front of the unit. One disadvantage here is that it is slower to turn out a 2-sided PDF print job which may come as a limitation when you want to turn out that flyer where the artwork is on a memory stick.

It is also worth knowing that the USB port can serve as a “walk-up” charging port for your smartphone or similar devices. The manual doesn’t seem to support this but I haven’t had error messages thrown up as a result of my charging of gadgets this way. This function even operates when the printer is in the “Sleep” mode or in active use. It doesn’t work this way in the “Deep Sleep” mode.

Computer functions

Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser pritner control panel

Control panel

An issue with a lot of Brother printers is that they make one driver package for each model even though most or all models of a series have common abilities and features.  This can cause problems with installation especially over the network. Other than that, the software installation worked smoothly.

For printing, it took only a few seconds for the printer to “wake up” and turn out the first page of a job once you submitted it. This was from its “sleep” state. As for heat build-up, there wasn’t much of that during a small print run but it starts to occur through larger print runs say, for example, after 20 double-side pages are turned out. As well, the noise level is similar to what is expected for most laser printers and photocopiers.

The on-machine user interface is similar to the HL4150CDN’s user interface, which has the small LCD display and four-way arrow keys. This doesn’t have the ability to show up how much toner is currently available or provide an easy-to-implement “confidential-print” or “walk-up” printing function.

Print speed and quality

Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser printer special-media tray

Multi-page special-media tray

The text and graphics documents came out of the Brother HL-L8350CDW very sharply and clearly. This was exemplified with a personal “desktop-publishing” job that I had run as well as other print jobs that I had done with this machine.

The automatic duplex functionality came across as being very quick for jobs that were sent from the host computer. It was something that was very similar to what had happened with the Brother HL-4150CDN where it apparently worked both sides of two pages at the same time. This didn’t cause problems with registration shift, which could make it work well for turning out bookmarks and similar documents or proofing documents that are to be printed on card-stock by a print shop.

As for photos, these came through sharp and vibrant, which is above average for a colour laser printer. Here, I was able to see bright reds in the test images which also came through very brightly and with good contrast. This would increase the Brother HL-L8350CDW’s appeal to people like estate agents who need to turn out a run of flyers to have on hand during an “open-for-inspection” visit.

Build quality and serviceability

The Brother HL-L8350CDW is built very well and, as I have mentioned before, hasn’t had issues with heat buildup or excessive noise. This has been through use of proper cool-down procedures. As well, all the doors and drawers snapped shut properly and didn’t come across as being flimsy.

For serviceability, the rear door exposes most of the output print path so you can remove jammed pages easily. The fact that the drum unit is separately replaceable makes it easier to reach inside the unit if you had to deal with paper jams inside the unit. This makes the job of rectifying most printer paper-transport problems less of a chore.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Brother HL-L8350CDW could show the amount of toner available in the unit on the LCD display so you don’t have to operate a computer to know when it’s time to put a replacement toner cartridge on the shopping list. This could simply be shown as a bar graph and not only when the supply is critically low.

The USB device port on these machines could be implemented for more than just walk-up printing from USB flash drives. For example, this port could support PictBridge printing from digital cameras so you could obtain a quick printout of a digital photo you took with your camera. As well, it could use the USB Human Interface Device class to work with an external numeric keypad for applications such as Secure Print or whenever you are setting it up with a wireless network. It then avoids the need to “pick and choose” numbers for code entry.

A nice-to-have feature that the machine’s owner could separately enable would be a “plug-and-charge” function that is available at all times the printer is plugged in to AC power rather than when it is active or in “sleep” mode. Here, this means that the USB port could provide 1 amp or 2.1 amps of power available irrespective of sleep-mode status so you can charge up a smartphone, tablet or similar gadget from the printer’s USB port. It is one of those features that is becoming more important as the USB port is seen as a universal power outlet for personal gadgets.

Brother could improve on the automatic duplexer in these printers to improve its throughput so that the “sheet output” approaches that of half of the machine’s rated single-sided throughput. This is although these machines do excel on that feature by effectively “working” two sheets at once. It would then raise the bar with those of us who are using this feature as part of our desktop-publishing needs. Similarly, these laser-printer automatic duplexers could be worked further to handle A5 and similar small sizes of paper for those of us who expect them to work as “short-run” printing presses.

As for replaceable parts, Brother could offer for these colour laser printers a “heavy-duty” replacement-parts kit with a drum unit and belt unit that are optimised to handle longer more-intense print runs as an option. This could appeal to small businesses and non-profit organisations who are more likely to run these machines constantly as the organisational short-run printing press.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

I would recommend the Brother HL-L8350CDW as a cost-effective high-volume colour laser printer for those of us who turn out a lot of colour business or presentation documents and place value on the laser xerographic print method for this application. Those of us who are on a budget could opt for the HL-L8250CDN which has a slower throughput and just uses Ethernet network connectivity.

As well, I would run these printers with the TN-346 series of toner cartridges when you are expecting to push them hard on a lot of promotional printout work. Most users can run them with the TN-341 cartridges when on a budget or even use a TN-346K black cartridge along with the TN-341 colour cartridges as a way of stretching your dollar further.

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Should I buy a secondary printer for my home network?

Brother MFC-J4710DW sideways-print multifunction inkjet printer

Brother MFC-J4710DW – an example of a printer you would use as your main printer

Your existing printer or multifunction unit may be working satisfactorily for you at the moment but you may find that you or your household may benefit from a secondary printer that is connected to your home network.

Typically this may be brought about by you buying a printer with more functionality than the one you already own and you “pushing” down the existing printer to serve as a secondary machine like you would with the existing refrigerator or colour television set. In some cases, it is more attractive to do this with mid-tier consumer units or any of the business units where you spend more on the equipment rather than those units that cost as much as you paid for the machine to replace their ink or toner cartridges.

Of course, the idea of networking a printer would be to avoid the need to buy a printer for each computer at home but a different trend has risen. Increasingly, most printer manufacturers are implementing a “mobile-printing” strategy to allow you to print from a smartphone or tablet. This can be done through Apple AirPrint for iOS devices, Google CloudPrint for some Android devices or a manufacturer-provided app.

Similarly, most printer manufacturers are selling equipment on a “horses-for-courses” approach where different printers in their consumer and small-business product ranges suit different tasks.

What applications may cause you to think of a secondary printer?

There are two main applications where a secondary printer on your home network may be handy

A machine more locally placed

HP Envy 120 designer all-in-one printer

HP Envy 120 designer all-in-one inkjet printer – suitable for use as a secondary printer

Most likely, you will have the printer kept in your home office or study where you do a lot of the computing. But, as you use AirPrint or similar features that enable printing from your tablet or smartphone, you may be wanting to order print jobs from other rooms in the house like the kitchen. Similarly, most of the recent crop of printers have a “print-from-Web” function to obtain hard copy from Web services like Dropbox or Facebook.

The idea behind this setup is that when your computer device asks you which printer to send the job to, you determine the machine that is local to you for that job. Here, you have the advantage of being ready to collect the job immediately rather than it piling up on the desk. You also have the assurance of hearing whether the machine has started to turn out your job or not so you are not worried about sending it to the wrong unit or mis-specifying that job.

This situation may be more real for those of you who live in a larger house or a multi-storey / split-level house and have the home office up the front or downstairs but have a significant activity area on the other side of the house or upstairs like the kitchen and family room that is located down the back of the house. Similarly, those of you who have a multi-building home network covering the garage,barn or bungalow alongside the main house may also find this situation applying to you. Here, you could keep a lesser-capable printer or multifunction in the bungalow while having another unit like a better model kept in the main house.

Brother DCP-J552DW multifunction printer

Another printer that can serve as a secondary unit

Here, you could keep a light-duty network-capable multifunction printer like the Brother DCP-J552DW, the Brother DCP-J562DW or HP Envy 120 in the kitchen or family room. This could allow you to do on-the-spot printing and copying in that area. A mid-tier consumer inkjet, low-tier business inkjet or a low-tier business laser / LED machine may work well for a study.

Some families may use this as a way to work towards providing their adolescent or adult child with a printer for when they “grow their wings and leave the family nest”. Here, the adolescent or adult child could be responsible for buying the consumables for that machine and then take it with them when they move onwards.

The ability to have complementary functionality

You could have the best of both printing types for your home office if you have both a laser and an inkjet printer. Here, you could benefit from the flexibility that this offers when it comes to choosing and using stationery for your printing requirements. An example of this could be to not worry about purchasing laser labels or inkjet labels for your envelopes because you can use the appropriate machine for the labels you have on hand.

Some users may benefit from a monochrome laser or LED unit for their routine document-printing needs while a colour inkjet can come in handy when occasional colour printing is required. Similarly, a photo-grade inkjet machine like a high-end HP Photosmart or OfficeJet or high-end Epson could serve your photographic or brochure-printing needs while a machine not so good with “presentation printing” or “photo-grade printing” can do the normal office printing work. This is more so as presentation-grade glossy or silk-look paper is more readily available at local office-supply stores for inkjet printers than it is for laser printers.

Brother HL-6180DW monochrome network laser printer

One of those mono laser printers you would see as a document-printing workhorse

Another example would be is having machines that handle different paper sizes such as A4 and A3. You could use an A3-capable printer or MFC for your large-sheet printing requirements while you maintain an A4-capable machine like most business lasers for most printing needs.

What must you consider?

A common issue associated with very-low-end printers when it comes to keeping them going is that the cost of purchasing replacement consumables is equivalent to that of purchasing a similar-standard printer. As well, a lot of these machines may not last for a long time nor would they be able to yield a significant number of pages.

I would also be careful of the two-cartridge colour inkjet printers because if one colour runs out, you would have to replace the colour cartridge. These can only work well for occasional work but I wouldn’t expect to run them hard for constant work.

On the other hand, I would pay attention to brands that use the same type of consumables across a large part of their product range. This is represented with Hewlett-Packard implementing the 564 series of ink cartridges across most of their Photosmart product range since 2009 and Brother using the LC-133 cartridges across all of their current-issue inkjet machines.

The latter example was underscored with the Brother DCP-J552DW multifunction printer which is a light-duty home machine and the Brother MFC-J6720DW A3 multifunction printer which is a heavy-duty SOHO unit using these cartridges – you don’t have to think of buying two different cartridge types for the different printers..

Conclusion

You can run one or more additional printers on your home network still as communal printers. But these can earn their keep either as a machine that is local to a point of activity and/or to provide functionality that is complementary to other printers that you own.

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Product Review–Brother TD-2020 Thermal Label / Receipt Printer

Introduction

Previously, I had drawn attention to Brother’s new TD-2000 Series of business label printers which, unlike the QL series, were able to work as receipt printers, This is brought about by the fact that this unit prints on the outside of the thermal paper roll. Now I have the chance to review a member of the series in the form of the TD-2020.

This model, which costs AUD$399, is the direct-attached variant of the series which connects to the host computer via USB while there are the networkable variants in this series in the form of the TD-2120N and The TD-2130N which can be connected to a network via Ethernet.

Brother TD-2020 label / receipt printer

The unit itself

The Brother TD-2020 prints on the outside of the label roll thus making it suitable as a receipt printer. When I tested this unit, it was easy to set up, just by installing the driver off the CD or, as I prefer so that the machine works on the latest drivers, downloading the driver from Brother’s website and installing that driver. Then it was simply plug and play by plugging it in to the USB port.

Brother TD-2020 label receipt printer paper path

Simple fuss-free paper path which makes the printer easy to load

As far as the host software is concerned, this machine can work with the ESC/P formatting codes which are being used with most point-of-sale applications. Personally I would also like to see these models implement USB POS class drivers for this kind of printer so as to work with embedded devices and systems as well as provide simple “swap-out” installation for most computer-based POS systems.

For labels, the printer uses Brother’s RD thermal label stock which is available as either continuous or die-cut form. But you can use receipt paper tape of the same width that is used for payment terminals when you are turning out receipts or vouchers. Here, it works best with the larger rolls rather than the smaller rolls that you may use with something like a card payment terminal or printing calculator.

Idiot-proof operation here!

Brother TD-2020 label receipt printer - drop and close loading

Drop and close loading – not much to go wrong here

As for loading of labels or receipt paper, the Brother TD-2020 is simple to load due to the use of a clamshell design where you pull the tape out and close the lid to feed the tape through, There isn’t the need to thread the tape behind any rollers to have it ready to print. It worked as expected when I set a Notepad test document to the printer turning it out very quickly.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Brother TD-2020’s paper feed button could be larger due to the common practice in cafes and bars to use this to supply writing paper to a customer for them to exchange contact details with others. Similarly, Brother could repeat this design in a wider form for the wider paper tapes used in competing POS receipt printers.

Personally, I would like the printer to implement the USB HID-POS device class and other device classes associated with receipt / voucher printers so you don’t have to have device-specific drivers on your point-of-sale, gaming, interactive TV or similar application.

Brother could work towards a variant that is a two-roll design that can allow one machine to turn out labels and receipts which can earn its keep with pharmacy, travel and similar applications where an item has to be labelled and a customer needs a receipt as well.

Conclusion

Brother TD-2020 label receipt printerThe Brother TD-2020 label / receipt printer can earn its keep in businesses where the likelihood of turning out receipts or labels is very strong. Here, it could work as a POS receipt printer but serve as a label printer, or serve as a labeller for items like medicines but come in to play as a backup receipt printer.

Similarly, I would see the TD-2020 label / receipt printer as an easy-to-load receipt printer or labeller for environments where you have many different users such as a small business or volunteer organisation with many different employees or voluntters coming through the organisation/ This is because the way you load the tape in to the printer is effectively a simple “drop-and-close” operation. which means that there is very little that can go wrong with this system due to low risk of loading mistakes.

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Brother now releases two thermal label printers that double as receipt printers

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Brother

TD-2020 Product Page

TD-2120N Product Page

My Comments

Brother TD-2120 network label / receipt printer (Brother press image)

Brother TD-2120 network label / receipt printer

When I reviewed the Brother QL-570 and QL-700 thermal label printers, I mentioned that a feature these units or products like these could benefit from would be to work as receipt or voucher printers for point-of-sale / point-of-service systems.

Now Brother have released in to the Australian market a pair of label printers that can serve as receipt or voucher printers. Both these units can work with the Brother P-Touch label creation software, but they can work with most thermal paper rolls used with other point-of-sale printers. The TD-2020 works as a direct-attached printer for a single workstation whereas the TD-2120N can be connected to a network and serve multiple workstations. There is even an add-on module that allows the TD-2120N label printer to work with Wi-Fi wireless networks rather than an Ethernet or HomePlug network. These units also can work with a battery for highly-mobile applications such as trolley-based setups or tradespeople working out of the back of a van.

This unit supports the ESC/P character-based printing mode for receipt applications as well as the raster-based printing mode and the TD-2020 can also be connected to systems that use serial connection rather than USB connection. Brother publishes application-programming interfaces for third parties to integrate labelling in to their regular-computing or mobile-computing applications.

There is the ability for these printers to work as standalone label writers through the use of a display / keyboard attachment that installs in the top of the unit. It is in addition to a label-peel attachment that simplifies the task of peeling off labels, thus making things much quicker if you have to put labels on many items.

I see these printers as equipment that can be evolved to a business’s receipt, voucher or label printing needs in a very exact manner.

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Product Review–Brother MFC-J4710DW colour multifunction inkjet printer

Introduction

The Brother MFC-J4710DW colour multifunction printer that I am reviewing is based on a new paper-feed concept where the paper is fed through the machine by the long edge and marked across the long edge when the document is printed, which would be described as being “landscape orientation”. The key advantages of this design yield a relatively compact machine compared to most desktop inkjet printers which are much deeper as well as a quicker turnaround when the document is printed.

I am reviewing the MFC-J4710DW which is the top of the line model in this series and this has two paper trays as well as Wi-Fi networking. Lesser models like the MFC-J4510DW have a single paper tray as well as omitting the single-pass duplex automatic document feeder. The cheapest models like the MFC-J4410DW also have a slower print speed for those who don’t value the quick turnaround.

Brother MFC-J410DW sideways-print multifunction inkjet printer

Print Scan Copy Fax /
E-mail
Paper Trays Connections
Colour Colour Colour Colour 2 x A4 USB 2.0
Piezoelectric Ink-jet 2400dpi Optimised book copy, ID copy, duplex copy Super G3 Multi-purpose tray with A3 capability Ethernet, 802.11g/n Wi-Fi
Auto-duplex Single-pass duplex  ADF T.37 Internet fax, scan to email IPv6

Prices

Printer

Recommended Retail Price: AUD$299

Inks

Standard High-Capacity
Price Pages Price Pages
Black AUD$30 600 AUD$37 1200
Cyan AUD$24 600 AUD$34 1200
Magenta AUD$24 600 AUD$34 1200
Yellow AUD$24 600 AUD$34 1200

 

The printer itself

Brother MFC-J410DW sideways-print multifunction inkjet printer - loaded deck view with lengthways document output

Loaded deck view with lengthways document output

As I mentioned before, the Brother MFC-J4710DW prints along the long edge of the A4 sheet of paper. There are two paper trays so you can use different media types or sizes like A4 and A5 or letterhead and regular paper.

Installation and setup

Brother MFC-J4710DW sideways-print multifunction inkjet printer USB and Ethernet connections

USB and Ethernet connections under scanner bed

Like with the previously reviewed Brother MFC-J6910DW, this printer uses a cavity in the top of the machine under the scanner bed for connecting USB or Ethernet cables. This is different to the common practice of having these connections on the back of the printer and may impede in having them easily accessible if you wish to move the machine between different locations. Of course, the power and telephone connections are kept easily accessible.

For network connectivity, this printer supports Ethernet and 802.11g/n Wi-Fi connectivity. It also is ready for IPv6 networks which are becoming the norm for business networks and will become the norm with the next-generation broadband Internet.

Brother NFC-J4710DW sideways-print multifunction inkjet printer print cartridges

Print cartridges loaded from the front

Like the other inkjet multifunction printers that Brother offers and the newer HP OfficeJet small-business Inkjet printers, this printer has you load the cartridges via the front of the machine. This is a method which I applaud because you don’t have to lift a lid to change the ink cartridges when you run out of ink and this printer doesn’t require much effort to remove or insert the cartridges. It didn’t require much effort to load the cartridges in the printer which would work well with its useability.

Walk-up functions – can be started from printer’s control surface

I have done a few copying jobs with this printer and have found that it could benefit from a few improvements when it comes to locating the document on the glass platen for copying.

Here, you have to have the markings for where you locate the documents for scanning and copying in a contrasting colour so you can find where to position that document.

As well, the automatic document feeder can appear to be confusing for the unitiatied especially when it comes to locating the document. Here, you have to make sure that it is between the light-grey document guides and this issue may also be of concern with printers that use ultra-compact automatic document feeders. As well, the pages that are finished with are appear to be on top of the pages that are yet to be scanned which can be very confusing when you wish to remove pages that are finished with and / or add more pages to the job during a scan or copy of a large document.

It has copying features like optimised book copy, “copy to A3” and ID copy which are features I would start to expect from most copying devices. The optimised book copy feature worked very well when I was doing some copying of recipes from some cookbooks for someone who was cooking these recipes at another kitchen. It was also very accurate when it came to copying the documents.

The Brother MFC-J4710DW supports Super G3 colour faxing over the regular telephone line and has the expected capabilities of a business fax machine. As well, you can download a free add-on from Brother’s Website to enable it to become an endpoint for T.37 “fax-via-email” services. This includes the ability to forward faxes received via email to regular fax machines that don’t support this technology using the phone line.

Brother MFC-J410DW sideways-print multifunction inkjet printer memory card slots and USB port

Memory card slots and USB walk-up-printing / device-charging port

There is of course memory card slots and a USB port to facilitate “walk-up” printing of images and PDF documents from USB thumbdrives or memory cards. This also has the ability to print from PictBridge-capable cameras, but can work as a charging point for your smartphone, tablet or other gadgets even when the printer is in a quiescent standby mode.  These are hidden behind a black drop-down flap on the front of the printer.

Web-based services

Brother supports integration with the popular Web-hosted storage, photo-sharing and social-networking services with this printer. This setup operates in a manner which I like and I was pleased with it after I tested it with my Facebook account to print 2 images from an album of mine.

Here, you don’t have to enter your login parameters in to the device, which avoids using a small touchscreen keyboard for this effort. Instead, you use the Brother Web Connect page to enrol your printer with the cloud storage, social network or other service you have your account with. Once you log in to your service, a user interface will come up to ask you whether to allow this software and service to have access to your resources and those resources you are entitled to have access to. Then, if you give the go-ahead, you are given a temporary registration number which you key in to your printer on its control surface.

Then, at the printer, you select “Web” then select the service you want to use and touch the “Register/Delete” option. This is where you key in this registration number and give the account a known name and have the option to set a PIN to prevent unauthorised access to the account. With the photo-sharing services and the social networks, you have the ability to print out the pictures or download them to removeable media that is plugged in to the printer. As well, you can scan or upload the pictures to the photo sharing service or social network.

If you use Dropbox, Evernote or a similar service, you also have the ability to turn out hard copy of PDF documents and scan hard copy documents to these services as PDF files. Personally, I would like to see the ability to upload PDFs from removeable media that is plugged in to the printer.

It is one of a few method that I would like to see for linking users’ accounts on Web-based services with devices like printers or consumer-electronics devices in order to benefit from these services. Here, it exploits the reduced user interfaces that these devices typically have such as a numeric keypad or a D-pad by avoiding the need to “pick” letters on a virtual keyboard or be nimble with the numeric keypad for text entry when you sign in to Facebook, Picasa or Dropbox from one of these devices.

As for loading images from a Facebook album, it can take a bit of time to show up the pictures from that album but the pictures were gradually loaded one by one. But once you chose the pictures to print, the print duration was very similar to what I would expect for turning out photos.

Working with mobile devices

As for working with a mobile device, the Brother MFC-J4710DW printer worked properly with the iPrint&Scan mobile app on my Android phone. This was more so when it came to turning out photos or PDFs held on that phone.

There is also native support for Apple’s AirPrint technology as well as Google Cloud Print technology which can go a long way with printing from the iOS and Android devices.

Computer functions

Although I use the latest driver software from Brother’s Web site rather than what was on the CD in the box. I had found that the software had loaded very quickly without noticeable issues on my Windows 8 computer.

The ControlCenter 4 desktop-scan software could benefit from a “continuous scan” option available not as a custom setting but as an option immediately selectable from the scanning screen. HP’s desktop scanning software has the option to add pages offered as a default option and you click “Finish” to have the file completed and saved at the end of a scan job. Here, this would come in handy when you manually scan multi-page documents using the scanner platen due to factors like odd paper sizes, bound material or fragile documents; or pass a large multi-sheet document through the automatic document feeder.

The scanning procedure was very quick and accurate and performed properly even when I was scanning some very old fragile documents to PDF files.

As for the print driver, this software didn’t show any unnecessary dialogue boxes or pop-up messages during the printing procedure.

Print quality and reliability observations

Brother MFC-J410DW next to a regular multifunction inkjet printer

This printer takes up less desk space compared to a conventional inkjet multifunction printer

A 30-page printout on one side of the paper had yielded a quick reliable turnout but the colour may not appear to be as accurate as it should be for the printout. The high-speed turnout was brought on by the ability to work along the long edge of the paper.

A test that I do with printers that have auto-duplex facilities is to have the printer print a “download-to-print” door-hanger campaign document master on both sides of the paper using this function. Here, I look for any shift between the front and the back of the document so as to determine whether the duplexer mechanism is causing any unwanted shifting between the front and back of the document which may concern those of us who are using this function as part of creating odd-shaped desktop publishing projects like bookmarks, luggage tags or door hangers. I had noticed a very slight shift between the back of the document is slightly forward on the long edge compared to the front when I completed this test on this Brother printer.

Landscape document output on the Brother printer compared to the portrait document output on an orthodox  multifunction printer

Landscape document output on the Brother printer compared to the portrait document output on an orthodox multifunction printer

The Brother MFC-J4710DW also had passed the reliable printing test where I had it print a 90-page PDF using auto-duplex. This was important because a lot of people may think that the “long-edge” printing may be too “cutting-edge” to be considered reliable in a first-generation implementation of this technology. It has successfully completed the test without causing any worries.

When I printed out the test photos on the glossy paper, I noticed a strong yellow overtone on the pictures which was noticeable on the white parts of the image. As well, the flesh tones tended to become a bit more red. There also wasn’t much of the sharpness and definition in the images. I had done this test using the “best” settings for the printer driver rather than the normal settings and it may be a driver-specific issue. When it came to turning out images from the Internet using the printer’s control panel, there wasn’t much of that yellow overtone.

I had to use the manual bypass slot at the back of the printer to load the glossy paper sheets and this required me to load each sheet one at a time. Here, I was able to see the “long-edge” printing feature in action when it came to handling the pictures.

The big question that is likely to be asked about the Brother MFC-J4710DW and its peers is whether the “sideways print” / “long-edge print” / landscape print technology is too “cutting-edge” for reliable operation? Personoally, I had found this to be reliable for a first-generation implementation of this setup.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Brother MFC-J4710DW could benefit from a few extra features and these may be issued with subsequent-generations of this print setup.

One feature that would come a long way would be to allow more than one sheet of paper to be in the manual feed slot for situations where you may be printing many multi-page documents on A3 or special media.

It could also benefit from a document rest that automatically extends and retracts in a similar way to what happens with the HP Envy printers. This can keep the printer having that compact shape that it is known for/

The on-device software could benefit from a few useability improvements. For example, the Web Connect functionality could allow for searching or sorting “other users” on a social network when you are hunting down pictures to print from a “friend’s” album.

The other issue that is of concern not just with this machine but with all of the network-enabled multi-function printers that have fax ability is to support Internet-based time synchronisation. Here, you could just then determine what time zone you are in and the printer sets its clock for you automatically like what happens with most desktop and mobile computer operating systems. Similarly, a lot of these printers could benefit from increased memory or flash memory in order to allow for efficient copy, fax and “walk-up” printing functionality as well as being able to maintain its own network print queue.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

Brother MFC-J4710DW sideways-print multifunction inkjet printerI would recommend that the Brother MFC-J4710DW or its peers be considered as an option when you are considering a general-purpose desktop multifunction printer for the small business, professional’s office or a home office. This is especially where space is at a premium or a large desktop multifunction printer doesn’t look the part in your office space’s aesthetics.

The cheaper models may work well if you are on a budget and don’t place value on printing speed or simply have a high-end laser printer serving your high-speed printing needs.

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