Category: Network Printers and All-in-ones

Product Review–Brother MFC-L2713DW multifunction laser printer

Introduction

I am reviewing Brother’s latest approach at a light-duty monochrome laser multifunction printer in the form of the MFC-L2713DW. It is one of these machines that you could use for a small office or shop, especially if you are intending to replace a light-duty fax machine. Some of you also may see this machine or its peers as a routine document printer for your home office.

It may also appeal to professionals and the like who want to have a light-duty document-focused printer or fax-capable multifunction in their office as a “private” machine while their workplace has a heavy-duty multifunction in the common areas.

Brother MFC-L2713DW light-duty multifunction laser printer

Print Scan Copy Paper Trays Connections
B/W Colour B/W A4 x 1(standard) USB 2.0
Laser xerographic 1200 dpi ID Copy Multi-purpose tray capacity Ethernet
Wi-Fi
Own-access-point Wi-Fi
Auto-Duplex ADF IPv6 capability
Document Send/Receive
Real-Time Super-G3 Fax via phone
Email-based Scan-to-email TIFF-FAX
JPG
PDF
Walk-up Printing
Mobile Printing Apple AirPrint
Google CloudPrint
MoPria support
Brother Print Service plugin support
Online Services Print From Scan To
Multiple Users for Online Services N/A
“Own Account” Guest Access for Online Services N/A

Prices

Printer

The machine’s standard price: AUD$249

Inks and Toners

Standard High Capacity
Price Pages Price Pages
Black AUD$81.00 1200 AUD$141.50 3000

Servicing and Other Parts (Laser Printers)

Price Pages
Drum Kit AUD$150.00 12000
Belt Kit (Colour lasers)
Waste Toner Bin

Brother MFC-L2713DW light-duty multifunction monochrome laser printer

The printer itself

Connectivity and Setup

I had connected the printer to the home network via Ethernet and this meant that I could effectively be “on board” very quickly. As far as I am concerned, I really wouldn’t use the Wi-Fi ability on these printers to connect to an existing network because you may have Wi-Fi issues in your home or small-business location, rather I would connect via Ethernet or HomePlug AV powerline.

This printer, like the other small monochrome laser printers that Brother offers, uses a separate user-replaceable drum unit along with the toner cartridge rather than following HP’s path of an integrated print cartridge that has the drum unit. But if you have to add toner to the printer, you have to remove the drum unit from the machine before you detach the spent toner cartridge from the drum unit.

Here the installation process was simple enough to do. But I also like the way Brother offers a higher-yield toner cartridge for these printers, a feature I definitely applaud for people who want to choose the right yield to suit their needs and budget.

Paper Handling

Like with most of Brother’s budget-priced and value-priced printer models, this printer uses a single-page bypass feed which would be limiting if you are running multiple-page print jobs that use special media. This would also be used if you are dealing with pre-printed forms such as when a doctor is turning out prescriptions or test / treatment referrals.

Personally, I would like to move away from the single-page approach towards having a five-page approach to cater for jobs where a handful of pre-printed forms or label sheets are being turned out.

The A4 paper tray worked properly and didn’t feel flimsy to the touch, making it a machine that can satisfy most users.

Walk-up functions

The Brother MFC-L2713DW has an on-machine with a bright text-based LCD display and rubber-feel keys. Here, the text-based LCD display is a high-contrast “black-on-white” type which makes it very readable under many different lighting scenarios. But I would like to improve on the D-pad’s design by using illuminated arrow legends that come alive when you are using the menu options.

The copying process for a single page fed through the automatic document feeder came through as being very quick even when the machine wasn’t used for a while. Here, by the time the document left the ADF, the printer was turning out the copy.

The quality of the copies came out good for documents printed on plain paper but I wouldn’t expect a high-quality copy for photos or similar material. It also holds true for material printed on glossy paper such as ID or business cards whereupon you may find that the copy comes out paler than the original.

There is a one-touch “duplex copy” function that allows you to copy both sides of an original on to both sides of the copy’s paper, but you have to turn over the original to copy the other side. The ID copy functionality works as expected although there is the issue of not scanning “to the edge”. Brother answers this issue by a scrolling text message to tell users to put the original 1/4″ from the edge

The Brother MFC-L2713DW can serve as a basic monochrome phone-based fax machine with a limited-capacity “fax vault” function suitable for overnight / weekend use.

Here it omits the T.37 email-based store-and-forward fax functionality which may be an approach for some of us who want to move towards IP fax. Most likely, when you move towards an IP-based telephony service and use an analogue-telephony-adaptor with machines like this one, you may be also setting up for T.38 real-time Internet fax.

Like with all of the Brother MFC-series fax-capable multifunction printers that have duplex printing, you can set this machine up to print the faxes it receives on both sides of the paper as a way to save on paper.

Computer functions

I had installed the drivers on my Windows 10 computer from Brother’s Website and they were in place very quickly. Here, you would have to install the full software set to enable printing, scanning and fax management including “print-to-fax” functionality.

The ControlCenter4 scan monitor does take time to come in to action when you start a scan-to-computer job from the printer’s control surface. This is a continual problem with most of the scanner software offered by most scanner and MFC manufacturers and, personally, I would like to see the host computer’s operating system look after this functionality for both direct and network setups.

As far as mobile devices were concerned, the Brother MFC-L2713DW worked properly with the Android print-service plugin that I installed on my Samsung Android phone. Here, the app was quick to recognise the printer’s capabilities and have the document turned out quickly. Of course it does support Apple AirPrint for those of you who run your business from an iPad.

Print / scan speed and quality

The Brother MFC-L2713DW came alive and started printing documents very quickly, whether from the computer or a mobile phone. It also led to a quick turnout of the document, something very similar to most of the small monochrome laser printers.

The printer was able to handle a double-sided print job but it doesn’t turn them out as quickly as a simplex print job. This is something you would notice more with light-duty monochrome lasers that have this functionality. It turned out these documents without jamming or dropping pages.

The Brother MFC-L2713DW does satisfy the output-quality requirements for a small entry-level monochrome laser printer. Here, it would yield clear easy-to-read text that would be part of an office document.

But I wouldn’t expect it to yield high-quality output when it comes to photos and similar presentation-grade work. Here I noticed banding along the narrow edge of the sheet when I printed out a picture of a landscape, but it was able to maintain proper fidelity when it came to the image’s contrast.

Limitations And Points Of Improvement

A feature I would like to see continual improvement on for the Brother small laser printers is to have auto-duplex printing with a speed similar to simplex printing jobs. Similarly, I would like to see Brother move away from the “single-sheet” approach for the manual bypass function on these printers so as to cater for multiple-sheet print runs using special stationery.

A feature that could benefit this class of light-duty monochrome laser multifunction would to permit “two-machine” copying across the network. This is where you could scan a document on a multifunction like this one and it is then printed out on a colour printer or multifunction connected to the same network. This would also allow for other applications like enlarging documents to A3 / Ledger with the A4 / Letter or smaller original on a machine like this and the large A3 copy emerging from an A3-capable printer or multifunction. This feature could make use of setups where you have multiple document machines with complementary capabilites whether in page size, printing type or colour / monochrome printing.

As well, the Brother MFC-L2713DW and its peers could benefit from at least SDXC card storage to provide enhanced fax-storage functionality such as to cater to busy workloads, large documents and the like. Brother could also work towards creating a T.38 IP-fax endpoint functionality in their fax-capable multifunction printers and push the telecoms industry to lead towards simplified provisioning for this technology.

Similarly, Brother could exploit the separately-replaceable drum unit approach that applies to their laser printers by providing heavy-duty variants of these parts as an upgrade option. This would please users who buy laser printers suited for their current duty levels but install heavier-duty parts in them if they are faced with a heavier workload.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

I would position the Brother MFC-L2713DW monochrome laser multifunction printer as an economy-priced office printer for workplaces that don’t have a heavy document throughput. This would also include it serving as a “private” document printer / copier for a professional’s or manager’s office or simply as a document-focused multifunction for a home office.

Here, it would earn its keep as a replacement for a small inkjet multifunction that is used just for turning out documents or a small plain-paper fax that uses thermal-transfer printing. I would also see it as a direct upgrade for an economy laser printer or multifunction that isn’t able to do duplex printing.

I have also compared the price for the Brother MFC-L2713DW against the price of replacing its drum unit with the genuine replacement part and found that it is worth buying that part rather than replacing the machine with one of the same standard and functionality level when it comes up for replacement.

Update: I have updated the prices to the manufacturer’s recommended retail prices for the consumables.

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Product Review–Brother MFC-J5730DW multifunction colour inkjet printer

Introduction

I am reviewing the Brother MFC-J5730DW multifunction colour inkjet printer which is part of Brother’s newest generation of colour business inkjet printers that follows on from the MFC-J5720DW that I previously reviewed.

There is a cheaper model in this lineup, known as the MFC-J5330DW that has a single A4/A3 tray, a paper bypass feed that only handles one sheet, doesn’t come with the single-pass duplex scan, and has a smaller user-interface screen But this printer uses the same high-capacity ink cartridges and is able to print to A3 using that same landscape-printing technique.

Brother MFC-J5730DW multifunction inkjet printer

Print Scan Copy Paper Trays Connections
Colour Colour Colour 2 x A3 USB 2.0
Piezoelectric Ink-Jet 1200×2400 dpi resolution (platen) ID Copy
Book Copy
100 sheet A3 Ethernet
Wi-Fi
Own-access-point Wi-Fi
Auto-Duplex Single-Pass Auto-Duplex ADF IPv6 capability
Document Send/Receive
Real-Time Super-G3 Colour Fax via phone
Email-based T.37 IP Fax
Scan-to-email
Print-from-email
TIFF-FAX
JPG
PDF
Walk-up Printing USB – PictBridge PDF
JPG
TIFF
Mobile Printing Apple AirPrint
Google CloudPrint
Windows Mobile printing
MoPria support
Brother iPrint&Scan native app
Online Services Print From Scan To
Dropbox
OneDrive
Box.com
Facebook
Evernote
Flickr
SMB NAS
Dropbox
OneDrive
Box.com
Multiple Users for Online Services Yes
“Own Account” Guest Access for Online Services No

 

Prices

Printer

Recommended Retail Price: AUD$369

Inks and Toners

Standard High Capacity
Price Pages Price Pages
Black AUD$46.45 550 AUD$68.95 3000
Cyan AUD$30.50 550 AUD$44.95 1500
Magenta AUD$30.50 550 AUD$44.95 1500
Yellow AUD$30.50 550 AUD$44.95 1500

The printer itself

Brother MFC-J5730DW multifunction inkjet printer control panel

Control panel with touchscreen and traditional keyboard

Unlike the Brother MFC-J5720DW, the Brother MFC-J5730 doesn’t convey the sleek looks that make printers of this class attractive. Here, the unit is styled in a more conventional approach that is very similar to Brother’s laser multifunction printers with the control panel keyboard that you use for entering numbers very similar to most other office-grade printers. This may be more user-friendly for those of us who are confused with touch-panel keyboards that light up on an “as-required” basis.

Connectivity and Setup

The printer can connect directly to your computer via a USB cable. But it can connect to your home or small business network using Ethernet or Wi-Fi wireless that supports most connection setups. It can even create its own Wi-Fi access point which just exists for printing and scanning, but I personally would like to see the ability to be its own access point to “extend” coverage of a wireless network with this feature able to be disabled by management IT along with supporting “business” access point requirements. The network functionality is future-proof in that it supports IPv6 addressing, a real requirement as we run out of public IPv4 network addresses.

Brother MFC-J5730DW multifunction inkjet printer detailed function display

Black-on-white detailed function display

Like all of the recent Brother inkjet printer generations, the cables for the USB or Ethernet connections is snaked in under the scanner rather than being connected to a socket on the back of the printer. The same holds true for the phone and line connections that you would need to use if this machine is being used as a fax.

The setup experience is very similar to the previous Brother printers but this is improved thanks to the larger LCD display that the printer is equipped with. Some of you may find that the black-on-white display which is implemented in this generation of printers  may be a bit awkward to use when working the menus.

Paper Handling

The Brother MFC-J5730DW implements the same paper-feed options as its predecessor model that is: to use two paper drawers up front as well as a bypass feed slot on the back of the printer capable of handling many sheets of paper. These drawers can be extended out so you can load A3 or Ledger paper in the machine, but they leave the paper exposed, which can cause it to attract dust, thus leading to unreliable operation. Here, Brother could answer this problem by integrating a larger slide-out flap in each of these trays which comes out whenever you load the tray with larger paper sizes.

Brother MFC-J5730DW multifunction inkjet printer output tray

Output shelf separate from the upper paper tray

Printed documents end up on a separate output shelf rather than one that is integrated in one of the paper drawers. This makes the job of topping up the paper supply in that drawer easier because you are not having to extend or collapse the output shelf.

The ability for the Brother MFC-J5730DW multifunction inkjet printer to print to A3 or Ledger paper from either the bypass feed or any of the paper trays. This has been due to Brother implementing the “landscape” paper feed for the standard document sizes. This means that the print head works along the long edge of the paper and has allowed for documents to be printed very quickly while allowing for a relatively-compact printer design.

The scanner’s automatic document feeder doesn’t share that same compact look as the previous generation of A4 business inkjet printers that Brother issued. Here, it looks like the automatic document feeder installed on Brother’s “full-A3” inkjet multifunction printers or their laser/LED-based multifunction printers. The other missing feature for this model is that the glass platen for manual scanning is still only able to handle A4 or Letter document sizes, where I would prefer these units to have a Legal-sized glass platen for documents that are on Legal or foolscap paper sizes.

The automatic document feeder in this model implements single-pass duplex scanning but the paper path is still the “U-shaped” path which can be of concern when you are dealing with brittle paper like thin letter-writing paper. Here, it is a design limitation associated with scanners that are required to support manual and sheet-fed scanning, but could be improved upon by supporting a “two-way” feed setup.

Like with the previous models, the scanner lid on the Brother MFC-J5730DW can be pulled up at the rear so you can scan or copy thicker documents but I would like to see this improved upon by allowing you to lay the multipurpose feed tray flat so you can easily position thicker originals further up the back.

Walk-up functions

The Brother MFC-J5730DW only supports USB-connected media like USB thumbdrives or SD card readers for local data storage. This can be a limitation if you deal frequently with digital photos, where I would like to see it support PictBridge “direct-from-camera” printing or printing from SD and CompactFlash cards.

You also have the Brother MFC-J5730DW able to work as a capable up-to-date colour fax machine with T.37-compliant email-based Internet fax functionality.

This includes the fact that Brother MFC-J5730DW offers a “fax-to-cloud” feature for standard faxes where incoming documents can be forwarded to a folder on an online storage service as soon as they arrive. This offers an Internet-based “fax-vault” functionality so that the machine isn’t printing out every fax that comes in, making it easy for others who have access to your office like contract cleaners or night-shift workers to be snooping on your confidential incoming faxes when you are not there. This is also in conjunction to being able to have faxes forwarded to a fax number or email address or sent to your regular Windows computer, functions that Brother had offered for handling incoming faxes.

Speaking of cloud services, Brother offers access to the common online services for scanning and printing. This means that you could print a photo from Facebook, a document from Dropbox or scan a document to OneDrive for you to work with on your laptop.  The cloud services also include the ability to print notepaper, graph paper, music manuscript paper and similar form documents, a feature that competing printer vendors have been offering for a while. But these documents can be improved upon such as simply providing the music paper without any clef markings so you could write manuscript for different instruments and ensembles.

Computer functions

At the moment, Brother still supplies model-specific drivers for their printers rather than offering a monolithic driver that can cover a product range. This applies to the desktop operating systems although they offer a single piece of software for the mobile operating systems. A single piece of software that covers one or more product ranges could make it easier for those of us who standardise on a particular manufacturer’s devices to set a computer up for newer printers.

But these drivers installed properly on my Windows 10 computer without throwing any error messages. They also provide the same “at-a-glance” dashboard that Brother uses for their printers. The print jobs had come through properly and reliably as would be expected.

The scan software that Brother provides hasn’t been improved upon for a long time and could be worked on, especially in the context of “editing” multiple-page scans. Here, it could support the ability to do things like re-scanning a single page so as to correct scanning mistakes like skewed pages or “splitting” a scan job to two or more documents. The latter situation may be of benefit if you are using the machine’s automatic document feeder to expedite the scanning of multiple documents and would earn its keep with the Brother MFC-J5730 and other machines equipped with a single-pass duplex scanner.

I have used this printer with my Android phone and it worked properly when I wanted it to print out an email attachment. This was using the Brother-supplied Android Print Services plug-in for the Android platform, but the printer can work with Mopria-compliant print-service plug-ins.

Print / scan speed and quality

Like most inkjet printers, the Brother took a similar amount of time to get going with the first page of the print job.

Pigment-based inks and pipe-based ink-distribution are part of this generation of Brother inkjet printers

But I have focused the print-quality tests in a way to show up the print quality offered by the new pigment-based ink setup that Brother implemented in this generation of inkjet printers compared to the previous generation machines. Here, this generation of business inkjet printers integrates the pipe-based ink-flow system, piezo-based printhead design and the pigment-based ink chemistry in to equipment designed to offer value for money at a price most people and businesses can consider.

As well, I have allowed for a firmware update to take place to assess the print quality for these newer machines.

The Brother MFC-J5730DW multifunction printer was able to turn out regular office documents very clearly and there wasn’t much difference in the quality of these standard print jobs.

But when it comes to presentation-grade printing, be it a poster to put up on that noticeboard, a presentation handout to give to your attendees or a photo to put in your album, this is where the real tests show up. This also applies to those of us who use these printers to turn out inkjet proofs of documents we intend to have printed by someone else before we engage the printing service to have them printed.

You may have to use the “vivid” setting in the printer driver to make sure that presentation-grade work doesn’t look dull, as I have tried with a noticeboard “tear-off” poster to promote this Website.

But I have compared output quality for photo printing against the MFC-J5720DW which represents Brother’s previous generation of printers. Here, the photos came across with slightly more saturated with flesh tones coming across slightly more red compared to the previous model. This is a very similar look to what comes across with magazines or with most TV broadcasts where there is that stronger colour effect.

What is happening is that Brother is pushing their business inkjet printers towards the same standard as the HP OfficeJet 8600a which was a printer of this class that was known for sharp vibrant presentation-grade image quality.

As for scanning and copying, the Brother MFC-J5730DW had yielded a clear sharp image for the documents that were scanned. But it needed to be configured for the standard A4 paper size when you set up the scan software for working with most office documents if you are in Europe, Asia, Oceania and other areas where these sizes are normally used. This was because it was set up by default for the US Letter paper size, normally used in North America.

Brother hasn’t yet rectified a problem that I find with copying or scanning from the glass platen. This is where the document edge is clipped by a few millimetres and can affect jobs where you deal with documents are printed “to the edge” like credit and ID cards or news clippings, but you want to align the document against the platen’s edge to avoid skewing.

Limitations And Points Of Improvement

Brother could equip this printer with a Legal-size scan platen rather than the standard A4 / Letter platen. Here, it could cater towards situations where you are dealing with documents written on Legal-size or foolscap-size notepads which can be a reality when you are digitally archiving very old material. As well, they could support “to-the-edge” scanning so that documents that are placed against the edge of the glass aren’t clipped.

Brother could make better use of the network connection on these printers so people can benefit from these connections especially where there is on-premises network-storage options available to that network. This is more so for small businesses and community organisations who may prefer to use a small desktop network-attached-storage system or file server in addition or in lieu of an online service for this purpose.

For example, they could provide a walk-up print option that allows you to print documents that exist in a folder shared via your network or an Internet location using SMB, FTP or HTTP protocols using the machine’s LCD control panel. This feature could allow an organisation to create a “document library” or “stationery library” shared using an on-site server or NAS that has documents or pro-forma stationery which can be printed as required. This idea can extend to public Websites or organisation-specific intranet sites that host a collection of “download-to-print” resources.

These “print from network” setups could be configured through the printer’s Web-based admin dashboard or through the printer’s control panel. There could be the ability to remember resource-specific passwords for network shares or Web pages that are protected with passwords or require the user to supply them each time they print documents from these resources while allowing for SSL encryption where applicable. Here, it avoids the need just to rely on Dropbox & co to provide these resources.

To the same extent, the Brother “MFC-series” fax-capable multifunction printers could use a network-shared folder to hold incoming or outgoing faxes for later printing or sending. Here, this can capitalise on the idea of a “fax-vault” used to assure confidentiality when it comes to inbound documents, or to allow an organisation who does a lot of overseas business to hold the overseas faxes to be delivered to the partners according to their “local morning” time.

Similarly, Brother could support PictBridge camera-based digital printing for their business printers. This is where you can print pictures from your digital camera using a suitably-equipped printer just by connecting the camera to that printer and using the camera’s control surface to print the pictures. Such a feature can come in very handy if you need to turn out “proof-quality” prints of the photos you had taken in order to show them to others.

Brother can also use some of the neat-looking design aspects from the previous generation of business inkjet multifunction printers along with the new print-engine design to develop a range of consumer-focused A4/Photo inkjet multifunction printers that use the same consumables as these business printers. Here, these machines could be positioned as a secondary printer for the home network or as an entry-level printer for one’s home-computing setup.

Similarly, they could offer a single-function A3/Ledger printer based on these printer designs to allow people to add large-sheet printing to their document-handling needs without having to replace their existing A4 multifunction that has served them well.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

Brother has just about achieved its goal in yielding a business inkjet printer that can excel with presentation printing as well as regular office-document printing tasks. This was more important for me where the goal was to see something answer HP’s well-known OfficeJet 8600 series of business inkjet printers when it comes to this task. As well, I placed importance on this feature with these printers due to the fact that the Brother MFC-J5730DW and its peers can print on A3 or Ledger paper, a size that yields very strongly with presentation-grade printing jobs.

What the printer manufacturers need to do is to keep themselves interested in maintaining their business inkjet printer lineup as something that is about high-quality presentation-grade printing especially on A3 paper as well as turning out ordinary office documents. It can encourage everyone else in the small-business desktop printer game to compete against each other when it comes to presentation-level output quality as well as their equipment’s functionality. What it can lead to is companies like HP, Brother, Epson, Canon and others to keep a viable product class for machines that can satisfy small-businesses’ and community organisations’ small-run printing needs without losing the quality aspect.

Here, I would recommend the use of the Brother MFC-J5730DW as an all-round small-run workhorse printer for a home office or other small office. This is more so if you expect to doe a significant amount of A3 printing such as to place posters on that noticeboard. You may be able to get away with saving money and buying the cheaper MFC-J5330DW if you rarely do A3 print jobs or don’t place value on double-sided scanning.

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You could be using your phone to sign in to Facebook on the big screen

Article

Apple TV 4th Generation press picture courtesy of Apple

You could be able to log in to Facebook on this device using your smartphone’s Facebook client

Facebook Login Updated for tvOS, FireTV, Android | AdWeek SocialTimes

From the horse’s mouth

Facebook

Developer News Press Release

Improving Facebook Login For TV and Android

My Comments

A holy grail that is being achieved for online services is to allow users to authenticate with these services when using a device that has a limited user interface.

TV remote control

A typical smart-TV remote control that can only offer “pick-and-choose” or 12-key data entry

An example of this is a Smart TV or set-top device, where the remote control for these devices has a D-pad and a numeric keypad. Similarly, you have a printer where the only interface is a D-pad or touchscreen, with a numeric keypad only for those machines that have fax capabilities.

Here, it would take a long time to enter one’s credentials for these services due to the nature of the interface. This is down to a very small software keyboard on a touchscreen, using “SMS-style” text entry on the keypad or “pick-and-choose” text entry using the D-pad.

Facebook initially looked at this problem by displaying an authentication code on the device’s user interface or printing this code out when you want to use it from that device. Then you go to a Web-enabled computer or mobile device and log in to facebook.com/device and transcribe that code in to the page to authenticate the device with Facebook.

Here, they are realising that these devices have some role with the Social Web, whether to permit single sign-on, allow you to view photos on your account or use it as part of a comment trail. But they also know that most of us are working our Facebook accounts from our smartphones or tablets very frequently and are doing so with their native mobile client app.

But they are taking a leaf out of DIAL (DIscovery And Launch) which is being used as a way to permit us to throw YouTube or Netflix sessions that we start on our mobile devices to the big screen via our home networks. It avoids a long rigmarole of finding a “pairing screen” on both the large-screen and mobile apps, then transcribing a PIN or association code from the large screen to the mobile client to be able to have it on the TV screen,

This is where you will end up authenticating that big-screen app's Facebook login request

This is where you will end up authenticating that big-screen app’s Facebook login request

What Facebook are now doing for the 4th generation Apple TV (tvOS) and Android-based TV/video peripheral platforms (Android TV / Amazon FireTV) is to use the mobile client app to authenticate.

Here, you use a newer version of the Facebook mobile client, the Facebook Lite client or the Google Chrome Custom Tabs to authenticate with the big screen across the home network. The TV or set-top device, along with the mobile device running the Facebook mobile client both have to be on the same logical network which would represent most small networks. It is irrespective of how each device is physically connected to the network such as a mobile device using Wi-Fi wireless and the Apple TV connected via HomePlug AV500 powerline to the router for reliability.

What will happen is that the TV app that wants to use Facebook will show an authentication code on the screen. Then you go to the “hamburger” icon in your Facebook mobile client and select “Device Requests” under Apps. There will be a description of the app and the device that is wanting you to log in, along with the authentication code you saw an the TV screen. Once you are sure, you would tap “Confirm” to effectively log in from the big screen.

At the moment, this functionality is being rolled out to tvOS and Android-based devices with them being the first two to support the addition and improvement of application programming interfaces. But I would see this being rolled out for more of the Smart TV, set-top box and similar device platforms as Facebook works through them all.

Spotify login screen

This kind of single-sign-on could apply to your Smart TV

One issue that may have to crop up would be to cater for group scenarios, which is a reality with consumer electronics that end up being used by all of the household. Here, software developers may want to allow multiple people to log in on the same device, which may be considered important for games with a multiplayer element, or to allow multiple users to be logged in but with one user having priority over the device at a particular time like during an on-screen poll or with a photo app.

Another question that could be raised is where Facebook is used as the “hub” of a user’s single-sign-on experience. Here, an increasing number of online services including games are implementing Facebook as one of the “social sign-on” options and the improved sign-on experience for devices could be implemented as a way to permit this form of social sign-on across the apps and services offered on a Smart TV for example. It could subsequently be feasible to persist current login / logout / active-user status across one device with all the apps following that status.

Other social-media, messaging or similar platforms can use this technology as a way to simplify the login process for client-side devices that use very limited user interfaces. This is especially where the smartphone becomes the core device where the user base interacts with these platforms frequently.

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Creating “download-to-print” material for a distributed-printing campaign

Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser printer

Brother HL-L8350CDW colour laser printer – could work with “download-to-print” campaigns

Increasingly, it is becoming feasible to turn out flyers and other print-ready material that can be printed on a distributed basis. That is where people can use their own inkjet or laser printers to turn out the material, underscoring the role of these printers as a small-business short-run printing press, or deliver it to a print shop for higher-capacity better-quality printouts. For that matter, the big office-supply-store chains like Office Depot, Staples and Officeworks do this kind of printing for reasonable prices.

Churches and similar organisations can use this method as a way to distribute documents like monthly calendars because the congregants can turn them out using their own printers and pin it up on the fridge. Similarly, the Country Fire Authority used “download-to-print” as a campaign tool in their fight against the reduction of the volunteer firefighters’ role in this fire service.

How do you achieve this?

But how do you do this? Here, you author your document to a known common paper size using your favourite word-processing, desktop-publishing or presentation software and when it is finished and approved, you export it as a PDF file. This file is then placed on your Website for your supporters to download then print or take to a print shop.

Brother HL-3075CW colour LED printer control panel detail

You can print PDF documents from a lot of printers’ control panels

This is because the Adobe PDF file format has become the de-facto “electronic hard copy” format and most print shops and copy shops can print from this format. Most printers like a lot of the equipment reviewed on this Website have the ability to print from PDF files held on a USB memory key or similar storage medium just by you selecting the document using the machine’s control panel.

You can use this procedure with email-based campaigns by attaching the PDF file to the email or providing a link to the PDF file on your Website in the email. Here, you need to be sure that the PDF file is a properly-formed PDF file because malformed PDF files can be used to transport malware.

What paper sizes to use

If you are in a country that uses the ISO 216 “A” series of paper sizes such as A3, A4 or A5, the job is made much easier. It is because this paper standard implements what is known as the “silver rectangle” which has the aspect ratio of 1:1.4142135 (square root of 2), thus allowing you to print on a page size smaller or larger in the series than what it was authored for. Here, you can get away with authoring a document for an A4 sheet yet it turns out properly on the large A3 sheet or smaller A5 sheet. This will also appeal because an increasing number of office inkjet printers, especially from Brother, are offering A3 printing.

Countries like the USA may require you to author the document for the targeted paper size like the common Letter paper size. On the other hand, you may have to have a Ledger or Tabloid paper size for something that is to be large or “half-letter” for something that is to be smaller than Letter.

The DL and similar paper sizes are hard to print from an office printer because most of these printers and the PDF software don’t readily support multiple-copies-on-one-sheet or require the operator to perform a lot of trial and error to print these sizes. These are best turned out by a print shop who can then print and cut the documents. On the other hand, you may have to engage staff or volunteers to cut out the documents and this can take a fair bit of time especially with odd-shaped documents.

Use of colour in your campaign

An issue that may crop up with your “download-to-print” effort is the ability to print colour. This will be of concern if one or more people are using monochrome laser printers to turn out their documents.

Here, your goal is to turn out a “best-case” document that looks the part in colour but yields a high-quality black-and-white output when you use that mono laser printer. This is similar to what was achieved for TV through the early years while colour TV came on the scene – the picture had to look adequate on a black-and-white set while being able to look the part on a colour set.

This may not be of concern with documents that are primarily text-based and you use colour to highlight certain words, but if you are using background graphics like photos to decorate the page, make sure that you have good contrast especially around text. You could configure your colour printer’s driver to print the document in greyscale to see how it will look when you print it on a monochrome printer.

Conclusion

Once you know how to choose the proper page size for the “download-to-print” documents and can turn them out as PDF files, you can easily establish that distributed printing campaign whether participants use their office printer or ask a print shop or the local office-supply store to turn out the documents.

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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 PJ-773 Wireless Mobile Thermal Printer

Introduction

I am reviewing the Brother PJ-773 PocketJet wireless mobile thermal printer which is a highly-compact wireless-network-capable mobile printer. It is also the first mobile printer that I have reviewed that can work with a Wi-Fi network rather than having to be connected to the host computer for it to work. There wasn’t even a need for me to install or plug in a network adaptor for this functionality to come about.

This mobile printer implements direct-thermal printing technology that was initially used by fax machines to turn out incoming faxes. But Brother has rebuilt their faith in this technology for on-the-road transactional printing by using thermal-printing paper that is better than those rolls of thermal paper used with those fax machines.

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 Wireless Mobile Thermal Printer

Print Paper Trays Connection
B/W A4 single-sheet USB 3.0
Direct Thermal A4 paper roll with roll attachment 802.11g/n Wi-Fi wireless
IPv6

Prices

Printer

The machine’s standard price: AUD$879

Optional Extras:

DC car charger (cigar lighter): AUD$49.00

DC car charger (direct wire): AUD$49.00

Carry Case and roll holder – rugged design: AUD$99.00

Rubber carry case: – rugged design: AUD$39.00

Vinyl carry pouch: AUD$19.00

Car mount with roll holder: AUD$199

Paper Guide – cut sheets: AUD$69

Paper Guide – paper rolls: AUD$69.00

Thermal paper

Standard A4 thermal paper (100 sheets): AUD$19

20-year A4 thermal paper (100 sheets): AUD$24

A4 perforated thermal roll (100 pages per roll, 6 rolls): AUD$89

A4 thermal roll (15m per roll, 6 rolls): AUD$99

The printer itself

Brother PJ-773 Wireless Mobile Thermal Printer printing

Brother PJ-773 turning out a document – the printing side is on the back of the paper

The Brother PJ-773 Pocket-Jet wireless mobile thermal printer is based on direct-thermal printing technology which was first implemented in a mobile-printing scenario by Pentax when they released the PocketJet mobile printer in the early 1990s as laptops were becoming more common. Here, this printer used the typical fax paper which was ubiquitous then as its printing medium while being a compact printing device.

But Brother had purchased Pentax’s printing assets including the PocketJet thermal-printing technology in 2008 and started to use their branding in 2009on the PJ-5 series of these printers. Then they started to apply their innovations when they manufactured the PJ-6 series of these printers.

Here, this printer is slightly wider than the narrow edge of an A4 or Letter sheet of paper but as thick as a bar of Toblerone chocolate. This means that you could easily stash it in your laptop bag without it taking up much room.

Setup

Brother PJ-773 Wireless Mobile Thermal Printer right hand side connections

USB and power sockets on the right side of the printer

The Brother PJ-773 printer is capable of operating on a lithium-ion battery pack or on an external power supply which would be the supplied AC adaptor. But you can purchase through Brother one of two DC adaptors that allow you to use it in your vehicle – one that plugs in to the vehicle’s cigar-lighter socket and one that is capable of being directly wired to the vehicle’s electrical-accessories wiring.

I have set up the Brother PJ-773 thermal mobile printer with my regular Windows computer and used software that was downloaded from Brother’s Website rather than the CD-supplied software. This software worked properly first time and found the printer over the USB connection.

Wi-Fi setup

Brother PJ-773 Wireless Mobile thermal printer printing mechanism

Very small print mechanism due to thermal printing technology

The Brother PJ-773 printer is capable of being set up to work with a Wi-Fi network. This means that it can either work as its own Wi-Fi access point or it can be part of a small Wi-Fi network or a large enterprise-grade Wi-Fi network. It also is future-proof where you can use the printer with an IPv6 network which is becoming the way to go.

You have to configure it for your network by connecting it to a regular Windows or Macintosh computer via USB and running the USB Device Settings Tool program. The only exception is if you are connecting the printer to a Wi-Fi router or access point that uses WPS “push-to-connect” setup where you hold down the Wi-Fi button on the printer for 5 seconds to instigate this setup routine at the printer.

This also applies if you wish to switch your Brother PJ-773 printer between using an existing Wi-Fi network or creating its own Wi-Fi network. Here, you have to determine whether to use “Wireless Direct” for the printer to be its own access point or “Infrastructure” for it to be a part of an existing network.

Printing

Brother PJ-773 Wireless Mobile Thermal Printer alongside Windows test printout that it printed

Slightly smaller than the A4 printed page that it turns out

The Brother PJ-773 had worked properly with Windows 10 and with Android using both the Mopria printing abilities and the Brother iPront&Scan printing app. The latter situation may not work properly if you are using the Wireless Direct printing setup because the Android iPront&Scan software is dependent on an Internet connection for rasterising the documents for printing.

If you want to see the document come out more sharply, you may have to increase the density settings in the driver or app to see something darker.

I completed a document-copy test involving a multifunction printer to see how documents would turn out when copied using one of these printers. This included whether the thermal paper used for this printer would misfeed through an automatic document feeder which is common with multifunction printers offered to the business market. The reason I performed thsi test is because one could copy or scan a “print-and-sign” document as part of their workflow, such as to scan an invoice or repair quote for tax or insurance purposes; and is being underscored by the common “print, sign, scan, email” workflow underscored with the Internet and email.

Here,  I used the previously-reviewed Brother MFC-J5720DW business multi-function inkjet printer to perform these tests and printed the document using default settings for the PJ-773 and copied it using the default settings for the MFC-J5720DW. The thermal-paper original passed through the automatic document feeder on the multifunction without any problems while I found that a standard text document could copy properly on default settings. With some documents, you may have to increase the copy density on the MFC or copier if they come out a bit pale.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Brother PJ-773 Wireless Mobile Thermal Printer could benefit from improvements as far as Wi-Fi setup is concerned.

Firstly, it could benefit from a hardware switch on the printer itself that allows you to select between Infrastructure or Wireless-Direct operation so you can have it work with an existing wireless network or as its own network without having to go through the rigmarole of connecting it to a regular computer via USB and running a configuration app to perform this switchover.

As well, it could support a “wireless repeater” mode like some mobile NAS units such as the WD MyPassport Wireless mobile NAS so you can have access to an Internet-supporting Wi-Fi network and the printer’s access point network at the same time. For setup in Wireless Direct mode, the Brother PJ-773 could implement WPS-PBC “push-to-connect” as a way of establishing a connection between it and a Windows or Android client device.

Brother could improve on the Pocket Jet direct-thermal printing platform by supporting duplex printing with suitable double-sided paper. This can appeal to applications where you need to turn out a 2-page document without needing to feed through two sheets of paper.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

I find that the Brother PJ-773 Wireless Mobile Thermal Printer earns its keep with basic “on-the-road” transactional printing from both regular computers and mobile devices. This is more so if you are turning out a receipt, invoice or similar document which only covers up to two A4 or letter pages. You may have to use the paper-roll kit of you expect to torn out a document with many pages at a time.

For best results, I would recommend thay you run the printer with the image density setting on 6 or 8. Here, you can have documents that last a long time and can be copied easily on most multi-function printers without any need to configure them. You could use the premium “20-year” paper to turn out legal-requirement documents such as safety and compliance certificates associated with installation work, or for tax invoices in those jurisdictions where you have to keep tax documents for over five years.

Similarly, it may be worth bargaining in the cut-sheet paper guide if you expect to use your Brother PJ-773 to frequently print multi-page documents. Buying the ruggedised carry case with integrated roll-paper holder may make for a practical no-fuss “ready-to-print” option for your briefcase.

On the other hand, you may have to use a Canon or HP mobile inkjet printer if you are expecting to turn out many pages at a time and place emphasis on on-demand colour or greyscale printing such as printing of photos, or you value a choice of media for “on-the-road” applications.

Therefore I would consider the Brother PJ-773 Wireless Mobile Thermal Printer as a tool for tradesmen and other mobile workers to have in their mobile office.

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Product Review–Brother DCP-J562DW Inkjet Multifunction Printer

Introduction

I am reviewing Brother’s DCP-J562DW network multifunction printer which is their latest in their lineup of compact entry-level multifunction printers.

This printer is the  successor to the previously-reviewed Brother DCP-J552DW printer and uses the same inks as the MFC-J5720DW and other Brother printers released this year. There is a fax-equipped variant in the form of the MFC-J680DW which can serve well as a replacement for that old thermal-transfer fax machine that you use at home.

Photo – Insert high-resolution photo of product INLINE

Brother DCP-J562DW multifunction printer positioning image

 

Print Scan Copy Paper Trays Connections
Colour Colour Colour / B/W 1 x A4
1 x 4×6” photo
USB 2.0
Piezoelectric Ink-jet Resolution ID copy
Optimised book copy
Manual Bypass 802.11g/n Wi-Fi wireless
Auto-duplex multi-purpose tray Others out of box or option
List IPv6 for all machines that can work on an IPv6 network

Prices

Printer

DCP-J562DW: AUD$129

MFC-J680DW (fax-equipped): AUD$159

Inks and Toners

Standard High-Capacity
Price Pages Price Pages
Black  AUD$33.95 300  AUD$46.45 550
Cyan  AUD$19.45 300  AUD$30.50 550
Magenta  AUD$19.45 300  AUD$30.50 550
Yellow  AUD$19.45 300  AUD$30.50 550

 

The printer itself

At first glance, the Brother DCP-J562DW appears to be a compact printer and I even found that it is slightly deeper than an A4 page positioned vertically and has a footprint that is slightly smaller than an A3 page. This would place it in a similar league to the original HP Envy printers when it comes to how much bench space it would occupy.

Connectivity

The Brother DCP-J562DW printer can connect directly to your computer via USB or to your home network via Wi-Fi wireless. Like most of Brother’s inkjet printers, the USB cable is snaked around to a port within the printer rather than an ordinary USB port on the back. I was so amazed about how reliable it is when handling the wireless connection especially if it is placed at the fringe of your home network’s Wi-Fi coverage.

Paper handling

The Brother DCP-J562DW uses the traditional paper-feed arrangement rather than the newer landscape paper feed. There is also a bypass slot for you to put gloss paper in the back of the printer but this requires you to use one sheet at a time.

It is also worth knowing that there is a mezzanine drawer in the paper cassette so you can load a small stack of 4”x6” snapshot paper or index cards. This is pitched more at householders that want to print out snapshots from their phones or digital cameras,

Walk-up functions

The control panel clicks to the chosen operating angle yet can be folded back without you needing to operate a latch to do so. This makes for a simplified operation experience that suits most users, especially older users who may find operating these latches difficult.

I have copied a few documents including some pages from books and this printer has turned them out relatively accurately. Like most scanners, it still has a problem with newsprint by causing the “other side” of the newsprint and other thin paper to come through in the copy. The lid is hinged in such a way as to allow you to copy bound documents easily without these documents slipping or the document’s binding being damaged.

It can be difficult to gain access to the “advanced copy” functions because you have to select the functions under the “Options” menu. Here, the printer could implement one-touch access to some of these functions like what is achieved with some of the models that are higher up in the range.

There is also the ability to print from or scan to a memory card courtesy of a memory-card slot located on the left of the display behind a flap.

As for online services, the Brother DCP-J562DW supports mobile and online service in a similar manner to what the rest of Brother’s network-capable printers offer. This includes print from and scan to the popular online services, Apple AirPrint, Google; and these services can allow multiple-user enrollment as I have previously mentioned with similar products

Computer functions

Normally, when I review a printer, I try to download the software from the manufacturer’s Website. This is to obtain the latest code and also to find out how well it installs if you are loading it on to a computer that isn’t equipped with an optical drive. Here, I needed to use the supplied CD because the downloadable software came through with file-inconsistency errors for the compressed “file of files”. An alternative way to go about this would be for the installation software to be kept on the printer and for users to download it via a machine-hosted Web page for network setups or a USB Mass-Storage Device for local-connection setups.

Once I had got the driver software in to my computer, the user interface was very consistent and similar with other Brother printers. The ControlCenter scan application could benefit from a few tweaks such as being able to split and merge documents and could even support “poster-style” scanning.

Print speed and quality

The Brother DCP-J562DW turns out sharp printouts as expected for a typical home inkjet printer and the printout speed is similar for that kind of product.

The photo quality is very similar to the Brother MFC-J5720DW stablemate which uses the same print engine, with the proper contrast, brightness and definition. But the colour saturation was reduced and the skin tones in the group photograph came across more natural rather than being redder. This is a situation that I still find Brother working hard at where HP, Canon and Epson are “running ahead” with printers that are pitched for “photo-grade” printing, especially when these brands use extra colours like “photo black” or “grey” along with the standard colours.

The improvements that Brother had done with keeping a stable Wi-Fi connection have allowed this printer to turn out larger print runs even though it is on the edge of a wireless home network.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

This printer has Wi-Fi as its only connection to the network which is a trend affecting low-end personal/home multifunction printers and their network connectivity. But I would like to still see an Ethernet connection, even as a user-installable aftermarket option, or integrated HomePlug AV500 / AV2 powerline network functionality so as to cater for difficult setups.

Personally, I would like to have all the Brother inkjet printers that are based on a particular engine or design and use a particular ink-cartridge range use all of the ink cartridge sizes that are in that range. This can reduce the need for you to think of particular cartridge sizes for particular printers especially if you purchase machines using that design.

Another feature I would like to see implemented across the board would be the landscape printing because this can lead towards a highly-compact printer that turns out the documents quickly.

Similarly, Brother could take a few cues from what HP had done with the Envy printers and the high-end Photosmart printers to design equipment that excels at aesthetics especially if they want to target such equipment for use in the main household living areas like the kitchen or family room.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

I would recommend the Brother DCP-J562DW inkjet multifunction printer or the MFC-J680DW fax-equipped variant as an option to seriously consider for a light-duty home printer.

One key application I would definitely place it for is a secondary printer to keep in the kitchen, the upstairs study or the bungalow (granny flat); or a machine that you give to your oldest child when they approach their senior secondary school or college years.

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Epson moves away from razor-and-blades model for selling printers

Article

Epson EcoTank ET-L355 printer press picture courtesy of Epson Europe

Epson EcoTank ET-L355 printer

Epson: Cheap printers, expensive ink? Let’s turn that upside down | The Register

From the horse’s mouth

Epson UK

Product Page

Press Release

Epson USA

Product Page

My Comments

Epson is running a lineup of inkjet printers that break the rule of how inkjet printers are sold. Typically these printers are sold at a cheap price with the cost made up in how much you pay for the consumables.

But this lineup of piezo inkjet printers is sold at a premium and comes with 2 years worth of ink along with high-capacity ink tanks. The desktop printers use a box on the side for housing the ink tanks and use a similar pipe system to recent HP OfficeJet, Brother and other Epson printers. It is also driven by Epson’s experience in industrial inkjet printing presses and wide-format printers.

Epson EcoTank ET-L555 office printer press picture courtesy of Epson Europe

Epson EcoTank ET-L555 office printer

Models already available in the UK sell at £299.99 including VAT for the premium ET-L555 office model that has an automatic document feeder and £219.99 for the home model without the automatic document feeder. The ET-2500 will go for US$379 while the ET-4550 which has all the features will go for US$499 in the US.

Personally, I would like to see Epson offer the EcoTank or SuperTank high-capacity printing as a user-installable option for some regular office inkjet printers so that those of us who want to push these printers as short-run printing presses can do so.

Similarly, using the EcoTank system along with quality-optimised printing for promotional material could raise the concept of having that desktop printer earn its keep as an organisational short-run printing press. Oh yeah, you should know where to obtain replacement ink for these printers and refill their ink tanks promptly to avoid airlocks.

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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–Brother MFC-J5720DW Multifunction Inkjet Printer

Introduction

I am reviewing the Brother MFC-J5720DW multifunction inkjet printer which is the second generation of Brother’s landscape-printing A4/Letter inkjet printers. It still has the compact form factor of these printers and can be set up to print on A3/Ledger paper by you either using the feed tray on the back of the printer or elongating one of the paper drawers.

IMG_2398 Brother MFC-J5720DW

Print Scan Copy Fax /
E-mail
Paper Trays Connections
Colour Colour Colour / B/W Colour 2 x A4 USB 2.0
Piezoelectric ink-jet Resolution ID copy
Optimised book copy,
App-driven cropping
Super G3 Options Ethernet,
802.11g/n Wi-Fi
Auto-duplex Single-pass duplex ADF T.37, T.38, other email-based transmission and reception Multi-purpose tray – A3 IPv6 dual-stack

Prices

Printer

The machine’s standard price: AUD$299 Recommended Retail Price

Inks and Toners

Standard High-Capacity
Price Pages Price Pages
Black AUD$40.95 550 AUD$54.95 2400
Cyan AUD$26.95 550 AUD$31.95 1200
Magenta AUD$26.95 550 AUD$31.95 1200
Yellow AUD$26.95 550 AUD$31.95 1200

 

The printer itself

A highly compact printer

A highly compact printer

The Brother MFC-J5720DW and the MFC-J5320DW come across as being a highly compact printer that doesn’t take up much desk space. This is thanks to the landscape printing inkjet mechanism which works on the long edge of the sheet of A4 or Letter paper. It also lets them print on to A3 or Ledger paper which can come in handy with signs and other similar work.

The model I am reviewing is the MFC-J5370DW which has as its extra features a single-pass double-sided scanner as well as an extra tray whereas the cheaper MFC-J5320DW omits these features.

Setup

Up-front ink cartridges

Up-front ink cartridges

The printer is capable of being connected to a Wi-Fi wireless network with WPS setup or an Ethernet network and I chose the latter more for reliability and the fact that it is better to connect printers that are normally sessile to a network via a wired connectioni.e. Cat5 Ethernet, HomePlug AV or MoCA.

The printer, like other recent Brother inkjets, requires you to lift the lid to connect it to a computer or wired network. This can be confusing but allows you to have it tightly against a wall.

Everything about this printer was simple when it came to getting it going for the first time. This included installing ink cartridges which are located up front.

Walk-up functions

Loaded view - with document in ADF and printed output.

Loaded view – with document in ADF and printed output.

The copying function comes through easily because of the use of “one-touch” access to the common copying jobs. The copies come out very sharp and clear but you may miss a few millimetres at the edge and this shows up when I was doing a test ID-copy on a hotel keycard, and this can exasperate users who put documents to the edge to make sure they square up when copying off the platen. Even a duplex copy went according to plan with both sides coming through properly and quickly. Here it achieves the speed goal by scanning to memory before printing.

USB socket and SD card slot

USB socket and SD card slot

It has the card slots so you can quickly print from camera cards or USB thumbdrives if you just want that picture or document “there and then”.

It has access to mobile printing services like Google Cloud Print and Apple AirPrint along with the ability to print from online services like Dropbox, Evernote and Facebook. This is through an interface that Brother has set up for these devices and it allows you to have multiple accounts of the same service set up.

Computer functions

The driver software installed properly as long as you specified the model that was being installed and there was the “at-a-glance” layout for driver settings. They also use the ControlCenter scanner software which could benefit from the ability to reorder pages when you are scanning multiple documents or creating a “document-of-documents” PDF file.

Brother still maintains the ability to load ink cartridges from the front of the printer like they have done with most of their inkjet printers. This makes for an easy-to-use printer. The only let-down is that they are using newer cartridges which may be disappoint people who are upgrading from previous generations of Brother inkjet printer but have extra cartridges for their older equipment..

The multipurpose tray was a bit hard to use because of the effective availability of two trays as part if this tray. This can confuse anyone who wants to use the multipurpose tray to print a few sheets of paper.

Print Speed and Quality

I had this printer turn out a large report on both sides of the paper and it didn’t falter through the print job which is an example of a typical office print job. The landscape printing was able to help with improving the printing speed.

Regular documents came out of the Brother MFC-J5720DW with the same sharpness that is expected for office documents and this didn’t matter whether the printer was working single-sided or double-sided.

It comes across with the saturation for business graphics but could do a bit better when working with plain paper. This was from what I observed with a “carols by candlelight” bulletin for the church I go to and I showed my printout of that same bulletin to my pastor who had colour printouts of it done by a local Officeworks and he reckoned that it didn’t have the same as what they provided.

I printed out some test photographs on Kodak paper and had still noticed proper contrast, brightness and definition. But it still came across with a yellow tinge which may not play well with some pictures which may impair colour fidelity. This is although there is the strong colour saturation which may be desireable to make marketing materials “pop”. In my opinion, it is getting closer to the HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 Series but doesn’t overthrow it when it comes to a business inkjet printer that has marketing-collateral printing prowess.

Compared to the previous generation of Brother landscape-printing inkjet printers, the MFC-J5720DW and its peers have made better strides in print quality for photos and other similar material.

Limitations and Points Of Improvements

There are still some improvements that Brother could apply to the MFC-J5720DW and its peers.

One would be to improve the colour fidelity so that photos don’t come out with a heavy yellow tinge but come out with a proper amount of yellow. As well, Brother could still keep up the work with optimising their colour inkjet and laser printers to turn out the quality needed for them to become the short-run printing press for small organisations.

The mechanism can be improved by the use of an output shelf that isn’t integrated in to the paper cassette. This can allow for improvements like a self-retracting output shelf or one that comes out when a print job is being turned out.

Similarly, Brother could implement in to their business inkjet printers an A4 paper cassette which has a mezzanine shelf for 4”x6” paper like photo snapshots or index cards.

As for the on-machine user interface, it doesn’t come up to the standard of the MFC-L8850CDW colour laser multifunction which has a screen that is very large and useable or the HP business inkjets with their large touchscreens. Here, Brother could improve on this with a large LCD or OLED touchscreen for their inkjet printers. For that matter, printer manufacturers could try implementing OLED display technology on their printer’s control surface in a similar manner to what is being used on a lot of Android smartphones.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

I would consider the Brother MFC-J5720 multifunction inkjet printer as a all-round office printer for a home office or other small office. It can even satisfy short-run promotional printing needs very easily like turning out proofs or small infill jobs. If you want to save money and can do without the duplex scanning or second paper tray, the MFC-J5320 can satisfy your needs.

Update – Further conversation with a fellow user

After this review was published and I had promoted the review on LinkedIn, a church pastor had let me know that he had bought this same printer for his home office before I had run this review. I had subsequent conversation with him about his experience with this machine and he has enjoyed using it and took advantage of its A3-printing ability to turn out notices for his church’s noticeboard.

He found that it is of better value to use the higher-capacity cartridges especially if you are turning out a lot of A3 material. He also reckoned that the A3-printing feature would end up suiting small community organisations who need to print up material for their noticeboards.

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