Category: Product Review

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.

Send to Kindle

Product Review–Braven Mira Bluetooth speaker

Introduction

I am reviewing the Braven Mira which is a small single-piece portable Bluetooth speaker that is designed for use in the bathroom or kitchen. This circular speaker is designed to be water resistant so it can be used in the shower or near the sink and has a kickstand that can double as a hook to hang over the showerhead or something similar.
Braven Mira Bluetooth speaker

Price

The unit itself:

RRP including tax: AUD$129

Form Factor

Single-piece speaker

Connections

Input Count as for a device
Audio Line Input
(connect a tape deck, CD player, etc)
1 x 3.5mm stereo socket
Digital Audio Input Bluetooth
Network
Bluetooth A2DP and Hands-Free Profile with NFC setup

Speakers

Output Power Watts (RMS, FTC or other honest standard) per channel Stereo
Speaker Layout 1 2 full-range drivers
1 passive radiator

The unit itself

The Braven Mira is a circular portable Bluetooth speaker pitched for use in the bathroom, kitchen, laundry or pool area. This is due to it being water-resistant to IPx5 standards which means that it can survive water splashes or rainfall. But you have to make sure nothing is plugged in to it and that the cap covering the sockets on the side is closed properly.

Braven Mira Bluetooth speaker with kickstand

The C-shape kickstand that doubles as a hook

It also has a C-shaped kickstand that allows it to become a hook so you can hang it on a shower head, a tap (faucet) or door knob. This allows for versatile positioning options that suit your needs perfectly.

Like other Braven Bluetooth speakers, the Mira has four main operating controls with two that double as volume / track navigation controls. To make the speaker discoverable for pairing, you have to hold the PLAY button until the speaker makes a repeated beep tone. It doesn’t support NFC “touch-and-go” paring for “open-frame” (Android and Windows) personal-computing devices.

A feature that is very common on this class of speaker is that the Braven Mira can serve as a speakerphone for whenever you want to talk hands-free on the phone or engage in a videocall.

I have used the speaker with my phone and when I have run it at the maximum level, it sounds very similar to a small radio. You wouldn’t expect high-quality sound from a speaker like this one or any of its peers but it is loud enough to fill a small room.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

Personally, I would like to see Braven add two extra buttons to the Mira for track selection rather than you holding down the volume buttons to change tracks. This can avoid operational mistakes when you skip a song when you intend to turn it down. As well, the controls could be embossed more distinctively so you can identify them at a touch especially if you are having to contend with shampoo in your eyes.

Like with some of their other Bluetooth speaker products, Braven could offer variants that have an integrated broadcast-radio tuner so they can serve as ordinary portable radios.

Conclusion

I would still see the Braven Mira earn its keep as a multipurpose utility speaker that you can use with your phone, tablet or 2-in-1 especially if these devices don’t put up much in the way of sound output for your needs.

Send to Kindle

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.

Send to Kindle

Product Review–Plantronics Backbeat Pro Bluetooth noise-cancelling headset

Introduction

I am reviewing the Plantronics Backbeat Pro Bluetooth noise-cancelling headset which is my first attempt at reviewing a headset equipped with two key features: Bluetooth wireless connectivity and active noise cancelling.

The former feature links to mobile devices and laptop computers via Bluetooth wireless technology while the latter detects noise associated with transport or fans using microphones and applies a “counter-noise” to this noise through the headset’s speakers. When you listen to program content or take a call, the sound from the external device such as the music or your caller’s voice is mixed in with the aforementioned “counter-noise” so you can hear that sound more clearly.

Plantronics BackBeat Pro Bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones

Price

RRP:  AUD$349 (Street price AUD$299)

Type

Headphone Assembly Traditional over-the-head
Driver Positioning Circum-aural (over the ear with sound-containing foam wall)
Driver Enclosure Closed Back
Microphone Position Integrated microphone
Connectivity
Headset 3.5mm headset socket wired for Apple (CTIA)
Bluetooth
– A2DP audio with aptX
– Headset Profile
– Handsfree Profile with HD Voice
– Multipoint for 2 devices
Adaptors 3.5mm four-conductor headset cable

The headset itself

Connectivity and Usability

I was able to pair the Plantronics BackBeat Pro headset with my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 smartphone very quickly – this supported NFC-based pairing which is currently implemented in Android only. But with devices that don’t support it, you can start the pairing process without needing to hold down a button on the headset.  There is support for multipoint use with a simplified call-handling experience where you just touch one button to answer calls from any phone.

Plantronics BackBeat Pro Bluetooth noise-cancelling headset - right side earcup

Right side earcup with volume control and call handling button on earpiece

There is a 3.5mm four-conductor headset jack which connects to your device via a supplied cord that is wired for CTIA / Apple setups. This overrides the Bluetooth headset functionality so you can use the Backbeat in an airliner.

It is powered via an integrated rechargeable battery that lasts a long time – you could get a day or more out of the headset’s battery life when you are using it as a Bluetooth headset or as an active-noise-reduction headset with another device.

Plantronics BackBeat Pro Bluetooth noise-cancelling headset - right earcup

Left-side earcup with track navigation toggle, play-pause button on earcup and noise-cancellation switch

The controls are easy to discover with a large ring on the right earpiece to adjust the sound volume, a large ring on the left earpiece to move between tracks, a large button on the left earpiece for playing and pausing music and a large button on the right earpiece for handling calls. The power and noise-cancel slide switches are easy to discover and locate with the former on the right earpiece and the latter on the left earpiece.

Plantronics BackBeat Pro headset - sockets

Connectivity options – USB charging socket and 3.5mm headset input jack (wired for Apple / CTIA)

There is a motion sensor that starts and stops your music device when you put the headphones on and take them off. But this can be very erratic in some situations such as a rough road or rail ride or sometimes even putting them on a table and subsequently picking them up has me find that they start playing too early. A supplied configuration program can be used to adjust this function but I would prefer a hardware switch to enable and disable this function.

Comfort and Durability

The Plantronics Backbeat Pro has the same kind of comfort level expected for most circum-aural headsets and could be worn for a significant amount of time. You could feel that they were there without it feeling as though they are crushing on your head and the padded headband provided that feeling as if they were just there.

Plantronics BackBeat Pro Bluetooth noise-cancelling headset

Cloth speaker grilles assure comfortable long-time use

The ear surrounds even didn’t come across as something that could end up being sweaty. As well, your ears rest on foam cushioning with cloth lining the earpiece areas so as to allow for increased comfort. Here you even have the sides that each earcup represents written on the cloth lining itself. The only comfort tradeoff you may find with the Plantronics BackBeat Pro and its peers is that due to their hard construction, they may feel uncomfortable to use when you are sleeping if you sleep with your head on your side.

As for build quality, I would expect them to last a long time. This is through the use of durable design practices like thicker plastic and placing a plastic conduit which houses the cabling between the earpieces against an aluminium strip.

Sound

I was able to run the Plantronics Backbeat Pro headset at lower volumes while the sound is still audible which makes for a headset that is designed with efficient drivers. This would then allow for the headset to run on its own batteries for a long time yet be useable.

Music

The music came through loud and clear and with that desirable amount of bass response. I even disabled any equalisation curves in my media player and any in my phone to identify whether the bass response was there without the need for added equalisation and found that these headphones still delivered the punch in the music.

Video and Games

The Plantronics Backbeat Pro has come up trumps with video content in that it was able to yield clear dialogue and give punch to those effects. I was even keeping an ear out for effects like gunshots or vehicle moment while watching Kurt Wallander because they are the kind of effects used in some of the games liked by “core” gamers and they came through with that desirable punch.

Communications use

I have made and taken a few phone calls using the Plantronics Backbeat Pro Bluetooth headset and have noticed that the conversation came through clearly for both myself and the caller. I also tried the headset a few times with Google Now and the voice assistant could parse what I was saying easily. The headset call button worked as expected with the ability to tap twice to call the last number or tap and hold to invoke Google Now or Siri depending on your mobile device.

Noise reduction and handling in noisy environments

I used the Plantronics Backbeat Pro headset in the back of a transit bus and had noticed some level of noise reduction when the bus was at speed and was able to hear my music content more clearly.

Active Noise Cancelling

The Active Noise Cancelling function is available when the headset is switched on and can work either with a wired connection or the Bluetooth connection. Here, you then enable it using a slide switch on the left earpiece and can notice the difference.

Here, the rumbling associated with trains and the like is cancelled out using so-called anti-noise. There was a noticeable difference when I used it on the train in Melbourne’s City Loop because I heard very little of the rumbling associated with through-tunnel train travel but could have my music at a decent volume. The experience was also the same when I used this headset in a few different transit buses and the noise from the engine was significantly reduced. As well the noise-cancelling function had no effect on the BackBeat Pro’s bass response. In some situations, I could hear the destination announcements that were called over the train’s intercom or a radio station played over a rail-replacement charter bus’s sound system more clearly and intelligibly even if I had my music going.

The only problem with using Active Noise Cancelling is that if you want to simply just run that functionality without the headset working with another audio device, you have to plug something in to the 3.5mm jack to override the Bluetooth transceiver. This may be of annoyance for those of you who are trying to sleep on the overnight train or that night flight or use the Active Noise Cancelling to effectively mute out the air-conditioner’s noise while trying to go to sleep..

Limitations

The active noise cancelling function  could be set up to run independent of Bluetooth operation or having the headphone cable plugged in. This could be handy when you are in a noisy environment without needing to deal with a cable that can entangle you. An example of this could be to claw some sleep when you are in the plane or in a motel room where there is a noisy old air-conditioner.

The microUSB charging socket on this headset could be set up to work as a way to connect the headset to a computer and have it serve as a USB audio sound device for that computer. The controls could also be mapped through as USB Human Interface Device controls for multimedia and telephony use. This would earn its keep when you are on the plane and using a laptop which is set up for “flight mode”, or are using the headset with a desktop computer for online communications and gaming, especially as traditional “three-piece” desktop computers don’t necessarily support Bluetooth.

The Plantronics Backbeat Pro could benefit from a hardware switch to enable or disable the sensors that allow it to play or stop the music source if you take the headset off. This can be of importance where the ride is bumpy and this function could be susceptible to false triggering.

As well, the headphone cord could benefit from a switch which selects between OMTP / Apple (CTIA) headset wiring mode. This is because not all mobile phones and communications devices are wired for CTIA (Apple) mode and you may want to make sure that your BackBeat Pro could work with anything your present to.

As for adaptors, the Plantronics Backbeat Pro Bluetooth headset missed out on an inflight-entertainment adaptor which is considered abnormal for a noise-cancelling headset that would be typically used in an aeroplane.

Conclusion

I would recommend the Plantronics BackBeat Pro for those of you who value a Bluetooth noise-cancelling travel headset that excels on usability especially when you use your smartphone as a music player when you are travelling on public transport. As well, it would earn its keep with those of you who aren’t necessarily after the fashionable headset brands but are really after something that does the job.

If you do need to use this headset as an active-noise-reduction headset without the use of any program-source device, you could use a 3.5mm plug which you could purchase from an electronics store and plug this in to the audio jack on the headset.

Send to Kindle

Product Review–Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Android tablet

Introduction

I am reviewing the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Android tablet which is styled on the same look as Lenovo’s Yoga lineup of “fold-over” convertible laptops. This 10” tablet is pitched more as a something that would appeal to home users and businesses who want something that can answer the Apple iPad.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 tablet

Price
– reviewed configuration
AUD$249
Screen 10” (1920×1200) LED-backlit LCD
User Memory 16Gb Micro SD card
Operating environment Android 4.2 Jelly Bean (reviewed version)
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/n dual-band
Wireless Broadband Optional or standard
Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready
USB MicroUSB OTG
Audio 3.5mm stereo jack

The unit itself

Aesthetics and build quality

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 standing up

How it looks standing up

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 tablet is an example of a tablet that has strong build quality with metal housing. As well, the Lenovo doesn’t exhibit any problems with overheating even if you are watching video content.

The integrated kickstand works properly and smoothly allowing it to be free-standing and could support applications like an electronic display frame. As well, the Yoga Tablet 2’s “hinge-pin” which is part of the kickstand is used effectively for the audio jack and for the on-off button.

Display

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 tablet

Sharp display

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 comes across with a bright sharp display that is very responsive but it is very glossy which is something common with a lot of consumer tablets. It has performed well for video material and also for games.

Audio

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 implements Dolby audio tuning in conjunction with the two inbuilt speakers that are positioned far apart thus allowing for improved stereo separation when you are watching video material. But, like with a lot of tablets, they come across with sound that has very little bass response.

Connectivity and Expandability

Hinge pin detail on the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2

The headphone jack is positioned in the centre of the hinge pin

The only data port that the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 has is the microUSB charge / data port like what is expected on most Android phones. Here, this one also supports USB On-The-Go connectivity which provides for extra storage connectivity with USB flash-drives and memory-card adaptors at least. The omission here would be that it doesn’t support connectivity to external displays via MHL technology.

As for storage beyond the 16Gb flash memory, there is the ability to install a microSD card in a cavity behind the kickstand for this extra storage. There is also a 3.5mm stereo headset jack in the “hinge pin” so you can connect your headphones to the Yoga Tablet 2.

As for wireless networking, the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 works to 802.11n dual-band Wi-Fi networking along with Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready connectivity.

Performance

A friend of mine has a soft spot for Plants vs Zombies 2  on the iOS platform, so I downloaded the Android port of this game and gave him a chance to play a few rounds of this game on the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2. Here, his experience with device performance was very similar to what he experienced on an iPad 3 Retina which he was regularly playing the game on. There was still the same level of responsiveness that was required for that game.

As for video play, the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 worked properly for YouTube playback and wasn’t draining the batteries even after a three-hour Microsoft video presentation about WIndows 10.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

Lenovo could offer an increased number of model variations of its Yoga Tablet 2. This could be in the form of a model that has increased storage capacity, a high-performance “gamer-grade” model that suits the new wave of mobile gaming along with one or more models that are equipped with integrated wireless broadband. This means that people can choose the model that suits their needs rather than being stuck with one model.

As well, to be considered up-to-date, Lenovo could implement 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless technology and deliver the Yoga Tablet 2 with Android 5 Lollipop.

Conclusion

Android-based lifestyle tablet

I would position the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 as a viable Android-based alternative to the iPad, especially if you want something that can be freestanding especially for showing pictures or engaging in videocalls. Here, I would best describe it as an Android-based lifestyle tablet.

Send to Kindle

Product Review–Brother PT-E550WVP handheld label writer

I am reviewing the Brother PT-E550WVP TZe-compliant handheld label writer which is pitched at electricians, AV and IT technicians and similar folk who work with different equipment.  This ranges from those who work out of the back of their trucks or vans to the maintenance and IT departments of different workplaces.

One feature that it has beyond the typical label writer is that it can work with other computer equipment via an existing Wi-Fi network segment or its own Wi-FI network. This allows for you to order labels on your smartphone or tablet and have it turn them out.

Brother PT-E550WVP handheld label writer

Price: AUD$329 Recommended Retail Price

The unit itself

Brother PT-E550WVP label writer with back removed

Where to install the battery and the label tape

The Brother PT-E550WVP label writer is a large handheld device which has a heavy-duty build and an orange-and-grey housing. It is equipped with a large dot-matrix backlit LCD display that lights up when you are actually using the device, along with a rubberised keyboard.

To load the batteries or label tapes in to this label writer, you have to remove the back cover from this unit by pressing a latch on the top edge. Here. you have clearly-identified compartments at each end of the device for the batteries of the tape.

It has what some people may describe as a “three-way” power supply arrangement where you can run it on mains power courtesy of a supplied AC adaptor/charger, a supplied rechargeable lithium-ion battery or 6 AA alkaline batteries of the Duracell kind. This means that even if you run out of power from the rechargeable battery while on the road, you can go to the convenience store and buy some batteries to complete that labelling project. Here, charging the unit’s lithium-ion battery pack is simple as plugging the unit in to mains power using the supplied AC adaptor.

Functionality

Brother PT-E550WVP label writer keyboard

Rubberised keyboard with accent selector

The Brother PT-E550WVP label writer is based on Brother’s TZe label-cassette platform which means that it can work with all of Brother’s TZe label products which suit different purposes. This includes their HSe series of heat-shrink label tubes that you use to attach to cables.

This label writer has quick access to label templates that are optimised for labelling cables, patch-bays, outlets and the like which can make it an electrician’s or maintenance engineer’s best friend.

As for on-device data entry, the large display makes it easy to see what you are typing in on the unit’s QWERTY-layout rubber-membrane keyboard. The disadvantage with this keyboard is that all the keys are “bunched-up” together rather than spaced out like a calculator’s keyboard. This can be awkward for some users, but you can at least feel which keys are which because each key on the main keyboard has a hemispheric “pimple” shape.

The label writer doesn’t feel extra top-heavy while you are entering text and it still has that comfortable hand-held feel that is expected of this class of device.

You have a dedicated accent key which can come in handy for entering the accents common in most of the Latin languages. This may also appeal to those of you who are learning foreign languages and use labels attached to items as a tool to reinforce your vocabulary. Here, you press the letter you want accented then press the accent key repeatedly until the desired accent appears. In the case of the “ß” used in the traditional German orthography, you type the S letter then press the accent key until the “ß” letter shows up.

As for the output quality, the labels come out of this machine very crisp and clear as has been expected for Brother’s thermal labellers.

You use the Menu and arrow keys to select the advanced functions like the network connectivity, cutting behaviour amongst other things. This leads me to the network connectivity which is one of its key features.

Connectivity

The Brother PT-E550WVP label writer can work as a label printer with a regular computer or a mobile device and can connect to the latter via Wi-Fi. This can be handy if you are wanting to run a batch of labels from your smartphone or tablet such as whenever you are out of the right label tape or you have left the label writer behind. Similarly, you can use this link to transfer databases or label templates created using the P-Touch software.

Brother PT-E550WVP label writer network operation menu screenshot

The user can select between direct Wi-Fi or a Wi-Fi network

This model has answered a problem that was exhibited by Brother’s PT-P750W Wi-Fi label printer where it would attempt to connect to the last Wi-Fi wireless network it used before working as a standalone Wi-Fi wireless device. Here, the user has to select whether to run the label writer as its own Wi-Fi network or have it join an existing Wi-Fi network by using the WLAN menu option on PT-E550WVP’s menu and selecting “Direct” for working as its own network and “Infrastructure” for working with an existing Wi-Fi network.

As for connecting via an existing Wi-Fi wireless network, you can connect this unit to Wi-Fi network segments that use WPS or classic WEP or WPA-Personal password setup methods. This typifies most Wi-Fi home or small-business networks but would preclude business networks that implement user-specific or device-specific authentication along with public hotspots that implement Web-based authentication.

Comments from other people

Brother PT-E550WVP label writerI showed the Brother PT-E550WVP label writer to a friend of mine who works as a maintenance electrician and let him have a play around with this device. He was impressed with this unit’s rugged design and ease of use. This was so much that he would suggest to his workplace to consider buying these labellers for the team he works with.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

A feature that may be considered nice to have for the PT-E550WP would be to allow the label writer’s keyboard to serve as an external keyboard for a tablet or smartphone. Similarly, this labeller could benefit from an optional car adaptor so it can be charged up from the vehicle’s cigar-lighter socket when you are driving between jobs or want to conserve battery power when you work out of the back of your van.

Similarly, Brother can improve on the display’s contrast to augment its useability. Here, they could implement display technologies like EL-backlit LCD displays or monochrome OLED displays which have a similar contrast to the vacuum-fluorescent displays but don’t consume as much power as those displays.

A function that could come in handy for people who use this label writer as part of IT support would be to print out the SSID and, perhaps, the password of the current network. This may be useful for preparing a network-configuration card to give to the network’s owner or attach the SSID to the router or access point they have configured.

Conclusion – Is it a tool or a toy?

The Brother PT-E550WVP handheld label writer earns its keep for tradesmen and maintenance departments who value a highly-durable label writer and want to have the ability to link it with their portable computing equipment whether now or in the future. Personally, I would consider this label writer to be a viable tool for these kind of users rather than a toy.

Send to Kindle

Product Review–Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

Introduction

I am reviewing the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon which is a 14” Ultrabook that has its housing built out of carbon fibre rather than plastic. Here, this computer is like most of the 13” ultraportable kind of computer but comes with a 14” screen and is the third generation of the X1 Carbon Ultrabook.

The review-sample computer came delivered with Windows 7 Professional but you can order it to be delivered with Windows 8.1. It is delivered with the latest Lenovo software for business laptops which means that it hasn’t come with the flaky Superfish software that was a security risk.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

Price
– this configuration
RRP AUD$1899
Form factor Regular laptop
Processor Intel Core i5-5200 extra cost
Intel Core i5-5300U
Intel Core i7-5500U
Intel Core i7-5600U
RAM 4 Gb RAM
extra cost 8Gb
shared with graphics
Secondary storage 128Gb solid-state drive,
extra cost
256Gb solid-state drive
Display Subsystem Intel HD 5500 integrated graphics Display memory in discrete options
Screen 14” screen
(Full HD 1080)
,
extra-cost:
14” screen (2560×1440), 14” touchscreen (2560×1440)
LED backlit LCD
Audio Subsystem Intel HD Audio
Network Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/n/ac dual-band 2 stream
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready
Modems Optional 3G wireless broadband modem
Connectivity USB USB 3.0 x 2 (1 with continuous supply)
High-speed connections eSATA, Thunderbolt, etc
Video DisplayPort, HDMI
Audio 3.5mm stereo audio input-output jack
Expansion
Authentication and Security Fingerprint reader, TPM
Operating System on supplied configuration Windows 7 Professional

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build Quality

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

A traditional business laptop

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook is scaled towards a traditional business-use marketplace. Thus it has the same aesthetics as the other ThinkPad laptops such as the dull-grey casing. But its thinness and lightness pitches it towards users who are travelling a lot and intend to do a lot of work on the road.

One limitation with the carbon fibre housing is that the grey case can easily look dirty after a fair bit of use and make the machine look a bit “too old”. There is nothing flimsy about the way the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is built which makes for a durable Ultrabook.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook thumbstick and trackpad

Thumbstick and trackpad as user interface

The heat output is focused around the top right edge of the unit’s base and was more noticeable during video playback. But this didn’t become too uncomfortable when I used it on my knees

User Interface

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon’s keyboard is of a width that is ideal for comfortable touch typing which I would describe as being important for this class of laptop.

There are two cursor-movement options for this notebook – a conventional trackpad and a thumbstick. I had not noticed any jumping around going on with either device even with using the keyboard, unlike some other laptops I have reviewed where this was a continuous problem.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook fingerprint reader

Fingerprint reader

This business Ultrabook is equipped with a fingerprint reader which I found was very accurate and reliable. This didn’t matter whether I had eaten some food which would cause oil to appear on my fingers, something which I consider important when testing these security devices because these computers end up being used in various “second offices” as in cafés and bars or on the island kitchen bench.

Audio and Video

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook Left-hand-side connections: Power, HDMI, DisplayPort, USB 3.0, headphones

Left-hand-side connections: Power, HDMI, DisplayPort, USB 3.0, headphones

The Lenovo’s display has worked in a manner that yields best resolution and even comes through properly with TV content that you may watch online. The screen has a matte look like what is expected for business equipment

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook Right-hand side connections: USB 3.0, micro-Ethernet port

Right-hand side connections: USB 3.0, micro-Ethernet port

I never place a high expectation on a laptop’s internal speakers but it has performed adequately through them. But I would use a headset or external speakers if you want the best out if its sound.

Connectivity, Storage and Expansion

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon comes with a 128Gb solid-state disk as standard but you can pay more for a 256Gb solid-state drive. This allows for very quick response and is something you could get away with for “on-the-road” use whether you use an external hard disk for extra data storage or not.

Sadly this computer misses the SD card slot which is something I would consider as being very important for those of us who own digital cameras or camcorders. Here, you would either have to “tether” the camera or use a USB SD card reader to transfer the pictures or footage to the solid-state drive.

There are two USB 3.0 sockets with one being able to charge gadgets from the Lenovo when it is off using the Toshiba-style “plug-and-charge” setup. As well, there is an HDMI connection to connect to most video devices along with a DisplayPort connector for the good monitors and projectors.

The network abilities in this laptop are up-to-date even catering for 802.11ac wireless-network segments. There is a Gigabit Ethernet connection for you to use with an Ethernet or HomePlug powerline wired-network segment but you have to use the supplied rnet plug adaptor to plug the Ethernet cable in to the Ultrabook’s small low-profile Ethernet socket.

Battery life

The Lenovo is very economical on battery life even for viewing video content, which means that you could be able to get more than a day out of it without needing to dig out the charger. This is although I would still keep the charger with me if I was travelling as well as “topping up the battery” overnight.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

As an Ultrabook for business use, I didn’t come across with many limitations except for the price and the absence of an SD card reader.

Similarly, Lenovo could work on the carbon-fibre finish to make it stay looking clean rather than having a look that can degrade quickly.

Conclusion

I would position the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon as another example of a good-quality business-focused secondary “travel” computer that could do well for use between the “main office” and the “second office” (café or bar) where you meet clients or catch up on work without disturbance; or for whenever you do a lot of business travel.

Send to Kindle

Product Review–Kingston HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset

Introduction

Kingston HyperX Cloud II gaming headset - boom removed

The headset with a removable boom

The Kingston HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset is a traditional-look headset with a detachable boom microphone. Here, this allows you to use it as a pair of stereo headphones or as a “full-on” stereo headset. This includes using it in the plane thanks to an “in-flight-entertainment” two-plug adaptor so it can plug in to your seat’s armrest.

It also comes with a USB sound module so you can use the headset with your computer when playing games and this provides claimed surround-sound abilities as well as supporting the audio input and output required of the headset.

The headset is available with a choice of either red accents or grey accents to suit your style.

Kingston HyperX Cloud II gaming headset

Price

RRP: AUD$149

Type

Headphone Assembly Traditional over-the-head
Driver Positioning Circum-aural (over the ear with sound-containing foam wall)
Driver Enclosure Closed Back
Microphone Position Boom attached to headphone assembly
Connectivity
Headset 3.5mm four-conductor phone plug
Adaptors USB sound module
Two-pin airline inflight-entertainment adaptor

The headset itself

Connectivity

The headphones that are part of the Kingston HyperX Cloud II come with a four-conductor 3.5mm phone plug which can work with most smartphones and stereo equipment.

Kingston HyperX Cloud II headset USB adaptor

USB headset adaptor for your regular computer – separately adjustable input and output levels

But Kingston provided a USB-connected sound module that presents to Windows as a logical sound-output device and a logical sound-input device. This is done using the class drivers that were provided out of the box with Microsoft Windows and is something you would experience with your Macintosh or your Linux computer. This works properly and is more to allow you to have a separate communications channel for games while you have the sound effects coming through the computer’s speakers.

For Windows users, it is worth reading an article I have written about how you can manage multiple sound devices like headsets especially if you want this to be a private-listening or communications headset.

Comfort

The Kingston HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset does feel securely tight on your head and is comfortable to wear. This is thanks to the padded headband and the ear cushions which also don’t feel sweaty.

This means that you can enjoy wearing the headset for a long time without any fatiguing even on hotter days or intense gaming sessions.

Sound quality

Music

As far as the bass response is concerned, it is there but not overpowering. It doesn’t overpower the vocals nor does it overpower melodic or harmonic instruments in the mix. Here, this means that you still have that “kick” that is desireable for a lot of music but it doesn’t boom.

Video content

I watched some video-on-demand content using a review-sample laptop and have found that the Kingston HyperX Cloud II gaming headset does treat dialogue and sound effects very well. The headset even handles ambient effects clearly and gives bite to the “sounds that matter” like the aggressive engine sound of a vehicle used in a hit-and-run scene in the show I was watching. This gives it some worth when it comes to using the headphones with your laptop for watching video content or playing games.

Communications use

I have made and taken some calls with this headset and do hear the caller clearly and have used it with the microphone for a video call on my computer. Here, I had to raise the volume on the supplied USB adaptor to get my voice heard by the caller when I was making a Skype call.For portable use, you still need to run the Kingston HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset hard with some devices to obtain a decent loudness and this may also have an impact on your device’s battery life. With laptops, I could get a decent sound out of the headset without running it at a high level.

Noise reduction and handling in noisy environments

I have used the Kingston HyperX Cloud II gaming headset as a travel headset and integrated a bus journey as part of my travels. Here, I sat up the back of a typical transit bus and used the headset there to determine whether the engine noise was reduced while I used it.Here, I noticed a significant amount of noise reduction while being able to hear the program material that I was listening to and concluded that you can benefit from this somewhat for bus or train travel but may not be effective for air travel especially when the plane is in flight.

Limitations And Points Of Improvement

One feature I would like to see for the Kingston HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset would be to have a detachable cable and the availability of replacement cables. This is because whenever you are engaging in heavy gaming, you may pull on the headset and this could cause the connection to become unreliable.

Similarly, the USB adaptor could be offered as a standalone accessory for use with headsets so you can connect a headset of your choice with your computer for gaming, videocalls or voice recognition. Here, it could be switched between the Apple configuration or the OMTP configuration so it can be used with headsets destined for the iPhone or open-standards devices. This is something that will be important for the Windows platform as Cortana comes to the Windows 10 operating system as a voice assistant or for businesses who want to use softphones as part of their IP-based telephony needs.I would also like to see the headset plug able to be switched between Apple and OMTP configurations to work with smartphones, along with a switch on the cable or headset for call control.

Conclusion

It is easy to think of the Kingston HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset as strictly a gamer’s headset but it can work well as an all-round headset you could use with your laptop or your smartphone. This is more so if you are on a budget but you still want some “kick” from your music or sound-effects.

As for value-for-money, I do find that this headset does offer that especially if you want to see it in use beyond your games console or “gaming-rig” computer, such as for Skyping friends, listening to music or watching videos using your tablet or laptop.

Send to Kindle

Product Review–Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible Ultrabook

Introduction

I am reviewing the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro which is Lenovo’s latest premium iteration of the Yoga Pro family of 360-degree “fold-over” convertible notebooks, one of which I have reviewed before as the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro. This still has the ability to work as a tablet or a laptop simply by you folding it over like a book or hinge.

Through the review, I had a good chance to write up the Consumer Electronics Show 2015 series of articles (1, 2, 3, 4) using this laptop and found it a good chance to test it as an on-road notebook especially with creating copy when out and about.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook at Rydges Hotel Melbourne

 

Price
– this configuration
RRP AUD$2099
Form Factor Convertible 360-degree “hinge”
Processor Intel Core M 5Y70
RAM 8Gb shared with graphics
Secondary storage 256Gb solid-state drive,
extra-cost: 512Gb solid-state drive
SDXC card reader
Display Subsystem Intel HD5300 integrated display
Screen 13.3” widescreen touchscreen (3200 x 1800) LED backlit LCD
Audio Subsystem Intel HD integrated audio
Network Wi-Fi 802.11ac 2×2 dual-band
Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready
Connectivity USB 3.0 x 3
Video mini HDMI
Audio 3.5mm stereo input-output jack
Operating System on supplied configuration Windows 8.1

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build Quality

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook - Watch-band hinge

Watch-band hinge

One fieature that I would describe as the equivalent of the “pop up headlights” on a sports car is the watchband hinge. This works also as an effective heatsink which dissipates the heat that builds up at the top of the keyboard when the system is used. But it doesn’t compromise on how easy it is to switch between a tablet and a laptop.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook at Rydges Hotel Melbourne - Viewer mode

Viewer mode

There is a distinctly tactile rubber surround around the keyboard that, at times could be a dirt trap. Otherwise it is a system that is easy to keep clean especially if your second office is your favourite café or bar.

User Interface

The keyboard is roomy enough for touch-typing like most 13” notebooks,but Lenovo needs to make the home keys easier to feel There is the proper tactile feedback while typing which allows you to type quickly and is even accurate even when I used the Yoga 3 Pro on my lap to type up some copy. It is also easy to clear dirt from around the keys which is something you would have to do if you have been munching on some food while typing up something on the Yoga at that “second office”.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook - tablet mode

Tablet mode

The trackpad works as expected but could benefit from a switch to disable it if you are using an external pointing device

The touchscreen is responsive as expected but a few bugs with some Windows 7 software doesn’t make it behave with proper cursor location when using these programs.

Audio and Video

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook left hand side - 2 x USB 3.0 ports (including power inlet), micro HDMI port, SD card reader

Left hand side – 2 x USB 3.0 ports (including power inlet), micro HDMI port, SD card reader

There is the sharpness that is part of the high-resolution display but a lot of Windows software doesn’t exploit this capability properly. But it still works properly with most video content in that there isn’t any change with colour balance or saturation. As well, the display shows the images very smoothly which can come across for multimedia and games.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook right had side - USB 3.0 socket, headphone jack, volume buttons, power switch

Right had side – USB 3.0 socket, headphone jack, volume buttons, power switch

Like a lot of notebook computers of its class, the sound quality will be compromised by the speakers integrated in the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro. But it was able to come across properly with the sound that is expected for computers for its class.

Connectivity, Storage and Expansion

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook - Tent mode

Tent mode

There is a 256Gb solid-state storage device serving as the main secondary storage and the capacity is enough to allow you to have plenty of work on board when you are on the road. This is augmented by 3 USB 3.0 ports and an SD memory card drive with the USB ports being able to support

One of the USB 3.0 ports on the left side and is highlighted in yellow serves as a power input port for the supplied charger. This predates the USB Power Delivery specification which is being purposed for powering small “secondary-use” laptops but the setup used with the Yoga 3 Pro wouldn’t be compatible with newer equipment.

There is also an 3.5mm audio input / output jack as well as a mini HDMI port for connecting to external displays.

The Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro has Wi-Fi that supports 802.11ac dual-stream but I don’t have access to a network that proves this new functionality. What I like of this is that it is ready for home networks that are tooled up with this new Wi-Fi technology. If you have to use it with Ethernet or HomePlug, you would need to purchase a USB-Ethernet adaptor, preferably a USB 3.0-Gigabit Ethernet adaptor or an expansion module (dock) that has this functionality.

Battery life

For day-to-day regular use, the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro was able to run for a long time without needing to be charged. This may be a point of confusion for those of us who are used to charging notebook computers overnight and starting off with a full battery at the beginning of the day. But you can get away with running it one or two days of regular Web-browsing, email and typing-up without worrying about whether you have taken the charger with you.

Other usage notes

I have noticed that the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro’s convertible design and touchscreen user interface still impresses most people especially when they haven’t been exposed to this concept with laptop computers that are in circulation. One of the men in the church I go to was impressed by the “watch-band” hinge that this computer has, more as a sign of luxury and quality.

For a time, convertible notebooks of the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro’s league will remind me of a situation with a man that I once knew through the 1980s who worked in a car showroom that sold Japanese cars as part of its stock. This is where the high-end sports cars that had the features that awed and impressed people, but these were out of the range of most peoples’ budgets.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro is expensive if Lenovo is to target it as a successor to the Yoga 2 Pro, but is the right price if they are to pitch it as the ultra-premium convertible laptop. They could keep this model as the lead model of a group of convertible notebooks.

Personally, I would like to see Lenovo use the Yoga 3 Pro as a leading model for a range of 11” and 13” “360-degree” convertibles pitched at either home users or business users. Here, some of the models can be positioned at prices that most of us can afford, but are still preserved as a secondary personal-computing device. This is because there is an interest in the idea of the convertible or detachable “2-in-1” laptop computer being considered as an alternative to the tablet or a secondary laptop.

Conclusion

I would position the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro as an option for a premium easy-to-use multifunction notebook that can serve well for those of us who do a lot of travelling on public transport. It is more so if you also appreciate the idea of a tablet being 13” which may appeal if you are showing something to two or more people.

Send to Kindle

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.

Send to Kindle