Unlike most sub-£100 inkjet multi-function printers (MFPs), the Brother MFC-J430w leans much more toward being office-centric rather than being a home printer. Given the price, that's a little surprising, but if you're looking for an inexpensive printer for your small or home office, it's a pleasant surprise indeed.
The office-centric design doesn't mean that you can't use the MFC-J430w for home printing also. Like most inexpensive inkjets today, it can serve a dual role as both home and home office printer. It's just that unlike most printers at this price, including the Kodak ESP C310 All In One Printer for example, the focus in this case is on the office side of that dual role.
The MFC-J430w prints from, scans to, and faxes from a PC, and it works as a standalone copier and fax machine. It also offers a 20-page automatic document feeder (ADF) to supplement the A4 flatbed, so you can scan multipage documents and legal-size paper. What you won't find are photo-centric features, like memory card slots or PictBridge support for printing from cameras.
The printer doesn't offer wired networking, but it does support Wi-Fi, which will let you share it in a micro office or at home. Outside the dual role of home and home-office printer, however, it's best suited as a strictly personal printer because of its limited paper handling, with a 100-sheet tray, no duplexer, and no paper handling options.
Speed and Quality
The emphasis on office use extends to the MFC-J430w's speed and output quality, with much more impressive results for business documents than for photos.
For my tests, I installed the printer on a Vista system using a USB connection. Setup was a simple and painless procedure. On our business applications suite (using QualityLogic's hardware and software for timing), the printer scored an effective 4.3-pages per minute (ppm), far better than most printers at anything like the price. The Kodak C310, for example, managed just 2.7ppm on our tests, and even Brother's own, somewhat more expensive MFC-J615w managed only 2.4ppm.
For photo speed, in contrast, the MFC-J430w is on the slow side, averaging one minute 59 seconds for a 4 x 6in print. The ESP C310 took less than half the time, at 44 seconds.
The output quality also favours business applications, with text that's above average for an inkjet MFP and more than good enough for most business purposes. Graphics are slightly below par. Although the output in my tests was easily good enough for any internal business use, the quality was a little short of what I'd want to show an important client or customer. I saw some banding in default mode, for example, and colours were a little dull rather than vibrant.
Photos are roughly par for an inkjet MFP but just barely. Most of the photos in our tests were at the low end of what I expect from high street prints, with colours oversaturated in some cases. I'd call them acceptable for snapshots, but not suitable if you want your photos to look their best.
One other point worth mentioning is the low claimed cost per page. In fact, the MFC-J430w is essentially a match for the Kodak ESP C310 when it comes to running costs.
The Brother MFC-J430w is in no danger of replacing the Kodak ESP C310 as our choice for a budget MFP that leans heavily towards home use. However, it's a far better option for office needs, with fax capability, an ADF, and an emphasis on speed and quality for business applications.