A4 multifunction printers (MFPs) are two a penny at the moment, making it extremely easy to find something within your price range that will have as many bells and whistles as your home office or small business requires. However, A3 all-in-one machines are by contrast still relatively uncommon and tend towards the more expensive end of the spectrum.
Brother, on the other hand, has been doggedly producing A3 MFPs for a while and it recently brought out a trio of new models of which the MFC-J6510DW is the lowest spec of the three. While it may not have all the extra features of its big sister - the MFC-J6910DW - there's certainly much to attract the attention of graphic artists and photographers who require the extra size.
It has to be admitted, though, that you can hardly describe the MFC-J6510DW as a thing of beauty as it has a very large, broad footprint (540 x 489 x 257 mm) and weighs a decidedly hefty 15.8kg. Nevertheless, to be fair to Brother, it has at least styled it in its usual matt black and has made some attempt to make it compact wherever possible.
For example, on the top is a fold-back input tray for an auto document feeder that will comfortably hold 35 sheets. Similarly, in the base of the unit is a 250-sheet input tray that can be extended outwards when filling up with A3 paper, and the output tray directly above allows for 50 sheets at a time to be printed off. The control panel, on the other hand, juts out from just under the scanner and is fixed in place apart from the centrally positioned 8.3cm TFT LCD screen, which can be tilted for easier viewing.
The MFC-J6510DW is a 'true' multifunction printer because it includes a fax capability alongside the usual print, scan and copy functions. In terms of connectivity, you have three options - go for a single PC/Mac attachment via USB cable, link up with your network via Ethernet or use Wi-Fi. Using the machine's 802.11n wireless technology, we found it a breeze to establish a swift connection with a router using the WPS search facility.
The control panel is vast and stretches the whole width of the printer. As a result, it's extremely easy to follow as all the buttons and numbers are large and clearly labelled in logical order. Anyone familiar with Brother printers will recognise the layout instantly as it follows the standard pattern - 16 phone presets on the left next to the main function buttons, then the LCD display, with the menu controls, number pad and print commands to the right. As well as the 'hard' controls and the LCD menu, you can also print documents and photos direct from the computer using Brother's own ControlCenter4 software, which comes supplied with the printer drivers and network instructions.
If that wasn't enough, there are a further three sources you can turn to that work independently of your PC. Just below the control panel is a USB port for flash drives and PictBridge enabled cameras - when you plug one of these in, a separate Photo Capture button begins flashing and you can then view the material on the LCD before editing and printing to your wishes. Along from the USB are a couple of memory card slots that perform the same functions for Memory Sticks and SD cards. Finally, you can link up to Brother's iPrint&Scan app for iPhones, iPads and Android smartphones and print off your snaps via the router.
Auto duplex printing and copying comes as standard, although auto duplex scanning is reserved for the more expensive models (as is a touch screen). When it comes to speed, though, there has been a notable improvement over earlier models. Normal quality A4 mono documents were averaging 12ppm and even duplex versions of the same managed a respectable 4.5ppm. A4 colour photos printed via the PC, using Brother's software, zapped out in a mere 42 seconds, with 10 x 15cm images at 15 seconds each. A4 copies of photos using the scanner were emerging in 1min 25secs but interestingly both flash drive and memory card photos were a full minute slower. As for the main focus of this machine - A3 photos - their rate of production was particularly impressive at 3mins 15secs each.
Turning to ink usage, the MFC-J6510DW makes use of four cartridges (black, magenta, cyan, yellow), which slot easily into the front compartment to the right of the input tray. Available in basic and XL versions, the better value comes from the larger yield cartridges which work out at 2,400 A4 pages for black (around £20) and 1,200 A4 pages for each colour (around £14.50 each).
Examining the quality of the printed images, the sharpness of the detail and the general authenticity and vividness of the colours was especially good in the larger formats. We did come across occasional evidence of banding in the lower third of some images, and copies and scans - despite the 19,200 x 19,200dpi colour scan resolution - were a shade softer and lighter in tone than the originals.
At the time of writing, the J651010DW could be had for £136, so none of its deficiencies were serious enough to dent the overall impression that this has to be one of the best value A3 MFPs in the market.
Although it's a big, broad beast, the Brother MFC-J6510DW multifunction printer produces good quality A3 prints at a much improved rate, offers plenty of connectivity options and is currently at a price that makes it highly desirable.
Pros: Fast print speeds, good quality image prints, lots of connectivity.
Cons: Occasional banding issues, no touchscreen LCD, big footprint.