Ever since it barged its way into a printer market dominated by the likes of Canon, Kodak, HP and Xerox, Brother has established a deserved reputation for producing sturdy, reliable printers with a general emphasis on speed and efficiency. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that their latest Multi-Function Centre, the MFC-9460DN, continues in the same tradition.
For a start, it looks very strong, square and solid - measuring 410 x 503 x 492mm and weighing in at a hefty 27.8kg. So definitely not the sort of machine you should be lugging into place on your own. It comes in familiar shades of black and off-white and should therefore happily slot into the surrounding furniture in a home office or small business setting.
The MFC-9460DN is a true multifunction printer because it provides all four functions of printing, copying, scanning and faxing. On the printing side there are several ways of inputting material. On the top of the unit there's a 35 sheet auto document feeder and in the base of the machine is a 250 sheet standard paper tray (with an optional extra 500 sheet standard paper tray that could be supplemented beneath). A neat, fold-down panel at the front reveals an additional 50 sheet Multi-Purpose tray that is especially useful if you have thicker paper, bond paper, labels or envelopes you'd prefer to process separately from the main paper tray.
When it comes to connectivity, however, your options are generally quite limited as unfortunately there's no Wi-Fi capability. This means that there's no way to print material directly from a smart phone or tablet using one of the increasingly popular printer apps. Instead you're restricted to USB or Ethernet. On the other hand, you do have use of a front USB port for flash drives and PictBridge enabled cameras should you want to print material without involving your PC.
While this sounds like a useful extra feature, it's somewhat marred by having a monochrome, text only LCD (albeit brightly backlit and 3in wide) as your control centre, You can decide what sort of paper to print on and which tray to use, but it's far from ideal when you can't preview your pictures and documents without reverting to the PC, thus undermining the value of that USB port.
In many ways the control panel is highly commendable as it's laid out clearly and logically in the usual Brother way - eight One-Touch buttons for up to 16 stored numbers on the left, essential variations for Fax, Copy and Print operations beside these (linked to the three Mode dials under the LCD), arrow buttons for the Menu next to the number pad for faxing and finally the three key buttons for Stop, Mono and Colour commands. But now that we live in a touch screen age, it's time Brother made the decision to go with the flow and make life simpler and friendlier for the customer.
Things start to improve, though, when you make use of the software on the CD, especially the Control Centre 4 package which allows you to save scanned images and documents to files, attach them to emails or start using OCR, as well as organising faxes sent through your PC. Scans are fast and generally of a high standard - one deliberately underexposed photo was brightened considerably and produced much more life like tones without having to tweak any settings. Fax settings allow for external answering machines and phones to be attached and the control panel includes a dedicated button for speed dialling.
Which brings us neatly to speed of operation and in this area the MFC-9460CDN comes into its own. We began by testing text documents in black only, then in colour and we were averaging 21ppm (close to Brother's claimed 24 ppm) for both, with virtually identical speeds for both normal and fine quality. As auto duplex printing comes as standard, we timed text document results and they reached a pleasing 12 ppm without breaking a sweat.
A4 size colour photos zoomed out in an amazing ten seconds but it's highly unlikely that you would use this printer for creating photo albums as there are issues with banding and the general tones are considerably darker than the originals so you'd need some time to play with brightness and saturation levels to produce passable results. Documents, by contrast, produced solid blacks and no signs of feathering in both standard and fine copies, while colour graphics and images within documents produced browner shades than the originals.
High yield toners
We mentioned that the MFC-9460CDN has in-built auto duplex printing but this does not extend to copying, scanning or faxing. Brother in America has the upgraded MFC-9560CDW which does enable duplexing in all modes as well as Wi-Fi but alas it hasn't hit these shores yet. Interestingly, neither machine has any memory card slots - which are part of the basic kit in almost all MFPs in the UK. The good news, though, is that the MFC-9460CDN is both Mac and Linux compatible so you won't be restricted to using a Windows 7 OS.
As for ink usage, you have separate cartridges for black, cyan, magenta and yellow and the basic set works out at around £60 for black (for approx. 2,500 pages) and £78 each for colour (approx 1,500 pages per colour). Slightly better value can be achieved by plumping for the higher yield cartridges which produce 4000 pages for black (£71) and 3,500 pages each for colour (at £146). With print quality being so impressive in black text documents, it would certainly be worth investing in the black ink upgrade, in particular if you intend to max out your print run with the supplementary paper tray.
The undoubted strengths of the Brother MFC-9460CDN multifunction printer are its rapid print speeds and the quality of its mono copies but it's let down by poor photo prints and less than helpful LCD.
Pros: Very fast speeds and black ink quality
Cons: Low quality photos and antiquated control system