2014 iPad iPhone iPod Buyers' Guide from iLounge.com

    $400-$450
    Peripherals

    Brother MFC-9130CW + MFC-9340CDW Digital Color All-in-One Wireless Printers

    If there’s one peripheral category that the term “necessary evil” fits more than any other, it’s printers. Despite the digitization of pretty much everything, sometimes you just have to put ink on a sheet or ream of paper. To that end, Brother has introduced a new line of all-in-one printers, notably including its MFC-9130CW ($400) and MFC-9340CDW ($450) Digital Color All-in-One Printers with Wireless Networking, each worth considering if you’re doing a lot of printing. They’re Mac-compatible over USB or 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and feature AirPrint support for direct iOS printing as well.

    Aimed at small business users, the MFC-9130CW offers fast, high-quality color prints. It can output up to 19 pages per minute, at resolutions up to 600 by 2400 dpi. AirPrint support is built-in, so if you’re working off an iPad or iPhone, you can print just as easily as you could from your Mac. High-resolution color scanning and copying functionality is included as well, meaning you might just be able to start skipping those trips to FedEx Office; a 3.7” color touchscreen lets you send images directly to Facebook, Flickr, Dropbox, and other services via the Wi-Fi connection. And there’s even fax functionality for sending documents to companies that are still stuck in the last decade. Serious printer users might want to spring for the family’s $450 model MFC-9340CDW, which offers a 23ppm print rate, plus double-sided printing, copying, and scanning options. It’s shown in our new photo gallery below.

    Real-world testing of the MFC-9340CDW printer included mixed but generally positive results. We were hugely impressed by the color touchscreen, which made the wireless setup process incredibly easy: choosing a Wi-Fi network, entering a password, performing initial calibration and checking toner levels could hardly have been easier by typical printer standards. Additionally, the MFC-9340CDW did a great job of managing power, quickly awakening from a power-conserving sleep state whenever we began a wireless print job from a Mac or an iOS device. A front-mounted power button enabled the unit to be completely shut off more easily than models with rear switches, and ports near the side rear edges made for clean and easy physical installation. Included driver software comes on a CD-ROM—a potential issue for MacBook Air and Retina MacBook Pro users—and as of press time, we couldn’t locate downloadable drivers on Brother’s web site; this issue is likely to be remedied in the future.

     

    While black and white print times are rapid, color prints require considerably more time—often two or more minutes over a Wi-Fi connection—and while the output resolution is respectable, the photo results aren’t particularly impressive. Brother includes a set of four toner cartridges (black, magenta, blue, and yellow), which are ill-equipped to accurately reproduce reds, resulting in muddled oranges even with good paper. Photographs consistently showed significant dithering even with ultra-high resolution images, making this printer family better-suited to use for outputting presentations and other documents where color accuracy isn’t required.

     

    Wireless performance was entirely fine with the exception of some unreliability when printing photos. Typical black and white print jobs were quickly processed, but the MFC-9340CDW sometimes did not print large, full-page photographs despite displaying a “receiving data” screen for a few minutes, and didn’t provide an error code to explain the lack of output. A couple of our test photo prints also had one bar of misalignment along the right side, though the majority had no such issue. AirPrint, standard Wi-Fi, USB flash drive, and USB Mac printing all worked equally well, with the front-facing USB port and touchscreen-assisted folder navigation making flash drive printing particularly easy.

    Overall, we’d call the MFC-9340CDW a good business printer, with serious caveats for photo replication. The initial price tag is impressive given all of the functionality, and the double-sided page-processing capabilities are a major plus. On the other hand, complete toner replacement costs are nearly half the cost of the printer, and the results will vary somewhat based on what types of color prints you need.

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