Brother MFC-8910DW


One step up in Brother’s mono laser multi-function printer (MFP) line from the Brother MFC-8710DW $369.99 at TriState Camera, that I recently reviewed, the Brother MFC-8910DW shares almost all of the same features and specs. However, there’s one important addition. Instead of being limited to scanning only one side of a page, it can scan both sides at once. Not only can it deal with duplex (two-sided) documents, it can handle them at reasonably fast speed.

That alone is enough to make the MFC-8910DW of particular interest to any micro or small office or workgroup that has to scan, copy, or fax multi-page duplex documents. But it also helps that the printer offers all the same capabilities that make the Brother MFC-8710DW an attractive choice for heavy-duty needs.

Basic MFP features include the ability to print, scan, and fax, including over a network, as well as work as a standalone copier and fax machine. Conveniences include the ability to print from and scan to a USB memory key, as well as support for Wi-Fi and for a variety of mobile printing options, including AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, and Brother’s own mobile print and scan app.

Also loosely in the convenience category is the addition of on-site service to the one-year warranty, a little sweetener that isn’t included with Brother MFC-8710DW. The most important extra, however, is the duplex scanning.

Seeing Both Sides
As with most MFPs aimed at offices, the MFC-8910DW offers both a flatbed and an automatic document feeder (ADF) for scanning. Unlike most of its competition, however, it can fit legal-size pages on its flatbed, so you don’t need to use the 50-page ADF for one-page legal-size documents. Even more important is that it can scan in duplex, which may be an even better feature than you think.

There are two ways to scan both sides of a page. What most inexpensive MFPs offer is often called a reversing ADF. With these MFPs, the ADF is doing the duplexing, scanning one side of a page, turning the page over, and then scanning the other side. With the MFC-8910DW, the scanner does the duplexing, with two scan elements that each scan one side of the page at the same time. The result is much faster scans, with the paper moving through the ADF only once instead of twice.

In theory, using two scan elements should let you scan both sides of the page as quickly as one side, which is usually true for most duplexing desktop scanners for example. In my tests with the MFC-8910DW, however, the scanner visibly slowed down when I scanned in duplex. The good news is that the speed was still a lot faster than scanning each side separately.

Paper Handling and Setup
The MFC-8910DW also scores well on paper handling for printing, with a 250-sheet paper drawer, a 50-sheet multipurpose tray, and a built-in print duplexer. That should be enough for most small offices, but if you need more, you can boost the input capacity to 800 sheets with an optional 500-sheet second drawer ($209.99 list). Note too that the combination of a duplexing scanner and duplexing printer gives you the ability to copy both single- and double-sided pages to your choice of single- or double-sided copies.

As with the Brother MFC-8710DW and most other MFPs with a similar paper capacity, the MFC-8910DW is a little large to share a desk with comfortably, at 17.6 by 19.3 by 16.3 inches (HWD). However, it’s small enough to fit easily enough in most micro or small offices. Assuming you have room for it, setup is absolutely standard.

Speed and Output Quality
For my tests, I connected the printer to a wired network and ran the tests from a Windows Vista system. Interestingly, despite all the similarities to the Brother MFC-8710DW, Brother rates the MFC-8910DW at a slighter faster speed, namely 42 pages per minute (ppm) rather than 40 ppm. On our tests, however, the two were essentially tied.

Brother MFC-8910DW

I clocked the MFC-8910DW on our business applications suite (usingQualityLogic’s hardware and software for timing), at 10.0 ppm. The Brother MFC-8710DW actually came in a touch faster, at 10.5 ppm, which isn’t enough of a difference to count as significant. As another point of reference, the Editors’ Choice OKI MB471 $352.27 at gocomputersupplies managed 9.5 ppm, putting the speed for all three printers in the same range of being respectable, but not particularly impressive.

Output quality earns the same general description: respectable, but not impressive, which translates to par quality across the board. Text and graphics output are both easily good enough for any internal business need. However, the text isn’t up to what you’d want for high-quality desktop publishing, and depending on how demanding you are, you may not consider the graphics good enough for, say, PowerPoint handouts when you’re trying to convey a sense of professionalism. Photo quality is suitable for printing photos in company or client newsletters and the like, and easily good enough for printing Web pages with photos.

When I reviewed the Brother MFC-8710DW, I pointed out that it was a perfectly good choice, with reasonably good speed, par output quality, ample paper handling, and all the MFP features that most small offices need. The MFC-8910DW offers all the same features, which makes it at least as reasonable a pick for any micro or small office. However, it’s the added ability to scan in duplex that makes it either worth picking or not.

Quite simply, if you don’t need a duplex scan capability, there’s no point in paying for it. You should be looking at the Brother MFC-8710DW or the OKI MB471. On the other hand, if you need to scan, copy, or fax duplex documents even occasionally, being able to scan in duplex is worth the extra cost. It also makes a compelling argument for choosing the Brother MFC-8910DW instead.