The X Series is Brother’s premium line of small business inkjet printers (opens in new tab) aimed squarely at the office and the Brother MFC-J6957DW (opens in new tab) is its flagship. It’s the highest-specified business inkjet we’ve cone across and certainly the fastest. With a print speed of 30ppm, it’s quicker than many laser printers which usually fill the role in a busy office for which this inkjet has been designed.
There are several things an inkjet like this can do better. For a start, it can not only print on A3/tabloid paper, but copy at that size too. A laser that can do this would have to be much larger and of course, it wouldn’t be able to print on coated photo paper.
This top-end four-in-one has room on board for every feature you can think of. There are three separate paper trays with room for 750 sheets of paper and the opportunity to upgrade. There’s an ADF, large touchscreen interface, NFC for secure print jobs and a fax (opens in new tab) facility. Of course the catch with inkjets is the cost of their cartridges, which are always lower-capacity than toner cartridges, but even this distinction is blurred by the unusually large inkjet carts used here.
With a claimed yield of 6,000 black and 5,000 color prints, Brother’s high-capacity cartridges are more economical than many lasers. At around £670 (about US$810, AU$1,189) it’s roughly the same cost as an equivalent laser, so let’s figure out which is best.
Design and build
At 31kg, this desktop unit is very much a two-person lift, but for a multifunction printer that can copy A3 paper, it’s actually quite compact. A3 laser printers tend to be free-standing units because the technology takes up more room. The Brother MFC-J6957DW tapers in a little from the waist down so its footprint is little more than your average A4 printer. However, when you load A3 paper into the trays, you have to extend them so that they protrude a good few inches. In reality it will probably never look as neat as it does in the store.
It feels well constructed with sturdy flaps and drawers and good cable management for your Ethernet and USB connections which plug into ports inside the unit where they can’t be pulled out by mistake. The tilting control panel gives easy access to the large touchscreen, while the NFC panel and USB Host port are conveniently located beside it. A3 printers (opens in new tab) never look attractive, but some thought has clearly gone into the design of this model.
Features and specifications
As a top-of-the-line model, the Brother MFC-J6957DW comes with every feature going and some impressive specifications. It prints even faster than the old MFC-J6947DW (opens in new tab) that it replaces and can hold 750 sheets of paper in its three paper trays plus another 100 in the rear multipurpose tray.
Type: 4-in-1 color A3 inkjet printer
Functions: Print, scan, copy and fax
Connectivity: Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, USB, NFC
Data storage slots: USB Host port
Print speed: 30 ipm (mono)
Paper capacity: 750 + 100 sheets
Print quality: 1,200 x 4,800 dpi
Scan quality: 1,200 x 2,400 dpi
Apple AirPrint: yes
Consumables included: 4x cartridges (2,250 mono, 975 color pages)
Dimensions/Weight: 576 x 477 x 445 mm (WxDxH)/31kg
The ADF (automatic document feed) can hold a further 50 sheets and all of these could be A3 in size. The scanner bed is tabloid-sized too and capable of making high-resolution copies. When using the top-mounted ADF you can copy both sides of the page automatically thanks to its dual-scanning ability.
Wi-Fi is built in of course, and you have compatibility with AirPrint and all the other wireless protocols. Bother’s companion app for iOS/Android makes it particularly convenient to print and scan when you’re away from the printer. It also has an NFC module which allows you to pull down sensitive print jobs using your smartphone, which is always a popular feature in a shared office.
Cartridge-based inkjets are considered unfashionable in the face of refillable ink tank alternatives, and rightly so, but Brother has come up with unusually large cartridges as a kind of compromise. With their higher capacity, they carry enough ink to fill small reservoirs inside the printer and can print as many as 6,000 black and 5,000 color pages. As you can see from the pictures though, the bundled cartridges contain far less — enough for 2,250 monochrome and 975 color pages.
Setup and operation
Getting your Brother MFC-J6957DW up and running is made easy by the large 8.8cm color touchscreen interface. Just turn it on and the on-screen prompts will help you get connected to your wireless network and tell you when to load the ink cartridges. That overhanging panel labelled Innobella (the ink type used) is where the cartridges go. It takes three minutes for the ink to run into the chambers before you’re ready to print.
You can run two diagnostic tests to check the printer is set up for optimal printing. The first prints out a test page for you to visually check the print head alignment and run a recalibration if necessary. The second produces a test page to place on the scanner bed for the printer to check itself. Our review unit passed both tests first time.
Brother’s companion app called MobileConnect for iOS and Android adds to the ease of use by giving you a very convenient way to print and scan from the cloud or check your ink levels remotely.
When it comes to printing, the first thing you notice about the Brother MFC-J6957DW is the speed. The FPOT (first print out time) is given as less than 4.6 seconds which is faster even than its predecessor and it’s borne out in our speed test. The 30ipm rate for consecutive monochrome pages is also accurate and although that’s not as fast as some laser printers, it is close and makes it the quickest inkjet on our test bench. However, that top speed is only achieved in draft mode which gives paler prints. In auto duplex mode, the print rate drops down again.
In standard mode, the print quality is very good, although with plain pages of text, laser printers can usually manage a finer finish. The Brother applies its pigment black ink well, it’s just not quite as crisp and consistent as toner. When it comes to color documents, the opposite is true. Brother’s Innobella inks deliver bright, well-contained shading that does not suffer from banding as most laser printers do.
It also does a pretty good job with photos, especially those printed on glossy photo paper on larger paper sizes. With an enhanced print resolution of 1,200 x 4,800 dpi, our high-resolution photos looked particularly impressive as A3 prints. This is not a dedicated photo printer, however, and the somewhat muted colors cannot achieve the finish you would expect from a photographic print service.
With an almost equally high scan resolution, the Brother MFC-J6957DW functions very well as a photocopier (opens in new tab). We found that the digital copy looked a little softer each time, but that’s to be expected. What this printer also does, that many others don’t, is copy both sides of the page automatically and also enlarge or reduce the size of the duplicate by up to 400% in 1% increments.
This high-spec four-in-one has all the credentials to fill a demanding role in a busy office. Usually we’d recommend a laser where speed, capacity and efficiency are crucial, but this inkjet has all that and more. It prints quickly and reliably and it can do so on a wider variety of media than a laser. Its fully compatible with A3/tabloid paper and thanks to the high-capacity cartridges, you can expect a similarly economical page yield to the average laser. It seems like a fair price for so much functionality and the all-important print quality is impressive too.