Yes, it’s true, the Brother MFC-495CW really is a color all-in-one that does it all, and for an estimated street price of only $130, but easily found for less online.

What’s Hot?

– Inexpensive to purchase

– Performs many functions adequately in small footprint

– Wireless or wired networking capability offers placement and sharing flexibility

– Good light-duty unit for individuals, home office

– Kudos to Brother for cramming so many useful features into such an inexpensive package that still has a quality feel

– Important to have realistic expectations!

– Yes, inexpensive to purchase!

What’s Not?

– As with nearly any inkjet printer kopen, it’s going to be costly if used as a workhorse.

– Can be slow to print as compared to other, more costly products

­- It’s NOT going to perform nearly as well as more costly, similarly featured products

A personal disclosure here – I am a huge fan of Brother printers, and have been for many years.  I’ve tested, bought and recommended them to others for many years, finding them to be excellent performers with exemplary longevity.  All my children have Brother printers, starting with my recommendation for college use, their excellent laser black & white model HL-2140, often found for as little as about $70.  It’ll run and run and cost next to nothing, but for those wanting color and all-in-one capabilities, well . . .

It’s quite the tour de force in all its capabilities, which I will go into in a bit, but first and of greatest importance is to have realistic expectations.  After all, this is “only” a $100-ish device, so, though it boasts many features, capabilities and benefits, do not expect it to behave like units costing more, principally in the area of speed.  Such high expectation is certain to set the owner up for disappointment.  Let’s have a quick look at its lofty list of features as Brother tells it, which impressed this writer.

 

  • Flexible Wireless & Wired Interfaces. Allows you to share the all-in-one to print, scan, PC Fax and access your digital camera media cards or USB flash memory.
  • 3.3″ Widescreen Color LCD Display. Edit and enhance images and easily read help menus.
  • Unattended Fax, Copy or Scan. Up to 15-sheet auto document feeder.
  • Fast Color Printing on Demand. With speeds up to 35ppm black and 28ppm color. ‡
  • Photo Bypass Tray. The bypass tray holds up to 20 sheets of 4″ x 6″ glossy photo paper.
  • Versatile Scanning. Capabilities to scan using a variety of formats including JPEG, TIFF and PDF to E-mail, media cards, OCR and more.
  • Direct Photo Printing. Print photos directly from your digital camera’s media cards, PictBridge-enabled camera, or USB flash memory.
  • High Quality Printing. With droplet sizes as small as 1.5 picoliters and high resolutions up to 6000 x 1200dpi.
  • Help Save Ink. Reduce ink consumption using Ink Save Mode.
  • Scan to PDF. Scan multiple items in one pass and divide into separate files or PDF pages with Auto Crop mode
  • 4-Cartridge Ink System. Only change the cartridge that needs to be replaced.
  • ENERGY STAR® Qualified.

 

What’s it all mean and what are the realities?  Remember, and it cannot be overemphasized, for its price, this is an amazing product.  If you are a very small business person, home user or student needing color printing capabilities, color scanning and color copying, and if you want to have a product to do it all within a small footprint, this is for you.  The network capability is especially handy.

Sure, if it is to have but one desktop computer user, network capability is superfluous.  Just plug in directly.  However, in an environment with more than one computer, including one mixed with Macs and Windows PCs, and if one or more is a laptop, then network capability is going to be fun.  Wireless, as this is, is even better, because this unit may be placed without regard to the nearness of a router or other wired means of joining a network.  So long as it can send and receive signals from home base, that is, your router, you should be good to go.  In my tests, wireless setup was easy and straightforward and we all appreciated being able to place the MFC-495CW in the most convenient location, which was not nearby to any computer.

Unattended faxing, copying and scanning worked as advertised, if a bit more slowly than I’d prefer, perhaps a bit more slowly than one would have expected.  But work it all did, and just fine.  Just remember and repeat the mantra, “It’s only about $130” and all will be fine.

Print speeds are slower than one would initially expect, even at lower quality modes.  Print at high quality, whether a photo or richly contented color document, and you’ll likely wait a while, sometimes a long while, but the result will be pleasing. I was never able to achieve particularly Fast Color Printing on Demand as Brother’s feature list would indicate.   Yes, it will start printing quickly, but finishing will simply take some time. Whether printing from a moderately speedy PC or a screaming fast Mac, I was not able to achieve high quality at even half their stated speed maximums, but I’m NOT complaining. I’m thinking about the value for what this thing costs, as should anyone thinking about buying it.  I also know there is nothing wrong with my test unit.

This printing speed, as well as copying (which really is scanning and then printing) is just a bit pokey more often than not.  Ink Save mode reduces the quality to what I would call a draft mode, fine for internal consumption and printing non-critical pages, but not for presentation to anyone important.

Why is speed what it is?  Simple, really. On a product such as this, expense is removed by providing a less speedy processor along with less internal memory, both of which cost less memory to manufacture.  Printers such as this, ALL of them, rely on the host computer’s processor speed and capabilities to do the heavy lifting.  Were this, say, a $300 – $400 all-in-one, performance would be appropriately better by all measures in all modes.

I plugged in a Canon PictBridge enabled camera and printed a fine 4×6 print directly from the camera, using the Brother’s display to select size.  It delivered a perfectly fine photo print.  I also transferred photos from my SD card-equipped camera directly to the computer using the Brother’s handy media slots.  And, yes, I also printed photos that were on an SD card without the computer as an intermediary.  In addition to all of this, users may plug in any old USB flash drive loaded with photos for direct printing.

Imagine you are about to attend a meeting during which you need to have several scanned documents at the ready. Using the flash drive slot, users can scan directly from this device to the connected flash drive.

I scanned a multipage document through the 15-page ADF (Automatic Document Feeder) and saved it as a PDF on my Mac.  It was a cinch and the scan was just fine. I had selected 200 dpi for a printed page.  I also scanned directly from the glass a 4×6 photo and saved it as a JPEG.  Also, a fine experience.

The fax capabilities include G3 capabilities, the current standard. I successfully faxed out a multipage doc using the Brother’s ADF.  In addition, I successfully received incoming faxes without a hitch.  However, on a personal note, I encourage everyone to move to emailing PDFs instead of sending or receiving a fax.  It’s faster and looks much better AND affords the user the option of not printing non-essential papers if viewing on the computer is adequate. Think about it.  The tree you save will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

My experience with the swing up 3.3-inch color LCD display was positive. It sure is handy to be able to angle it for best viewing and it is large enough to actually see what’s on the screen.  Also handy is the photo bypass tray allowing up to 20 sheets to be at the ready while still holding standard size 8-1/2” x 11” paper in the main paper tray.

And so it went.  My ONLY issue is as stated – speed.  I can envision many, many users of simple needs and of meager means absolutely loving all this multifunctional device can accomplish.  That THIS model features four individual ink tanks puts it ahead of competitive units what would cost more to use by having only a single multicolor tank as well as a black ink tank.

The MFC-495CW is fun to use!  Visitors to Gadget Central were appropriately impressed with this all-in-one, especially when I told them it could be had for a street price of $130!

And that’s where I will leave it.  For its price, it’s one heckuva deal!  If your needs and budget dictate more, pay more and get more.  Just a quick aside:  Here at Gadget Central, we run for performance and speed.  With multiple users demanding things to be done NOW, we are using another fine Brother product, their MFC-8890DW, which, absent color (except for scanning, which it does perfectly well in color), is everything I could want in speed, features and overall performance, and it’s only a $400 product.

For more information, please visit www.brother-usa.com.

This Brother MFC-495CW would be a fine choice for anyone needing an inexpensive and value-laden all-in-one color printer, fax, scanner and copier, with wired and wireless connectivity, to boot, along with all the other beneficial and useful features.  Thanks, Brother!

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