Review : Brother MFC-J985DW XL All-In-One Printer

Brother aims to help heal the hurt of high ink costs with new all-in-one printer

MacNN Rating:


Product Manufacturer: Brother

Price: $300

The Good

  • Touch screen navigation menu
  • Includes two years of ink
  • Easy wireless setup

The Bad

  • Large and somewhat cumbersome to handle
  • May actually provide too much ink for casual and home use
We've talked about the issue with printer ink before, about how many people tend to buy a brand new, cheap printer on sale every time they run out of ink, as it is often cheaper to do so than buy a full set of ink refills. If you have a home office or a small business, a decent quality printer isn't as disposable. Brother has a solution, though; the Brother Brother MFC-J985DW XL, a print station for small business use that aims to make high ink costs a thing of the past.

The basics

We'd like to introduce you to the Brother Brother MFC-J985DW XL, or as it's known: The Brother Work Smart All-In-One. On the outside, you'd think it was just another printer, but it's not. It's a printer, a scanner, a photocopier, and it even has fax capabilities, if you're someone who still routinely sends and receives faxes. It's designed to be your sidekick in your home, home office, or small business, and it even includes two years worth of ink to boot!

It's also a print station that is designed to be fairly easy-to-use. It features a 2.7-inch touch screen display on the front, which makes navigating the menus easier than using a tiny directional pad. We thought this was a great feature, especially as it emulates the smartphone screens that almost everyone is accustomed to.

Getting down to business

After we unboxeded the Work Smart All-In-One, we decided to stop and give our first impression before continuing. First thing worth noting: It's not the smallest printer ever, but that's because it's not just a printer. With a length/depth/height of 16.5 by 13.4 by 6.8 inches, and coming in at just under 20 pounds, you'll want to place it somewhere that can support that sort of weight and size. You'll also want to make sure you put it in an area that gives the scanner lid enough room to open, so if you place it under a table or shelf, you'll want to make sure you've got the headroom for it -- the Work Smart All-In-One is heavy enough that you're not going to want to move it after it's in place.

Obviously, this is a little bit more geared toward a home office environment rather than personal use. With 12 high-yield cartridges included in the box, Brother says you'll get up to two years worth of printing, which they state as being about 7,200 black pages and 3,600 color pages. This ends up working out to about 300 pages a month, give or take, which should be suitable for most small business needs.

If you use the numbers that Brother gives, the cost to print per page is about $0.04 if you're printing only in black ink, or about $0.08 if you're printing in full color. It's worth noting that this also factors in the printer itself, and subsequent refill printing prices drop to $0.01 per black ink only printing and $0.05 for something printed in color. For comparison, the Epson Expression EcoTank printer we tested earlier starts at $0.08 for black ink only printing, and $0.05 per item printed in color, and this includes the price of the printer. However, because of the EcoTank's refill system, the printing costs drop to $0.0033 per black ink only printing, and $0.0062 per color print upon the first full refill of the system.

How does it perform?

For the print time, it's what we'd call decidedly average. It's not the fastest printer, but it's not the slowest, with an average print time of about 12 pages a minute for black-only, or 10 pages a minute for color printing. If you use it to print double-sided, it's obviously going to take a bit longer. The printing quality is exactly what you'd expect from a solid, mid-range printer: no curve balls, and you can print on everything from legal paper to envelopes, glossy photo papers, and even 3M 3410 Transparency Film, if you've got an old-school projector lying around. It's a solid printer for sure, but it's still not what we'd recommend if you're going to be printing artwork for sale.

Scanning is capable of a resolution of 19,200 x 19,200 dpi, and produces a decent image. We think that like most scanners, it's still somewhat better for scanning color photographs than black and white documents, but as long as you keep your scanner bed clean and free of lint an fingerprints, you'll get an entirely usable scan.

As far as the photocopying goes, it works the same as scanning the document as a high-contrast gray-scale image and printing it out. It's slower than a true copy machine, but produces a higher quality image. We didn't test faxing, as we didn't have any means (or desire) to.

Wonderful wireless

The number one thing that we love about this print station? It's wireless. Not only does it make it much easier to print things from any computer on your network, you can utilize AirPrint and other mobile printing options. It also makes it a snap to share things to a ton of different cloud services. The Work Smart All-In-One allows you to scan and upload straight into Google Drive, Evernote, Dropbox, and more. You can also use the scanner to scan directly to your computer, of course, or if you download the Brother app, straight to your smartphone as well.

The wireless setup on the Work Smart All-In-One is wonderfully easy. Simply turn it on, enter the setup menu, and follow the instructions. We love the fact that it gives you the option to press the WPS button on your router (if you have one) for a setup that takes less than a couple of minutes from start to finish.

The final word

We've tested our fair share of all-in-one print stations, and we're happy to say that this one is a solid buy. When you factor in the cost of ink cartridges, though, the Brother Brother MFC-J985DW XL is actually quite a bit cheaper than it's competitors, thanks to the two years of included ink. If you want your own Brother Work Smart All-In-One, you can head over to Amazon and pick one up for $300, with free shipping for Prime members.

-- Amber Neely (@SurferAmber)

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