Brother has rolled all of the essential office features into this budget-friendly Business Smart four-in-one, including full A3 functionality. It prints very quickly for an inkjet, but not cheaply, unless you take up the EcoPro/Refresh EZ Print subscription offered with this model.
Fast FPOT and print rate
All-round A3 ability
EcoPro/Refresh EZ Print ready
Inkjet cartridges are expensive
Only one paper tray
Manual 2-sided scan only
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Type: 4-in-1 color A3 inkjet printer
Functions: Print, scan, copy, fax
Connectivity: Ethernet, USB, Wi-Fi
Data storage slots: USB Host
Print speed: 28ipm (mono)
Paper capacity: 250 + 50 sheets
Print quality: 1,200 x 4,800 dpi
Scan quality: 600 x 600 dpi
Apple AirPrint: yes
Consumables included: 4x standard cartridges (550 mono pages, 550 color)
Dimensions/Weight: 576 x 477 x 305 mm (WxDxH)/28.6kg
The Brother MFC-J6540DW is the entry-level A3 model in Brother’s Business Smart Series, and an office printer that can handle 11 inch by 7 inch paper, the price is pretty low, depending where you shop. Pitching itself as one of the best all-in-one printers for businesses, this is a four-in-one with a fast print speed, touchscreen interface, an ADF (automatic document feeder) and fax. The duty cycle is given as 2,500 pages per month, making it one of the best small business printers for everyday office use, and should satisfy most general needs.
The suggested retail price including tax is around $280 with Brother USA, or £430 from Brother UK - or roughly $540. That’s a big difference. So, assuming you don’t buy direct from Brother UK, you will be getting a lot of printer for your money.
It’s also one of Brother’s first EcoPro ready printers. EcoPro in Europe, or Refresh EZ Print as it is branded in the US, is a subscription service that provides discounted ink and full service for a monthly fee appropriate to your needs. It’s Brother’s answer to HP+ and you get four months of it free when you purchase this model. This is all good news, but never forget that this is a cartridge-based inkjet. And even with the best inkjet printers, running cartridge costs can be high, so you’re probably going to need that ink discount to keep your consumables cost competitive.
Brother MFC-J6540DW: Design & build
Brother’s latest Business Smart Series resembles the previous generation of big desktop office inkjets, but in fact they have all been re-engineered from chip to print-head. The latest MAXIDRIVE inkjet technology is said to improve speed and quality.
Outwardly, the Brother MFC-J6540DW looks a little top heavy with the tapering base being smaller than the overhanging scanner bed and ADF, but if that odd shape buys you a little more desk space, then that’s a good thing. It actually has the same footprint as the big banner-printing Brother MFC-J6959DW. Another nice design touch is the way your USB and Ethernet cables connect inside the printer rather than via ports at the rear where they might get pulled out by mistake.
This is the smallest multifunction model in the range with just one 250-sheet paper tray. The touchscreen display is also a little smaller at 6.8cm in diameter. The ink cartridge compartment is large enough to hold the XL carts that are twice the capacity of the bundled standard carts. Much of the bulk of this all-in-one belongs to the ADF which can handle an impressive 50 sheets of A3 or Ledger-size paper. The rear multipurpose tray is also A3 size, but you can only load one sheet at a time.
Brother MFC-J6540DW: Features & specifications
This is a well-specified four-in-one aimed at the small business user or home office worker who needs the best A3 printer without breaking the bank. As such, we were delighted to see this comes with all essential business features. That includes auto-duplex color printing, a decent ADF, wi-fi, a front USB port and a fax modem. It also has a decent colour touchscreen interface and a very fast print rate, for an inkjet. The speed is given at 29ipm (images per minute) in the US and 28ipm in the rest of the world. The only reason for that discrepancy is the slight difference in size between Letter and A4 paper. Both the print resolution and the scan resolution are respectable, which should make this unit a fine photocopier.
As the entry-level multifunction model, however, a few features have been withheld to keep the price down. There’s no NFC module, for example, and no single pass dual scan feature. And it’s a pity the Brother MFC-J6540DW cannot take the really big INKvestment Tank cartridges that can yield up to 6,000 pages from a single black cartridge. The maximum capacity here is half that, which makes the ink cost per page higher.
Instead of oversized ink cartridges, Brother is offering customers discounted ink through its new subscription service called EcoPro, or Refresh EZ Print and including a free four month trial with this printer. Just like the HP+ sub, you estimate how many pages you’re going to print each month and choose the appropriate subscription fee.
Your replacement cartridges should arrive just before you run out of ink, so long as your printer keeps communicating with Brother online, and the old cartridges can be returned for recycling. Your warranty will also be extended throughout your subscription period.
Hopefully Brother’s service is easier to get out of than HP’s when you want to give it up. Personal experience puts me off signing up to such subscriptions unless I’m sure I’m going to print regularly with that printer.
The key feature of the Brother MFC-J6540DW is its ability to print, copy and fax any size of paper up to A3 or Ledger. It can hold 250 sheets in the main tray and another 50 in the ADF. It can flip a sheet of A3 in auto duplex print mode, but it can’t automatically duplicate a double-sided document. It does have two-sided copy mode, but you have to turn the paper over yourself. Another limitation is the single paper tray. Pay more for the step-up MFC-J6940DW and you get two drawers that can be filled with both A3 and A4 paper.
Brother MFC-J6540DW: Setup & operation
The Brother MFC-J6540DW comes with a very clear 13-step quick start manual, but you probably won’t need it. It’s a simple case of turning it on, loading your paper and following the prompts that appear on the touchscreen display. My advice is shake the ink cartridges before you load them and then print out both of the test pages suggested by the setup procedure. The print head test shows you if the nozzles are firing, while the alignment test page can be scanned to automatically detect any alignment issues.
The four bundled LC422 cartridges are the standard size with a claimed yield of 550 color pages and 550 monochrome. However, with this being the first installation, some of that ink is needed to prime the delivery tubes and so you will only get around 358 pages of CMY and 358 of BK.
You can download Brother’s Mobile Connect app onto your Apple or Android device and use that to get your new printer onto your wi-fi network without having to type in any passwords. The same companion app also makes it very easy to print and scan from and to the cloud. When you’re operating the Brother MFC-J6540DW remotely, or at the printer, the sensitive touchscreen ensures this is a painless process either way.
Brother MFC-J6540DW: Performance
The Brother MFC-J6540DW passed all of our tests without any misprints or paper jams and it achieved its promised print speed with ease. Brother’s latest Business Smart inkjets are blessed with print rates that rival and even overtake laser printers, which usually dominate the business sector. In this case, the FPOT (first print out time) of 4.4 seconds is the fastest in class and our twenty page Word document was churned out quickly and quite quietly at around 5dB.
The quoted print speed is for simplex printing, but it doesn’t slow down much for duplex printing. That figure is 21ipm. And duplexing with A3 paper was equally impressive. Printing in draft mode is the fastest and it’s more economical on ink too, but be warned; I found text documents were so pale in draft mode that they were quite hard to read in low light. Switch to standard quality and your black text looks suitably dark and well defined, even at very small point sizes. The best laser printers still generally make a better job of text documents thanks to their clinical application of black toner, but this inkjet with its pigment black ink comes very close.
Inkjets always win when it comes to the best photo printers, though, and the Brother MFC-J6540DW does a great job, considering that this is an office AOI (all-in-one) and not a dedicated photo printer. The advantage here is that it can print on almost any size photo paper from 4x6 inch up to borderless A3. While the black ink is pigment based, the coloured inks are dye based and this results in bright and detailed photos. However, a printer using all dye inks, which bond especially well with coated photo paper, would deliver a more natural and vivid finish. Suffice to say, this is a business printer that does a good job with text and mixed colour documents, while also turning out a reasonable photograph.
The Brother MFC-J6540DW makes a fine photocopier too, thanks to its large Ledger-sized scanner glass and its competence with large format paper. I found it easy to blow up and reduce my duplications by any percentage. When you select 2-sided copy, the printer holds the first page in its 256MB memory and prompts you to turn the page over. It’s the next best thing to single pass dual-scanning.
Brother MFC-J6540DW: Final verdict
If you need a fast office all-in-one that can print, copy and fax A3 or Ledger-sized paper, the Brother MFC-J6540DW is a great place to start. It might not be the very best large-format printer out there, but the very reasonable price includes essential features, such as automatic two-sided colour printing, wi-fi and a 50-sheet ADF (automatic document feed) plus a few extras. There’s a convenient touchscreen interface and a front USB Host port, for example, and this printer boasts the fastest first page out time in its class. Print performance is strong with text and colour documents, while photos look pretty good too.
Downsides? There’s no NFC module and no single pass dual scan function, but the bigger problem is the cost of replacement inkjet cartridges. This model is not compatible with the extra large INKvestment Tank cartridges and its XL cartridges can only manage 3,000 prints maximum. But the best Brother printers now support its new subscription service, which does make up for this shortcoming by offering discounted ink and giving away a four month free trial with this purchase. If you are prepared to commit to the monthly payments, this affordable A3 printer could also be economical to run.
Jim is a seasoned expert when it comes to testing tech. From playing a prototype PlayStation One to meeting a man called Steve about a new kind of phone in 2007, he’s always hunting the next big thing at the bleeding edge of the electronics industry. After editing the tech section of Wired UK magazine, he is currently specialising in IT and voyaging in his VW camper van.