Brother’s latest Business Smart Series inkjet is fast, feature-packed and unflustered by tabloid-sized paper. It prints well too, but its disposable cartridges cannot compete with laser or refillable rivals
Print and copy A3 documents
Rapid print speed
Two paper trays
Great features and connectivity
Paper trays protrude with A3
Not Brother’s fastest inkjet
Not an INKvestment Tank model
High running costs
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Brother makes both laser and inkjet printers and with this model, the line between the technologies is blurred. The Brother MFC-J6940DW heads up the brand’s Business Smart Series, which is designed for business users based in an office.
That’s somewhere you’d more often find a laser, but this is an inkjet that prints as fast as a laser printer and can handle the same heavy print load. Brother recommends a duty cycle of up to 2,500 pages per month.
But being an inkjet, there are more features than you’ll find on a laser. You can print on coated photo paper, for instance, and there’s room for two separate paper trays in addition to the 50-sheet ADF (automatic document feeder). As a premium business printer, you’ll find luxuries like NFC, dual-side scanning and a large color touchscreen interface.
But the most impressive thing about the Brother MFC-J6940DW is its ability to duplex print and duplex scan tabloid or A3-size paper. That’s something few laser printers can manage. At around £370 (roughly US$453, AU$683) it’s a lot of printer for your money, but can a cartridge-based inkjet cope with the high demands of business use? Let’s find out.
Brother MFC-J6940DW: Design and build
The Brother MFC-J6940DW looks like a considerable chunk of off-white plastic, but given that it can hold a whole ream of A3 paper in its two trays, it’s actually quite compact. To reduce the bulk, Brother’s designers have made it taper inwards from the waist down so that it appears to lean forwards a little.
It’s a clever way of reducing the footprint, although it means that you can’t actually fit A3 paper in the trays without extending them, which ruins the smooth line at the front.
It looks very much like one of Brother’s premium X Series models, but don’t be fooled. The Brother MFC-J6940DW has a slightly smaller cavity for its ink cartridges which means it cannot take the super high-yield INKvestment Tank cartridges.
Those are the ones that can print 6,000 mono and 5,000 color pages. That’s a blow, but at least this cheaper model benefits from all the same design advantages as the top-of-the line X Series Brother MFC-J6957DW.
These include the large A3-size scanner glass, the equally large 50-sheet ADF, the generous 8.8cm touchscreen and the same clever cable management, where the USB, Ethernet and fax cables feed in through the side to connect internally and where they won’t be unplugged by accident.
The build quality feels rugged and Brother says the life expectancy of this latest model is significantly extended to improve its efficiency and environmental impact. It’s a pity that environmental awareness doesn’t extend to making this an INKvestment Tank model, or ditching disposable cartridges altogether and going over to bottled ink as other inkjet manufacturers have done.
Brother MFC-J6940DW: Features and specifications
As a premium all-in-one printer aimed at the business user, the Brother MFC-J6940DW comes with a long list of features. This is not Brother’s best AOI, though, so the spec-sheet is slightly less spectacular than that of the Brother MFC-J6957DW. On the plus side, it has plenty of room for blank media with two separate drawers capable of holding a ream of paper (500 sheets) between them.
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: 28 ipm (mono)
Paper capacity: 500 + 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 (550 mono, 550 color pages)
Dimensions/Weight: 576 x 477 x 375 mm (WxDxH)/3.1kg
You can fit another 100 sheets in the rear multi-purpose tray, another 50 in the ADF and yes, that can all be A3-sized paper if you want. On the minus side, it’s fractionally slower than the X Series and crucially, it lacks compatibility with the super high-yield cartridges.
Being a 4-in-1 multifunction device means you can print, scan, copy and fax. It’s also very well connected with Ethernet and USB ports inside, a USB Host port at the front and an NFC module. That last feature allows you to bring down sensitive print jobs by simply tapping your smartphone near the module. That’s a great feature in a shared office. There’s also Wi-Fi with Wi-Fi Direct and AirPrint compatibility.
The Brother MFC-J6940DW can duplex print of course, but it can also duplex scan and copy via the ADF. That’s a feature many AOI’s can’t manage with a single sheet of A4, but this machine can do it with a stack of A3 pages. Blowing up A4 documents in size, or reducing them is made easy by this user-friendly digital copier.
The box includes four standard cartridges containing enough ink for 550 mono and 550 color pages, but higher yield cartridges are available that can give you 3,000 mono and 1,500 color cartridges. As you would expect, higher yield means lower cost-per-page, but even so, the ongoing consumables cost here is a little higher than most laser printers and much higher than refillable inkjet printers.
For an inkjet, the Brother MFC-J6940DW prints quickly at 28ipm (imprints per minute) in black and white mode and it has a fast first-page-out time of 4.4 seconds. That’s a little slower than Brother’s fastest inkjets and there are plenty of lasers that can print faster, but for most offices, that’s probably quick enough.
The enhanced print resolution is higher than any laser at 1,200 x 4,800 which makes it suitable for printing photos onto glossy photo paper. In fact, it can print on almost any kind of media from envelopes and sticky labels to heavy card and tabloid-sized coated paper. Flexible is one way to sum up this all-in-one device.
Brother MFC-J6940DW: Setup and operation
A very brief and easy-to-follow setup guide is included in the box, but it’s unlikely that you’ll need it. Thanks to this printer’s 8.8cm color LCD touchscreen, it’s a simple case of plugging in the machine and following the on-screen instructions. These prompts tell you when to load the four cartridges and help you get connected to your local Wi-Fi network. It also gives you the chance to print two test pages, one to check print head alignment and another to ensure all of your nozzles are firing. Our sample looked fine first time.
With the large touchscreen interface, big hard buttons and rapid printing, the Brother MFC-J6940DW is very easy to use. It is also supported by a strong companion app for iOS/Android devices called MobileConnect. This gives you very intuitive wireless control of your printer. Printing and scanning to and from the cloud is a breeze with this free app.
Brother MFC-J6940DW: Performance
The first thing we noticed during our testing is that this printer is fast. The first print out time of 4.6 seconds and the top print speed of 28ipm is about right. That’s the speed for single-sided monochrome printing, but things don’t slow down too much for duplexed color documents. Pages of black text look satisfyingly dark and dense and the characters appear crisp and smudge-free right down to the smallest point size.
Brother’s Innobella black ink is pigment based so it should stay nice and clear for a very long time. When printing in draft mode, the difference is quite dramatic because a lot less ink is used as the paper churns through and your text looks a lot lighter. It’s almost as crisp, however, and it’s good to know that in draft mode, you’re saving ink as well as time.
The Innobella color cartridges contain water soluble dye-based inks, which makes more vibrant tones possible, but less durable prints. That’s not to say your color prints will fade any time soon and they proved pretty smudge-resistant in our tests. They also looked pleasingly bright and well contained. Mixed color documents print well, and photographs aren’t bad either.
This a business printer, not a photo printer, but it does a decent job of printing high resolution images onto coated photo paper. They could be a little sharper and the colors don’t quite pop the way they do with a photo printing service, but for most of us, it’s good enough.
The Brother MFC-J6940DW also makes a fine photocopier, thanks to its expert handling of A3 paper. Either placing a document on the large glass scanner plate, or feeding it into the 50-sheet ADF, you can expect to receive back a faithful copy, and it can be either reduced or blown up in size.
Brother MFC-J6940DW: Final verdict
If you’re looking for a single multifunction printer for your office that really can do-it-all, the Brother MFC-J6940DW could be the one. It has a plenty of room for paper and an effortless ability with A3-sized media. It prints quickly for an inkjet and consistently. Draft Mode copies appear rather pale, but everything else, including photographs, look impressive.
With features like NFC, a large touchscreen, duplex printing and scanning all included, there’s nothing missing here. However, it is somewhat expensive and that puts it up against laser printers like the Xerox B215, which print faster. And don’t forget the refillable business inkjets like the Canon MAXIFY GX7020 which are more expensive to buy, but way more economical to run. If you’re going to print a lot, you should look at laser and refillable inkjets first.
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.