Brother is almost unique among multifunction device manufacturers in that it takes the needs of business users seriously, with the inclusion of features such as faxing and networking in its products. The MFC-820CW is just such a business-focused product, with the added advantage of an automatic document feature. And despite packing all these features it remains an extremely small and compact device.
However, where the MFC-820CW excels at targeting the needs of the business user, it rather falls down when it comes to quality, both in build and performance. This is a shame because although business users need all the high-end features offered by the MFC-820CW, they also expect a solid product that looks and feels professional.
Sadly this is where the MFC-820CW disappoints – like many Brother products it feels flimsy, as if it might break under heavy use. There are also design flaws that will prove very irritating in everyday use. For example, the power and phone line sockets are easily accessed at the side of the unit, while the USB and network ports are buried deep inside the machine, and can only be accessed by lifting the scanner unit. Why all the ports aren’t together at the back of the unit is a mystery.
Those issues aside, the MFC-820CW does offer some improvements over earlier models, such as a large colour LCD screen that can be tilted to be viewed from any angle. Another new feature that should be useful for business users is the inclusion of wireless networking. However, this feature is let down by poor implementation – the setup procedure is complicated and will probably only be accessible to experienced users.
Print performance is mediocre both in terms of speed and quality. Plain text prints at 3.6 pages per minute (ppm), which is not that fast, but reasonable for light use. Similarly, text quality is not outstanding – characters appear slightly jagged and there is some evidence of the ink running on the page – but it’s better than we have come to expect from Brother.
The MFC-820CW surprised us with its photo output. While not quite up to the standard of some of its competitors in terms of either colour accuracy or image clarity, we would have to rate the photo output on glossy paper as very good. But you could almost walk to your nearest photo-processing shop and wait for them to output a roll of film in the time it takes to print a single A4 photo. At 24 minutes you’d have to question whether it’s worth
Despite these speed issues, the MFC-820CW does have some features that will appeal to photographers, such as the full array of memory card slots and image optimisation features in the printer driver.
The 820CW is an expensive unit, although this could be justified by the array of features on offer. But while the business user is well catered for in this respect, the device is let down by painfully slow photo printing and poor design quality and build quality.