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Brother MFC-J4535DW review: a nice printer with a major flaw

The Brother MFC-J4535DW is a compact all-in-one INKvestment printer.
Brother MFC-J4535DW INKvestment Tank printer
MSRP $249.99
“Brother's MFC-J4535DW is a surprisingly good plain paper photo printer, but the copy and scan quality ruin an otherwise great design.”
Pros
  • Impressive plain paper photo quality
  • Fast document print speed
  • Two 200-sheet paper trays and a media tray
  • Compact size
Cons
  • Poor ADF scan and copy quality
  • Poor flatbed scan and copy quality
  • 4x6 photos are washed-out

Brother’s MFC-J4535DW is a home office printer with print, scan, copy, and fax capabilities. This all-in-one inkjet comes with a year’s supply of ink, and Brother calls it an INKvestment tank printer.

The MFC-J4535DW is a unique printer in many ways, and you can tell just by looking at it that Brother rethought its printer design here. The question is whether the differences add up to a better experience while retaining good quality, reliability, and long-term value, which are key characteristics of all the best printers.

Design

Brother MFC-J4535DW is short for an all-in-one with an ADF with three paper trays.
The Brother MFC-J4535DW is short for an all-in-one with an automatic document feeder and three paper trays. Photo by Tracey Truly / Digital Trends

The Brother MFC-J4535DW is a surprisingly short printer for an all-in-one with an automatic document feeder (ADF) and three paper trays. The height is under 10 inches and it takes up 17 x 14.6 inches on your desk or stand. With the rear media tray and the front output bin open, you’ll need 24 inches of depth. It’s easy to move the MFC-J4535DW around thanks to its 21-pound weight.

The design is a nice dark gray on off-white, with a four-position control panel featuring a 2.7-inch color touchscreen. Two 200-sheet paper trays are fully removable, allowing easy printing on two types of paper or 4×6 photo stock. The rear paper tray provides a straight path for envelopes and thicker paper.

A USB-A port near the left edge lets the Brother MFC-J4535DW print from or scan to a thumb drive for easy walk-up use. The phone line ports for facsimiles are on the left side and the attached power cord cis on the left as well.

For wired connections you must thread cables inside the MFC-J4535DW.
For wired connections, you must thread cables inside the MFC-J4535DW. Photo by Tracey Truly / Digital Trends

The USB-B and Ethernet ports for a wired connection to a computer are placed inside the printer, with channels to direct the cables out the back. It’s an unusual design decision that means you might need longer cables to reach your computer. That won’t matter if you connect via Wi-Fi as I did.

Printing performance

The MFC-J4535DW prints documents quickly with good quality.
The MFC-J4535DW prints documents quickly with good quality. Photo by Tracey Truly / Digital Trends

Brother gave the MFC-J4535DW a fast print engine. Black-and-white documents print at a speedy 20 pages per minute (ppm) and color pages are nearly as quick at 19 ppm. That’s as fast as some laser printers, but with the added capabilities of an inkjet printer. Color documents came out so nicely that I decided to try plain paper photos.

The quality was remarkable. While saturation was a bit too high and detail was lower than a dedicated photo printer like the Epson EcoTank ET-8500, the Brother MFC-J4535DW can print nice-looking pictures on plain paper.

Brother's MFC-J4535DW prints on plain paper with better quality than on glossy photo paper.
Brother’s MFC-J4535DW prints on plain paper with better quality than on glossy photo paper. Photo by Tracey Truly / Digital Trends

Moving on to glossy paper, I was surprised to find the quality dropped. I tried two different types of 4×6 glossy photo stock in case one was incompatible, but the saturation was muted on high-quality photo paper. Color accuracy is good but a bit washed-out and low contrast.

You can use thick paper in the paper tray, but it had a bit of a curl after passing through the printer. If you place heavier-weight paper in the rear media tray, it comes out flat.

The three paper trays made testing quick. I could switch between photo and plain paper easily and feed a specialty paper in the back without reloading the two main trays.

Special features

The MFC-J4535DW's ADF doesn't add much height resting atop the flatbed scanner.
The MFC-J4535DW’s ADF doesn’t add much height when resting atop the flatbed scanner. Alan Truly / Digital Trends

With an all-in-one printer, you should be able to handle all your business needs without a trip to the local office store. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t rely on the Brother MFC-J4535DW for scans or copies. Epson’s EcoTank ET-2800 is priced similarly and has good scan quality.

I was prepared to give this printer an eight or nine out of 10, but the scans are a bit blurry, and that shows up when making copies. Half of the functionality of the MFC-J4535DW is lost due to a poor scanner. There’s a chance I got a lemon, but I found Amazon reviews commenting on the poor copy quality as well.

The MFC-J4535DW's copy and scan quality is disappointing.
The MFC-J4535DW’s copy and scan quality is disappointing. Photo by Tracey Truly / Digital Trends

The ADF doesn’t support duplex scanning, but duplex printing works reliably. The ADF is significantly slower than the printer, so copy speed is slow. The flatbed scanner is also slow and yields slightly fuzzy results.

The USB-A port works well for quick photo prints from a thumb drive without the need for a phone. This is more important for an office environment, but still a nice addition.

Software and compatibility

The MFC-J4535DW includes very large ink cartridges.
The MFC-J4535DW includes very large ink cartridges. Alan Truly / Digital Trends

Installing the MFC-J4535DW is quick and Brother made the process simple with some time-saving features. The four large ink cartridges slide in with a reassuring click and it only takes four minutes to charge the system. After a brief print quality check, I performed the optional printhead alignment.

Brother uses the print and scan method, aligning the printheads automatically. Every printer manufacturer should take advantage of the built-in scanners of all-in-one printers instead of requiring the user to review alignment pages and make manual adjustments.

Brother's automatic printhead alignment is a thougtful feature.
Brother’s automatic printhead alignment is a thoughtful feature. Alan Truly / Digital Trends

A sticker with a QR code for the mobile app is placed on the top of the printer. The same QR code appears on the touchscreen display during setup. Brother’s Mobile Connect app is available for the iPhone and Android phones.

The only minor issue I came across when installing the MFC-J4535DW was the firmware update. You need to enter the printer’s password, which is located on the back of the printer. I was able to get a readable photo by reaching around the back with my phone. I had to type this password on the touchscreen, which felt a little too small for my fingers. It’s not a big problem, but worth mentioning.

While most printers show you bars for each color that represent ink levels, Brother goes a bit further. The user-friendly Page Gauge feature estimates the number of pages you can print with the ink remaining. With fresh cartridges, that number will be well over 1,000 pages.

Brother shows helpful usage-based ink estimates in pages remaining.
Brother shows helpful usage-based ink estimates given in pages remaining. Alan Truly / Digital Trends

It’s easy to connect via Windows and macOS. The Brother Mobile Connect app supports iOS and Android. Everything worked as expected except printing envelopes from my phone. There’s no option to print envelopes from the mobile app or via AirPrint. Envelopes are easy from a computer.

Price

Brother's MFC-J4535DW isn't a true tank printer but the cartridges hold thousands of pages-worth of ink.
Brother’s MFC-J4535DW isn’t a true tank printer, but the cartridges hold thousands of pages worth of ink. Alan Truly / Digital Trends

Color cartridges provide about 1,500 pages, while black doubles that to 3,000 pages. Brother also sells a high-capacity black that holds up to 6,000 pages worth of ink. Based on Brother’s testing, you’ll pay about 1 cent for each monochrome document and 5 cents per color document — 4 cents if you order color cartridges in a three-pack.

Brother’s MFC-J4535DW isn’t a true inkjet tank printer since it still uses cartridges, but it still offers great value compared to most cartridge-based inkjet printers and color laser printers, where color pages can cost more than 10 cents each. A true tank printer reduces ink cost to tenths of a cent per document.

Brother estimates the large starter cartridges in this INKvestment printer should let you keep printing for about a year.

Is this the printer for you?

The Brother MFC-J4535DW is such a nice plain paper photo printer that I wanted to like it. However, you can get similar results with the Brother MFC-J1205W INKvestment Tank printer at about half the price. The MFC-J4535DW is faster, but if speed is most importan yo you, then a color laser printer like the HP Color LaserJet Pro 4301fdw is hard to beat.

If you need color copies or scans, I can’t recommend the MFC-J4535DW, since the results are disappointing. As an all-in-one that lacks good copy and scan quality, this probably isn’t the right printer for you unless you get it at a discount price.

Editors' Recommendations

Alan Truly
Computing Writer
Alan is a Computing Writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. A tech-enthusiast since his youth, Alan stays current on what is…
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