Brother MFC-J4420DW review

This Brother business printer only looks buttoned-up, there’s a playful side too

Don’t let Brother’s advertising deter you. Its MFC-J4420DW multifunction business printer will do well for home users, and it’s a good buy.
Don’t let Brother’s advertising deter you. Its MFC-J4420DW multifunction business printer will do well for home users, and it’s a good buy.
Don’t let Brother’s advertising deter you. Its MFC-J4420DW multifunction business printer will do well for home users, and it’s a good buy.

Highs

  • Good value
  • Compact
  • Very good quality on photo paper
  • Excellent connectivity options

Lows

  • ADF does not duplex
  • Paper tray can’t handle heavy-weight sheets

In terms of marketing, Brother makes only business-oriented printers. Even its less expensive multifunction inkjet models, like the MFC-J4420DW ($170), are designed for Small Office, Home Office users, despite looking like any typical color printer for the home.

But here’s the funny thing: Besides the “Business Center” software that’s included (which has templates you can use for things like business presentations), Brother also includes “Home Center” for making crafty items like greeting cards, placemats, party kits, etc. So, even though Brother calls the J4420DW a “Business Smart” machine, it can clearly do more than just print out Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint charts.

Features and design

The black-and-gray J4420DW has an understated design that’s uncluttered. The automatic document feeder (ADF) is recessed when not in use, giving the machine a clean but boxy look. The compact J4420DW is a four-function device (print, copy, scan, and fax), measuring only 22.4 x 10.4 x 15.7 inches and weighing just 20.6 pounds. If you don’t like electronics overwhelming your room’s decor, you can easily hide it behind a cabinet.

The J4420DW delivers strong speed performance. Brother rates it at 18-20 pages per minute; we got 22.

Brother puts the J4420DW’s connection ports beneath the scan bed – somewhat awkward, since you need to lift up the entire scan platen unit, route the cords along the right side of the unit, and plug them into ports that reside in a shallow well. There’s also a USB port, located on the front behind a cover; you can use this port to print photos or documents directly from a flash drive.

Paper handling is a mixed bag. The paper tray, located at the bottom of the unit, holds up to 120 pages of letter- or legal-size paper. It is fairly sensitive to paper weight: Brother states you can use paper weights up to 24 pounds, but we found that some of the premium 24-pound paper we test with tended to jam when fed through this tray, something we didn’t experience with the general-use 20-pound copy paper we use for speed testing.

Fortunately, the J4420DW has a rear paper feed as well. This is a single-page feed, but can accommodate paper sizes up to 11×17 and heavier papers such as the Glossy Photo Paper Brother provided us for image testing. We did not experience any jam problems when feeding heavier media through this rear slot. One unusual thing that initially threw us off is that the paper is always fed in landscape position, regardless of whether or not it’s printed in portrait or landscape mode. Unlike many MFPs we’ve tested, you do have to set the paper type on the front panel when you go from one type to another (for example, from plain paper to photo paper). Most printers and MFPs let you do this solely from the print driver.

The ADF has a capacity for up to 20 letter- or legal-size pages. It does not automatically duplex, which may be an annoyance if you’re trying to make a multipage copy of a two-sided document.

The control panel has a touch-sensitive 2.7-inch LCD that is very easy to navigate. The touchscreen also displays a numeric keypad when that function is required, such as entering the number of copies or a phone number when faxing.

Brother rightly points out that the J4420DW has exceptional connectivity features. It can connect to a computer via USB, Wi-Fi, or wired Ethernet. When connected to a network, you can print to the machine using Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, or Brother’s own iPrintScan; you can also create a Wi-Fi Direct connection between device and printer. You can save different connection settings as shortcuts for future use – a good feature.

Brother MFC-J4420DW copier

Ink cartridges are easy to load, through the chamber on the front. Both high-yield and super high-yield ink cartridges are available, with the high-yield cartridges (both black and color) delivering an estimated 550 pages and costing about $25 for black and $40 for a three-pack of color inks (magenta, cyan, and yellow). Super high-yield cartridges yield about 1,200 pages and cost $30 for black and $23 for each color. Since this isn’t a photo printer, it doesn’t use multiple color inks like Epson’s Expression Photo XP-860.

What’s in the box

Brother includes a setup poster, a fairly comprehensive 69-page user’s guide, and an installation CD containing drivers, utilities for scan and fax, and a copy of Nuance’s PaperPort (version 12, which is a couple editions older than the current PaperPort 14; still, a nice adition). You get four starter ink cartridges; the capacity of these is not provided, but we emptied them dry while testing.

Warranty

The J4420DW has a two-year warranty.

Setup and performance

Setting up the J4420DW is easy. It’s straightforward, although installing all the software took about 20 minutes. For the software, you can install just the print and scan drivers, or the entire program suite. We wish we could cherry pick exactly what we want, but you can always install the entire suite and uninstall what you don’t need afterward.

It’s not a photo printer, but it can produce good-quality prints on photo paper.

We were happy with the J4420DW’s performance in our speed test. Brother rates the unit at up to 20 pages per minute (ppm) in black and up to 18 ppm in color. In our Microsoft Word test (consisting of a four-page monochrome document with a small color logo), we achieved an average speed of 22 pages per minute.

The J4420DW is capable of photo-quality output, but don’t expect to see it on plain paper. In our image test, output on plain paper was completely washed out. The colors, while way under-saturated, were accurate, but quality was nowhere near photographic.

On Brother’s own Glossy Photo Paper, the results were quite different. Except for a few spots where the printed colors were slightly darker than those in our reference prints, for the most part, the J4420DW produced very good photo output.

Whether scanning from the control panel, Nuance PaperPort, or via the TWAIN driver in Picasa, scans were performed quickly, and scanned image quality was very good. Copying, however, was disappointingly slow, but that’s a given for almost any inkjet machine. The feature is there solely as a convenience for when you need to copy a page or two. If you need 50 copies of a 20-page report, do yourself a favor and bring it to a copy shop.

Conclusion

Like other printer maker, Brother tries to distinguish between home and business printers, but there really isn’t a lot of difference other than in marketing. The J4420DW is affordable and has very good photo quality output on compatible paper. The capability of printing on 11 x 17-inch paper, using the rear feed, is a nice plus. It offers a wide variety of ways to connect to and print, as well as the ability to scan to a computer, flash memory, or even the Cloud. We had a bit of frustration with paper jams using heavier paper, but our only real complaint is the lack of a duplexing capability on the ADF.

Highs

  • Good value
  • Compact
  • Very good quality on photo paper
  • Excellent connectivity options

Lows

  • ADF does not duplex
  • Paper tray can’t handle heavy-weight sheets
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