Brother MFC-J5520DW review

This Brother printer’s Business Smarts will boost your home’s IQ too

Brother MFC-J5520DW

Brother MFC-J5520DW

“Don’t let the “business” fool you: This is the perfect example of a business printer you should be using at home.”
  • 11 × 17 inch print capability
  • Very good output quality
  • Super High Yield ink cartridges available
  • 250 sheet paper tray capacity
  • No automatic duplexing on ADF
  • PaperPort is older version
  • Somewhat pricey for a home MFP
  • Awkward cable routing

Here’s a quirk of the tech world: Many printers and MFPs aimed at small businesses are actually more appropriate for home use than those specifically meant as home models. There are a number of reasons for this. One is durability: “Home” printers are designed for casual use, and not really built to do a lot of printing on a continuous basis. Yet many homes have multiple users and run numerous pages through a printer every week.

If this description fits your family, it also means you’re going through a lot of ink on a regular basis. “Business” printers often have higher page yield cartridges than those meant for home use.

So don’t be fooled by the “Business” in the $199 Brother Business Smart MFC-J5520DW: It’s the perfect example of a business printer you should be using at home.

Features and design

The MFC-J5520DW is rather plain-looking, a rectangular black cube with a silver accent stripe on the front panel. The auto document feeder (ADF) is recessed into the top panel and unfolds when needed, and the entire top panel lifts up to expose the scan platen. The ADF has a 35-sheet capacity.

This printer doesn’t seem particularly compact, at 19.3 × 13.6 × 9.4 inches with the output tray retracted, and weighing 25.5 pounds. That is, until you consider that the MFC-J55420DW is capable of printing on A3/ledger size paper — the jumbo, 11 × 17 inch stuff. This size paper can be fed via a rear multipurpose input tray that folds out from the rear panel with an 80-sheet capacity, or from the MFP’s unusual paper tray on the unit’s front bottom.

When retracted, up to 250 sheets of letter-sized paper are inserted in landscape mode. To print on legal or ledger sized paper, the paper drawer extends lengthwise, and paper is fed in portrait mode. Considering that the output tray, which is mounted directly over the paper tray, needs to be pulled out to catch the printed pages, this change for larger media isn’t a problem.

The MFC-J5520DW does not provide duplexing in scan, fax, or copy mode, but does have an automatic duplexer to let you print on both sides of a sheet of paper.

This printer doesn’t seem particularly compact, until you realize it’s capable of printing on the jumbo, 11 × 17 inch stuff.

To the left of the output slot, a small hinged door covers sockets for media cards including SD and Compact Flash and a USB plug for a thumb drive. On the right side of the output slot is a swing-away panel that covers the slots where the ink cartridges are installed. The standard ink cartridges print approximately 550 pages (black and color), while high yield cartridges are also available, producing up to 2,500 pages in black and 1,200 pages in color. The standard capacity cartridges cost about $13 for the color and $20 for the black, while the Super High Yield cartridges cost about $25 for color and $40 for the black cartridge.

You control local operations such as fax, copy, and scan from the WFC-J5520DW’s large, 3.7-inch color touchscreen. To the right of the screen are two icons — a home button and an indicator that tells you that the unit is busy performing an operation.

What’s in the box

As with most of the MFPs and printers we’ve tested, there isn’t a lot in the box. There’s the unit itself with a connected power cord, four starter ink cartridges, and a CD with print and scan drivers for Windows and the Mac OS X, as well as a copy of PaperPort 12SE. Brother provides both a setup poster and a more detailed 82-page user’s guide. The guide covers the MFC-J5520DW as well as two additional models, but you won’t find it difficult or confusing to figure out what does and doesn’t apply to your model.

Setup and performance

Setting up the MFC-J5520DW was, for the most part, quick and easy. We did encounter two minor annoyances, however. The first is that you can install just the print driver, but if you want the scanner driver, you need to do a complete install that includes PaperPort. The PC we use for testing has all vendor software and drivers wiped after each review, but we do have a newer version of PaperPort (v14) installed on several other computers; a complete install would have overwritten v14 with an older version. Humph.

Brother MFC-J5520DW
Giuliano Correia/Digital Trends
Giuliano Correia/Digital Trends

Our second complaint is the weird way Brother makes you route cabling. The jacks for all of the connections — USB, Ethernet, and phone (for the fax) — are internal, requiring that you lift the hinged top half of the device to insert the cable and then route the cable through a molded channel. This is awkward, to say the least, and cost the MFC-J5520DW points in our rating.

Other than these points, our install went well. Once you remove the packing tape and install the starter ink cartridges, you need to wait several minutes for the printer to prime the ink, after which you can proceed to connect the device via USB, wired Ethernet, or Wi-Fi. The MFC-J5520DW offers WPS for Wi-Fi setup, which is a great time saver. If your router supports this connection method, you can be up and connected in under a minute. Also offered are Wi-Fi Direct, so you can connect directly to a Wi-Fi enabled device, and compatibility with Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, and Brother’s own iPrint & Scan.

The weird way Brother makes you route cabling is awkward, to say the least.

Brother rates the MFC-J5520 as printing up to 20 pages-per-minute in black and 20 ppm in color with default driver settings. In our testing with the ISO Word document set (four monochrome pages with a small color logo on each page) we didn’t get close to that output, with an average speed of 16.5 ppm. That’s still not bad, however.

Image quality, as with many inkjet printers, depends on what paper you use. With standard copy paper and even Hammermill Premium Inkjet and Laser paper, colors were somewhat washed out and undersaturated. That’s common in our testing, as the ink wicks down into the surface of the paper. When printing our test images using the BP71 Premium Glossy Photo Paper that Brother provided, images were bright, vivid, and accurate.

Copying was rather slow, which is to be expected with an inkjet given its moderate output speed. Toss in the fact that, since the ADF doesn’t duplex, to copy two-sided documents you’ll have to turn the copies over (as well as the output) to scan and print the second side. That gets old pretty quick. We also tested scanning, which is a snap. You can scan within PaperPort or alternatively to the Cloud or email.

Warranty

The MFC-J5520DW offers a two-year limited warranty and unlimited phone support.

The DT Accessory Pack

Up your game and the get the most out of your gear with the following extras, hand-picked by our editors:
Brother 4 × 6 High Gloss Paper ($3)
High-gloss paper: Make your photos shine with the right paper.

Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 Dual Band Wi-Fi Gigabit Router ($182)

What, your router doesn’t do WPS? Upgrade, my friend. Trust us on this one.

Brother – LC205CL XL 3-Pack High-Yield Ink Cartridges ($64)

You’’ll need ’em eventually. Might as well get the high-yield ink pack now, right?

Conclusion

The MFC-J5520 is one of Brother’s “Business Smart Plus Series” models. We have no doubt that the MFP would work nicely in an SMB or home office environment. But while a bit more expensive than many home-oriented models, we think the MFC-J5520DW will be very suitable for many households that do a lot of printing and occasional larger documents or crafts up to 11 × 17.

Highs

  • 11 × 17 inch print capability
  • Very good output quality
  • Super High Yield ink cartridges available
  • 250 sheet paper tray capacity

Lows

  • No automatic duplexing on ADF
  • PaperPort is older version
  • Somewhat pricey for a home MFP
  • Awkward cable routing

Editors' Recommendations