If $300 for an inkjet printer seems excessive these days, it is, until you realize that the Brother MFC-J985DW XL Work Smart All-in-One with INKvestment Cartridges not only has a scanner, fax machine and copier, but comes with something other printers don’t: three sets of ink cartridges (12 in all) that the company says are enough for two years of printing.
That might be a bit optimistic, but it’s impressive, nonetheless. That translates into paying $100 for roughly $130 of ink. Not a bad deal, but if you’d rather pay retail, there’s also a $200 version of the printer that comes with a single set of the same ink cartridges.
Overall, at 6.8- by 16.5- by 13.4-inches, the J985DW is about the same size as other multi-function printers and can fit on a shelf, dedicated table or even on a milk crate. Unlike more commercial printers, there’re no bases available that can hold a larger paper tray or other amenities and raise the unit to waist height.
That’s unfortunate, because the J985DW’s tiny 100-page paper tray is just too small. During two months of daily use, I found myself refilling it all too often. On top, it has a 20-sheet document feeder for scanning, copying or faxing pages.
Front and center is a tilt-up 2.7-inch color touchscreen that controls the printer’s settings. There’s a handy instant tap area for seeing how much ink remains in the printer’s cartridges as well as places to print from online storage services, like DropBox, set up faxes, copies and scans. You can create shortcuts to sequences that are used frequently.
With the ability to connect with the J985DW via a USB cable, wired LAN, WiFi, thumb drive or SD card, it offers freedom of choice for printing. Plus, it can tap into Apple’s AirPrint and Google’s Cloud Print to print wirelessly.
There’s another printing method that’s rapidly becoming the de facto choice for phones and tablets: Near Field Communications or NFC. Just tap the phone to the NFC spot to the left of the screen and use Brother’s iPrint & Scan app to put anything on paper.
The hardest part of the setup is that the USB and Ethernet ports are hidden inside the printer. You need to open the machine up, snake the cables in before plugging them in. It takes an extra minute, but is worth the effort.
Inside, the J985DW also has a high-quality flatbed scanner that can turn pages into 2,400 by 1,200 dot per inch images and .pdf Acrobat files. They can be saved on a PC, thumb drive or emailed. It took 52 seconds to scan a sheet on the printer’s flatbed, but if you want to scan a stack of two-sided originals, the J985DW lacks a one-pass scanner so you need to manually turn the stack over and scan them again.
The printer creates super-sharp 6,000- by 1,200 dot per inch documents and is rated to deliver 12- and 10-pages per minute (ppm) of black and white and color output, but it struggled to get close to that. The first page came out in 5.5 seconds and the J985DW produced color documents at the rate of 4.3 ppm. If you use the printer’s duplexer that drops to 3.4ppm. It’s slow, but not nearly as loud as a laser printer.
At 22-watts, the J985DW doesn’t use nearly as much electricity as a laser printer does and it drops to 2-watts when it goes to sleep. The J9895DW has a Quiet mode that most schools will like. It not only silences the printer but uses less ink.
The printer allows you to choose between Normal, Fast and Best quality printing modes as well as Natural or Vivid color. Its output is bright and sharp and characters come out well formed with little bleed through, even on photographs, although areas of dense printing tend to pucker a little.
With nearly 4,000 pages printed in a variety of modes, the J985DW is economical with per-page costs of 3.4 cents per page for color and less than 1 cent per page for monochrome text documents. That’s quite a bargain compared to the cost of HP’s much more expensive OfficeJet Enterprise Color MFP X585 as well as most laser printers.
While the J985DW can’t stop rogue firmware from running, it does come with a nice network monitoring program. The BRadmin Professional lets you see what going on inside of Brother printers as well as some HP devices. You can see if a printer is running out of ink, how many pages and printed and make key changes to its operations. At any time, you can type in the printer’s IP address and see what its settings are and make key changes.
Getting the J985DW also gives you access to Brother’s Creative Center, a library of software and templates that can help with school projects. In addition to making brochures and small booklets, the printer can help create flash cards, posters and coloring pages.
With a two-year warranty, the J985DW’s $300 price is roughly that of HP’s Color LaserJet M452dw printer, but it cuts the price of printing to the bone, allowing classrooms to use this valuable teaching resource without thinking about the costs.
+ Can print via USB, WiFi, SD card, LAN, NFC or thumb drive
+ Includes three sets of ink cartridges
+ Touch screen
+ Phone and tablet apps
+ Two-year warranty
- Small paper tray