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Hands-on review: Brother MFC-J4540DW multi-function inkjet printer
Tue, 8th Feb 2022
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The Brother MFC-J4540DW is an A4 duplex printer/scanner/fax machine with a 20-page document feeder.

Even as we endeavour to go paperless, printers are a necessary evil. But things have changed. Once a device for ousting as much money as possible from customers for the inevitable (and expensive) ink refills, manufacturers keen to promote sustainability (or more likely realising that we are going to get our ink cartridges refilled rather than pay top-dollar for official replacements) now offer devices with a reasonable supply of ink.

The MFC-J4540DW is a Brother “INKvestment” multi-function printer in that it comes with “up to” one year of ink in the box. That's based on up to 2,600 black pages and 1,900 pages using colour.

I was expecting something more like Epson's EcoTank arrangement, whereby the pack includes a few bottles of ink to refill the printer's ink reservoirs. Instead, I got four large cartridges (black, cyan, magenta, and yellow), most of which were empty plastic with a tiny bit of ink in each. So, despite the INKvestment branding, Brother only supplies starter cartridges with full-sized ones available at a premium. I have no real issue with the above, but the INKvestment branding suggests something a little more than just marketing nonsense. You seem to be getting the same deal that you always got.

Measuring approximately 42cm x 33cm x 24cm, it's a fairly compact printer suitable for a home office and easy for me to find a space for. The setup was equally painless. I was able to connect the printer to the wireless network using just the printer's menu on the touchscreen. So if you are averse to using vendor's setup tools, you'll still be OK. The touchscreen offers easy access to the printer functions and the setup tools.

The printer has a suite of software that can be downloaded from the Brother website. The software can set the printer up wirelessly, via Ethernet cable, or by direct USB connection.

The Ethernet and USB ports are interestingly tucked away under the scanner bed instead of just positioned on the back of the unit. In addition, there are sockets for a landline cable and telephone should you be one of the last people in the world that still requires the use of a fax machine.

The Brother iPrint and Scan utility allow users to print directly from files and execute scanning, all from the desktop. The package also includes tools for checking the printer status and optional applications for document control and mobile phone access. The install process also generates a link to the Brother Creative Centre on your desktop. The Creative Centre can be used to create custom documents from templates.

The printer's automatic document feeder, pretty much essential for an office setup, only takes 20 sheets, so no scanning or copying the manuscripts of your epic novel. For most, this should be enough for the odd bit of copying and scanning we do these days.

Both document printing and scanning are fast and of high quality. The device can print up to 1,200 x 4,800 dpi A4/Letter-sized documents and photos. Scanning resolutions are up to 1200x2400 on the scanner glass and 1200 x 600 dpi when using the automated document feeder.

There are two paper trays, so you can load up to 400 sheets. The top tray is for plain and glossy paper, whereas the bottom tray is just for plain paper. Unfortunately, the printer did not like my thick 250 GSM matte photo paper, causing a paper jam when loaded into the tray. It didn't mind the glossy 250 GSM photo paper, though. There is a feeder to the rear of the printer for the thicker paper if required.

Run-of-the-mill documents were no problem for the printer, making for fast and crisp printing. I had limited success using the Brother printing app with high-quality images. But I had no problem with Adobe Acrobat and could print very high-resolution images on glossy 250 GSM photo paper. However, it does squeak a bit on the quality printer settings and takes considerably longer with images than it does with a plain document.

Scanning from the printer menu didn't seem to work as it couldn't find the networked printer. The Brother application worked but was a bit on the slow side. From within Adobe Photoshop, using WIA support, the scanning worked fine. The scanned images looked pretty good, as well.

Images can also be printed directly from a USB memory stick or a mobile phone. The front of the printer has a USB socket, and tapping your phone on the indicated area will install (with first use) and launch the Brother Connect app. Documents and photos can then be selected on the phone and printed.

I found the multi-function inkjet printer excelled at general office duties like document printing and copying. But photo printing and high-resolution image scanning were a bit tedious using a PC.

Arguably, it's not really designed for quality image reproduction. A bit of fiddling gets the right results, though. Printing photos from a phone was surprisingly effortless.

The Brother MFC-J4540DW is a nice-looking and feature-packed multi-function printer that does its job as a home office device very well. It's also very handy for quickly printing photos from your mobile phone and the odd high-resolution image. Prints are vibrant and accurate, and scanned documents clear, which is exactly what you want.