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Review: Brother MFC-J5720DW Multi-Function Printer

New Zealand is a land of small businesses. Over 80% of all business in New Zealand have 1-2 full time staff. Getting the technology right for a small business can be a real head scratcher. At least printing has got easier thanks to Brothers all-in-one inkjet, the MFC-J5720DW.

This was bought home to me when Brother asked me to check out the MFC-J5720DW. My wife had started a small home business and printers were the technological equivalent of a thorn in her side, wreaking havoc on home office harmony. Taking this into account I leapt at the chance to road test the MFC-J5720. As tech and printer hating home office worker my wife was the perfect test subject.

Look and feelThe first thing that struck me as I unboxed the MFC-J5720DW is its sheer size. Where most inkjets resemble small Tupperware boxes, Brothers beast is a black windowless building.

Finished in a black on black finish fresh from the Darth Vader school of design, the MFC-J5720DW sports a real no nonsense industrial look. A flatbed scanner is on top, and hidden away deep in the bowels of the MFC-J5720DW is a fax machine. In a nutshell, the MFC-J5720DW is the equivalent of a printer Swiss army knife.

SpecsThere’s good reasons for the MFC-J5720DW's XXL size. For a start it has an extra 250 sheet lower tray and large 50-sheet auto document feeder. Being able to load it up with A4, set and forget meant my wife was far less frazzled.

Another factor, not considered by many, is cost to use. This hasn’t escaped the attention of Brother. They’ve baked in a bunch of features aimed at saving canny owners a bunch of cash.

This equates to larger ink cartridges to reduce ink costs and features aimed at reducing paper consumption.

A 250-sheet lower paper tray brings the MFC-J5720DW's paper capacity up to 550 sheets. There are 250 sheets in the upper tray, 250 in the lower tray plus 50 in the Auto Document Feeder. If all that paper has your inner tree hugger breaking out in hives, don’t stress. Double-sided printing is also available which can halve paper usage and costs.

An Automatic Document Feeder also compliments this. In use it transformed the MFC-J5720 into a pretty zippy copier/scanner. The scanner also proved to be pretty smart, as it could intelligently skip blank pages. The MFC-J5720 was also able to scan to my email, Dropbox and Google Drive accounts.

In UseBrother’s spec sheets listed the MFC-J5720 as being able to crank out colour prints at up to 20 ppm and mono pages at 22 ppm. In reality speeds varied depending on page coverage and the print quality mode used. Either way it felt more like printing from a high-speed office laser printer than a multi-function ink-jet.

The unit I tested had a few quirks. While tasks such as scanning documents to email worked flawlessly, the Brother software was a little cranky. The MFC-J5720 would sometimes print several copies of a document, complete several blank sheets of paper.

Print quality also varied. The lowest setting looked a lot like dot-matrix printer would output. For in-office use this is definitely a good thing as it saved a ton of ink. Switching to the best print quality setting with plain paper did improve things slightly. This said, while there was no visible ink bleed, text on plain paper looked washed out being more dark grey than black.

VerdictThese minor issues aside, there’s a lot to like with the MFC-J5720. It’s all in one design meant it takes up a fraction of the space that standalone fax machines, scanners and printers would otherwise consume. In a home office where free space is often at a premium, this along with its paper handling capabilities and large ink cartridges are big selling points.

Being Wi-Fi capable also made for a flexible setup. The printer’s location was no longer dictated by proximity to a PC or the length of the supplied USB cable.

An intuitive touch screen interface also meant I didn't need to gain a doctorate in advanced rocket science before I could use it. This is great news for small business owners who lack the spare time to learn a new printer/scanner/fax. It is sufficiently intuitive to drive that they’ll be up and away almost straight after unboxing and setting up.

So would I recommend the MFC-J5720DW? While its text output on plain paper could do with some improving, the sheer bang per buck value of the MFC-J5720DW makes it pretty hard to ignore. Selling for a pretty reasonable $399.95, its combination of features and ease of use definitely make it a good workhorse for small businesses.