Brother's MFC-J650DW Compact Inkjet All-in-One Printer

An occasional-use AIO, Brother's MFC-J650DW is compact and convenient

Brother MFC-650DW Multifunction Printer
Brother's compact and well-built small office AIO. Brother

One of the realities for printer makers is that there’s a large group of computer users out there—businesses and consumers—that just don’t print very often. They need to print occasionally, often enough that they feel justified in buying a printer, but they can’t rationalize spending a lot for it. And, similarly, they want their inexpensive little all-in-one (print/scan/copy/fax) to print well, be reasonably fast, and strong on features—just the kind of AIO Brother specializes in.

Enter Brother’s $129.99-list MFC-J650DW, which was discounted on Brother’s Web site to $109.99 while I wrote this.

Design & Features

Part of Brother’s entry-level Work Smart Series, the MFC-J650DW provides a reasonably strong feature set with an emphasis on less—when it comes to capacity, that is. At 16.1 inches across, 14.7 inches from front to back, 7.1 inches tall and weighing 19.6 pounds, this AIO truly is compact. For example, it comes with a 20-page automatic document feeder (ADF), one of the smallest available, and, unfortunately, it’s not an auto-duplexing ADF for processing two-sided, multipage originals, meaning that any two-sided scanning or copying will require you to flip originals manually.

PC-free, or walk-up features, such as copy and fax, or printing from or scanning to several different types of memory devices, including SD Cards and USB thumb drives; PictBridge for printing from digital cameras, and a slew of cloud sites, including Picasa, Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Flickr, and Facebook. These and other mobile device features are configurable through the control panel, which is anchored by a 2.7-inch touch screen for navigating and configuring the printer.

Paper Handling, Performance, Print Quality

The MFC-J650DW has only one input source—a 100-page tray for plain paper with a 20-sheet 4x6 photo insert that sits inside of the main tray, allowing you to switch back and forth between standard paper and photo paper on the fly. As for performance, during my tests (and the ones I’ve seen), the MFC-J650DW comes in at just under 5 pages per minute (ppm), which isn’t bad at all for so small and inexpensive a device.

Print quality, too, isn’t bad. In fact, I got better document pages and photos from this little AIO than I have from other more costly Brother printers—at least as good as you’d expect from drugstore prints. As for our copies and scans, for the most part, they too looked good, but not without some manipulation of the parameters from the scanning interface software. Overall, though, this printer performs and prints well.

Cost Per Page

This printer’s most disappointing feature is its cost per page. When you use Brother’s highest-yield (XL) tanks, black-and-white pages cost your about 4.2 cents each and color pages about 11.7 cents. Like many entry-level printers, Brother sells this one at a low price and then dings you for the ink. In my opinion, if you print more than a few hundred pages each month, you’d be better off buying a higher-volume model, such as Brother’s own $249.99 (MSRP) MFC-5620DW.

If you print much at all, you’ll be glad you did. For an understanding of how choosing a printer with the wrong CPPs can cost you.

Final Thoughts

The MFC-J650DW is a fine little printer—as long as you don’t need to print much. Otherwise, it’s just too expensive to use. But then that’s the dilemma for all of these entry-level AIOs; they’re only good values if, like your cell phone’s metered minutes, you don’t print or copy too much. Scanning and faxing, on the other hand, are free.