Brother MFC-J6520DW Multifunction Printer

High speed, wide format, and low CPP

Brother's MFC-J6520DW Multifunction, Wide-Format Printer
Print, scan, copy, and fax tabloid (11x17-inch) pages. Brother

Perhaps few small- and home-based-offices (SOHOs) require high-speed, high-volume, wide-format multifunction printers, but once you or your company has owned one, you’ll wonder how you got along without it—and you surely won’t want to go back to a midsize letter-size printer again. While nowadays, the major printer makers are all offering wide-format printers (in this case, 11x17 inches, a.k.a. tabloid), none of them manufacture as many as Brother.

In one way or another, the company’s Business Smart, Business Smart Plus, or Business Smart Pro models all at least print 11x17-inch pages. Some, such as the Pro models, like the $249.99-list MFC-J5620DW Multifunction Printer reviewed here, can also copy, scan, and fax tabloid-size pages—features that for certain applications can be immensely beneficial.

Overall, this is a highly versatile mid-range multifunction printer with a highly competitive cost per page, or CPP.

Design & Features

In several ways, the MFC-J6520 is a pared down version of the $299.99-list MFC-J6920DW I reviewed a few months ago. Both models are tabloid, or wide-format (again, in this case 11x17 inches), but for the extra $50 the higher-priced model gives you another 250-sheet input drawer, for a total of three input sources—two 250-sheet drawers up front and a single-sheet override tray on the back for printing one-up envelopes, forms, labels, and such.

Yet another significant difference between our review unit here and the MFC-J6920DW also has a 35-page auto-duplexing automatic document feeder (ADF) for scanning, copying, and faxing multipage, two-sided originals. The MFC-J6520DW’s ADF doesn’t auto-duplex.

This AIO also provides a wide range of PC-free printing and scanning features, including printing from and scanning to a number of memory devices, including SD Cards and USB, via its 2.7-inch touch LCD and surrounding control panel.

As with the MFC-J6920DW, you can define and print/scan via a number of alternative mobile-device print channels, notably Google Cloud Print, Apple’s AirPrint, and Wi-Fi-Direct from the control panel. You can also print from iOS (iPads & iPhones) and Android smartphones and tablets with Brother’s iPrint&Scan app available at Apple Store and Google Play, respectively. For a description of the more recent mobile printing features, check out this About.com article.

Paper Handling, Performance, & Print Quality

With only one (deep) 250-sheet print drawer, the MFC-J6520’s paper handling options are limited. Granted there’s that single-sheet override tray on the back for feeding one-up specialty sheets at a time, and that may help at times. But the drawback to the one drawer is that to switch from tabloid to letter or vice versa, you must empty and reconfigure the tray, essentially taking the MFP out of service. You can, however, feed one tabloid sheet at a time through the rear tray.

But again, recall that this MFP can not only print 11x17-inch pages, but it can also fax, copy, and scan them. As to overall performance, or print speed, like most Brother MFPs, this one’s respectfully fast. During the print offs I’ve seen, it held its own against or beat most of its competitors.

Print quality, too, is always important. As with many of these Business Smart models (as well as other high-volume models from other makers), we got near-laser quality when printing text, although small fonts (say, 6 points and lower) came out a little misshapen. In addition, in some cases, images and graphics looked a little lackluster, especially when compared to the superb output of many competing machines. But not once did we see anything that didn’t look, well, good or respectable.

Cost per page

The MFC-J6520DW’s per-page operational cost, or cost per page, is one of its more attractive features—especially considering this MFP’s low purchase price.

(While writing this, I found it on sale for $150 at a few places online.) It’s not often that you find a wide-format printer with CPPs this low, nor is it often to find a wide-format printer at so low a price.
That said, when you use this model’s so-called XXL ink cartridges, black-and-white prints should run you about 1.7 cents each, and color pages should run around 7.4 cents—exceptional CPPs for just about any high-volume model, even some that cost $100 or $200 more.

Keep in mind, though, that these numbers are for standard-size 8.5x11-inch pages; tabloid size pages should cost about twice as much, given equal complexity.

For a detailed explanation of why CPPs are critical, check out this About.com “When a $150 Printer Can Cost You Thousands” article.

Conclusion

Frankly, unless you need the extra input drawer and the auto-duplexing ADF, there’s no reason not to choose this printer. That the MFC-J6920DW provides such a wide selection of input options and the duplexing ADF, seems like a lot to give up, though.

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