Brother's wireless, all-in-one print, fax, scan, answering machine.
updated 2/9/2007 6:19:09 PM ET 2007-02-09T23:19:09

These days, printers are so fancy and can handle so many tasks other than printing that some are not called printers anymore. Refer to them as Multi-Functions Centers. At least that’s what Brother International wants you to call theirs.

Take, for example, their MFC-845CW model. Brother describes it as their “photo, color, all-in-one with wireless networking and 5.8GHz cordless phone” device. They say it can print (black and white and color), copy, scan, fax, answer your phone and take messages.

I describe the 845CW as a pretty amazing office tool that takes up a small amount of desk space, does its job very well and is actually affordable.

What attracted me was that the Brother was supposedly able to do lots of tasks — and do them wirelessly. I’m not just talking about the 5.8GHz cordless speakerphone (or up to 4 optional extensions) but also the fact that this all-in-one connects to your home/office 802.11b/g Wi-fi network. 

The Brother’s Wi-fi feature means that any and every computer on your wireless network can access this printer. Install the proper printer software (PC or Mac) onto your hard drive and have amazing control over all the device’s functions, including faxing from your computer and  checking the amount of ink remaining in the ink cartridges. You can also use the 845CW as a standalone fax machine with a 10-page automatic feeder system.

There's a flip-up color display that allows you to print photos without your camera.
There’s a cute little 2.5-inch color LCD display that lets you control all the printer's functions and also preview/print received faxes and photos. Those photos can be sent to the printer over your network or you can take the flash memory card from your digital camera and plug it directly into the 845CW slots on the front panel (CompactFlash, xD-Picture Card Type M/Type H, Memory Stick/Pro, MMC and SD cards are accepted.) You can also scan JPEG, PDF and TIFF files to flash memory cards.

Brother says the 845CW is capable of printing up to 27 black and white and 22 color pages per minute at a maximum resolution of 6000 by 1200 dpi. I did not time this or count all those pixels — but the printer did seem to print quickly and the glossy 8 by 10 color prints I made look fabulous. The standard paper tray holds 4 by 6 as well as 8 by 10 sheets for photos and up to 100 sheets of standard paper for standard printing jobs.

For the record, the Brother is a svelte (for what it can accomplish) 18.7 by 14.6 by 17.8 inches and 18.5 pounds. It uses four ink cartridges: black (good for 500 pages) plus yellow, magenta and cyan (up to 400 pages each). I've always been weary about the cost of replacement ink cartridges. For the record, the black ink cartridge will cost you $20 or so to replace – with each color in the $13-$15 range. That comes out to more than $50 for a complete set. Luckily, I haven't had to buy replacement ink so far.

The ink jet cartridges are accessable through a small door on the front of the unit.
I’ve been successfully testing the Brother for a few weeks now and can report that so far it's worked exactly as described. On the other hand, this is a complex device and I can't tell you how well it works in the long run. Only time will tell.

Overall, I have been wowed at every turn by the 845CW. It has handled just about everything I threw its way and worked flawlessly. The fax machine sent and received faxes, the scanner scanned, the printer printed and the cordless phone system worked everywhere in home.

The Brother 845CW has a suggested retail price of $249.99. You can easily find it online for less than $200. At that price, with all these features, this all-in-one might be described as a bargain.


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