Printing from the Cloud
As for cloud storage services, the MFC-J870DW connects directly to a bunch of popular ones—Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Flickr, Google Drive, Picasa, and (the soon to be renamed) SkyDrive. To configure a given service on the MFC-J870DW, you can visit a special Brother Web page to retrieve a configuration code for that service and then enter the code at the printer—via the touch screen—to set up the connection. To guard against unauthorized use of cloud storage accounts via walk-up access to the printer, you can secure them with PIN codes.
It only took a couple of minutes to set up our MFC-J870DW to link to Google Drive and SkyDrive, and once we had done so we could directly download and print files stored on those services. On the down side, there’s no way to preview the files from the printer (or even see when they were uploaded), so you do have to identify them solely by name.
Figure 3: The MFC-J870DW can directly upload or download from a number of cloud storage services, including Box.net, Evernote, and SkyDrive
If you don’t want to print the file immediately, you can opt to download it to a USB Flash drive or SD card inserted into the printer. Conversely, if you have a paper version of a document or photo you can scan it directly to cloud storage (as well as to a networked PC, an email address, or local storage attached to the printer). Whatever form of storage you scan to, you can choose from multiple file types—PDF, JPG, DOCX, XLSX, or PPTX.
We tested most of the aforementioned download/upload and print/scan methods against Google Drive, and they all went off without a hitch. You can also store up to 12 shortcuts on the MFC-J870DW’s control panel, which allows you to perform custom tasks—say, scan and upload an 8.5 x 14 document in monochrome PDF format at 600 DPI resolution to SkyDrive in three button presses instead of 10 or more.
Print Speed, Quality, and Consumables
We used three test documents to gauge the MFC-J870DW’s print speed and quality—a 10-page, text-only Microsoft Word DOCX file, a 26-page DOCX file containing mixed text and graphics, and a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation consisting of 19 slides. We printed all three at the default Normal quality (other options include Fast and Best) so on plain copier paper.
The 10-page, text-only Word document printed in 1:10, and it took 17 seconds for the first page to emerge. The 26-page mixed text/graphics document took 2:40 to print, with almost 18 seconds required to output the first page. Not surprisingly, the 19-slide PowerPoint took the longest: 3:44 to print, and 23 seconds for the first page. Print quality at the normal setting is very good, with crisp, clear text and vivid color graphics.
We also printed the text-only document using both the Fast and Best settings. The former printed the entire 10 pages in speedy 46 seconds while the latter took the same 46 seconds just to spit out the first page—5:34 had elapsed by the time the last page emerged.
While the considerable difference in print times across quality settings certainly isn’t surprising, we did not expect the relative high quality of the Fast and Normal settings compared to glacial and ink-swilling Best. Although many inkjets output very faint and jagged text in Draft mode, that wasn’t the case with the MFC-J870DW, whose characters were very clear and easy to read. And though the Best document was a bit darker and sharper than the Normal one, it was subtle enough that it arguably didn’t justify the extra time and ink consumption.
Figure 4: The printer’s front panel includes a 2.7-inch touch screen. Other touch-sensitive controls that only illuminate when needed.
The MFC-J870DW offers "high capacity" LC103 cartridges that yield up to 600 pages and cost $25 for black, and $15 for Cyan, Yellow, or Magenta. That works out to 4.2 cents per black printed page, which is high compared to the 1.6 and 3.2 cents per black page of HP and Epson models, respectively, we’ve recently looked at.
Like most printer manufacturers Brother also offers less expensive, lower-capacity (300 pages) ink cartridges, but since they provide half the capacity for more than half the price, you’d do well to avoid them unless absolutely necessary.
The Brother’s good output, NFC support and breadth of other connectivity options alone make it worthy of consideration, especially given its $150 estimated street price, and it can be had from other online sources for as little as a hundred bucks. Incidentally, if you’re a brick-and-mortar shopper looking for the MFC-J870DW at Best Buy you won’t find it there. However, you will find the MFC-J875DW, which is the identical printer save for the name (a fact that’s not made clear on Brother’s website).
Price: $150 (estimated street price)
Pros: good quality print output; myriad mobile and cloud-based connectivity options; easy to use control panel
Cons: relatively high cost per page for ink; NFC printing only supported on certain Android devices
Joseph Moran is a veteran technology writer and co-author of Getting StartED with Windows 7, from Friends of ED.
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