Although nearly identical in most ways to the Brother MFC-8910DW that I recently reviewed, the Brother MFC-8950DW $525.00 at PCNation, offers enough extra to be easily worth the extra cost. The key additions are a higher paper capacity, making it suitable for even heavier-duty printing, and front-panel touch-screen controls, making it easier to give commands from the front panel. Either feature by itself can be well worth having. Together, they make the printer an Editors’ Choice.
Clearly aimed at a micro or small office or workgroup with heavy-duty needs, the MFC-8950DW can print, scan, and fax, including over a network. It can also serve as a standalone copier and fax machine, with the touch screen helping to make it unusually easy to use in those roles. Notable conveniences include printing from and scanning to a USB memory key, as well as support for a variety of mobile printing options, including AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, and Brother’s own mobile print and scan app. In addition, it offers Wi-Fi Direct, so you can easily connect to mobile devices.
Serious about Scanning
One of the more unusual touches for the MFC-8950DW is far better scan capability than you may expect. As with most MFPs aimed at offices, the MFC-8950DW includes both a flatbed and an automatic document feeder (ADF). Unlike the flatbeds on most small office MFPs, however, the MFC-8950DW’s flatbed is big enough for legal-size pages.
You can also scan at legal size with the 50-page ADF, and scan in duplex (both sides of the page). Very much worth mention is that the scanner, rather than the ADF, does the duplexing, meaning it has two scan elements, so it can scan both sides of the page at the same time. Many, if not most, small office MFPs with duplex scanning use duplexing ADFs instead (often called reversing ADFs), which scan one side of the page, turn it over, and then scan the other side.
In theory, having two scan elements should let you scan both sides of the page as quickly as one side. In reality with the MFC-8950DW, the scanner visibly slowed down when I scanned in duplex. Even so, the speed was a lot faster than it would be scanning each side separately.
Not so incidentally, note that the ability to scan in duplex, combined with print duplexing, also lets you copy both single- and double-sided pages to your choice of single- or double-sided copies.
Paper Handling and Setup
For small offices with heavy-duty print needs, the MFC-8950DW also earns lots of points for its paper handling for printing, with a 500-sheet paper drawer, a 50-sheet multipurpose tray, and a built-in print duplexer standard. If you need still heavier-duty printing, you can bring the capacity up to 1,050 sheets with a 500-sheet second drawer option ($209.99 list), although the smarter choice is to get the Brother MFC-8950DWT ($700 street), which according to Brother is the identical printer with the second tray already added.
As you would expect for any MFP with this much paper capacity, the MFC-8950DW is too large to share a desk with comfortably. However it’s small enough at 18.8 by 19.3 by 16.3 inches (HWD) that you shouldn’t have any trouble finding room for it in most small offices. Once you have it in place, setup is standard.
Speed and Output Quality
The MFC-8950DW’s speed is best described as respectably fast, but not impressive. For my tests, I connected the printer to a wired network and ran the tests from a Windows Vista system. Not surprisingly, given all the similarities to the MFC-8910DW, including the same 42 page-per-minute (ppm) engine rating, the two performed similarly on our tests. On our business applications suite, I timed the MFC-8950DW at 10.6 ppm, essentially tying the MFC-8910DW. As another point of reference, the somewhat less expensive Editors’ Choice OKI MB471 $352.27 at gocomputersupplies scored a slightly slower 9.5 ppm.
Output quality is par for a mono laser MFP across the board, which makes it acceptable without being impressive. Text and graphics output are easily good enough for any internal business need, but text is a little short of what you’d want for high-quality desktop publishing, and depending on your level of perfectionism, you may not consider the graphics suitable for, say, PowerPoint handouts when you’re trying to convey a sense of professionalism.
Photo quality is easily good enough for printing Web pages with photos. Whether you consider it suitable for printing photos in company or client newsletters and the like will depend, once again, on how much of a perfectionist you are.
In my MFC-8910DW review, I suggested that its ability to scan in duplex was a primary reason to either choose it if you need duplex scanning or pass on it if you don’t, since there’s no reason to pay extra for the feature if you don’t need it. The same logic applies here to some extent, but the MFC-8950DW has other compelling arguments in its favor as well.
In an office with sufficiently heavy-duty print needs, the high paper capacity by itself can make the Brother MFC-8950DW worth getting, and the convenience of touch-panel controls can be particularly attractive if you expect to use the standalone copier and fax features often enough. Also worth mention is the printer’s Gigabit Ethernet, which, depending on network traffic and the rest of your network hardware, could make a difference in the print speeds you’ll actually see. All of these features together make the Brother MFC-8950DW Editors’ Choice for any micro or small office with truly heavy-duty needs.
- Brother MFC-8950DW (pcmag.com)