Brother's MFC-9450CDN color laser multifunction printer juggles speed, features, output quality, and design well enough to be a worthy choice for most small offices or small workgroups. The only people it is likely to disappoint are those who need sophisticated color imaging.
The MFC-9450CDN (US$650 as of April 6, 2009) performed capably in our speed tests. Brother claims that the unit can print both black-and-white text and color images as fast as 21 pages per minute--and it came close to that mark for text (20.4 ppm), with perfect-looking output. But its color graphics performance was much slower 4.9 ppm, and print quality was underwhelming: On plain paper, our test photos looked washed-out and blurry; and on special paper with optimized settings, the colors still had a yellow cast and exhibited moiré patterns. Scans and copies were sometimes a bit too dark but overall they looked good.
The level of color quality will be adequate for many office users; but if you're more exacting, you should consider the Xerox Phaser 6128MFP, which handled photos better and costs slightly less than brother's color laser MFP. The MFC-9450CDN has a lot to offer, though we also noticed a few quirks. Among its pluses are an automatic duplexer and a USB/PictBridge port. Augmenting the unit's 35-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF) for scan and copy input, you get a 250-sheet main input tray and a 50-sheet multipurpose tray. An optional 500-sheet paper tray lists for $250. On the control panel, buttons for fax, scan, and copy functions are not grouped--but everything is clearly labeled, so the arrangement is more annoying than confusing.
At this writing, the MFC-9450CDN's toner cartridges are tolerably priced. The standard-size cartridges that ship with the MFC-9450CDN consist of a 2500-page black toner cartridge for $60 (2.4 cents per page), and four 1500-page color cartridges for $70 each (4.7 cents per color per page), which works out to a somewhat high four-color page cost of 16.4 cents. If you print a lot, the high-yield cartridges are a sensible choice: The 5000-page black costs $93 (1.9 cents per page), and each 4000-page color cartridge costs $130 (3.2 cents per color, reducing the cost of a full-color page to 12 cents).
Replacing the toner, though, is no ice cream sundae in the shade: Even with clear instructions, I had to manhandle the cartridge tray release lever to open it. Also, since the bays are not keyed, you might insert the wrong cartridge in the wrong bay--and print bizarrely colored images. We can't believe that Brother hasn't idiot-proofed this area, though the company says that it has had no complaints and assures us that switching colors won't damage the printer.
Brother's MFC-9450CDN offers speed, features, and economy along with tolerable shortcomings. It's well worth considering for a small office that doesn't need high-quality color graphics.
This story, "Brother MFC-9450CDN Color Laser MFP" was originally published by PCWorld.
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