Review You’re in very cramped quarters and need a machine that can print, scan, copy, fax and handle photos, but it would also be good if it had a phone and digital answering machine. Brother’s petite MFC-990CW has the spec for this, but can the metal and plastic match up?
Brother's MFC-990CW: fax machine styling
Brother originally got into inkjet all-in-ones from the fax end rather than the printer side of its business – its printer division is nearly all lasers. This is one reason why the styling of its multifunction machines still has them looking like fax machines. The MFC-990CW is no exception and has the sloped top cover that has become something of a trademark.
Here, though there’s a very low-profile, 15-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF) built into the top of the scanner lid. Unusually, paper’s loaded onto the bottom level of the feeder and feeds out to blade-style supports above, but in practice this is no more awkward than the more conventional, top-down approach.
In front of the ADF is the control panel and the big feature here is a wide touchscreen. Most of the functions, such as menu settings, and scan and copy control, use the touchscreen, though this isn't as easy a device to use as similar panels on high-end printers from some of Brother's competitors. The screen itself has a slightly soft feel and button selection isn't as positive as it should be. It's possible to touch the screen lightly and not select what’s on screen.
To the right of the touchscreen are four mode-selection buttons and to the right of those are three more to start and stop mono and colour scan and copy jobs. Going left, there's a number pad for fax dialling and controls for the built-in telephone answering device. This is similar to the digital devices you often find in DECT phones, though here you have a useful 29-minute record time.
Easy to maintain ink system
Hanging on the end of the machine, in a built-in cradle, is just such a DECT phone, this one with a four-line by 16-character, backlit LCD display and a key layout similar to many mobiles. However, it's a lot more chunky and quite a bit more plasticky than a typical mobile - and than many other DECT phones, too. 'Serviceable' is almost a flattering description.