Especially notable features:
- duplex printing
- duplex scanning
- built-in 802.11b/g wireless and wired 10/100Mbps Ethernet interfaces
As color laser printers have dropped in price, they have become very common in small businesses and even homes. We’re particularly enamored by the all-in-one variety which combines the laser printer with a scanner and copier and fax features in one space-saving unit. That’s FOUR different machines rolled into ONE!
One of the most feature-rich and price-competitive manufacturers of such color laser all-in-ones is Brother. Here at angiemedia, we’ve been using our Brother MFC-9840CDW  for over a year. We’ve been very pleased with the print speed, quality, and flexibility of the device. We primarily use it for scanning and color printing, using monochrome laser printers for our more common black and white print jobs as they generally have cheaper toner cartridges for a lower operational cost.
Among the useful and somewhat uncommon features of this unit are its ability to do duplex scanning and duplex printing. The document feeder supports up to 50 pages, and the unit has a scanner glass area for documents up to legal size paper. Most other laser all-in-ones do not support duplex scanning, and many of them only have scanner glass areas for up to letter size paper.
Duplex printing works great for both monochrome and color output. The printer drivers for Windows XP, Vista, and 7 make it easy to select print options include duplexing and which edge of the paper is the flip edge. This is great for printing items that may be inserted into binders that flip along the short side of the page rather than the long side.
Cost of Purchase and Operation
While color laser printers are obviously not going to handle your high-volume black and white print jobs more cheaply than a monochrome laser printer can, they are now cheap to buy and operate. If you’ve got a need to print out color maps, photos, proposals, and presentations they are very practical.
Although they are much more expensive for initial purchase than a color ink jet printer, it is well known that ink jet printing costs are astronomical because of the exorbitant cost of ink jet cartridges. Color lasers are generally far cheaper to operate and produce good quality color output, but admittedly some ink jet printers do print nicer photos, especially on special (and expensive) photo paper.
That said, if you’ve got dreams of printing out hundreds of your favorite photographs as a common occurrence, we’d suggest that the most cost effective way to do that is through a photo developing shop. Costco, Fotki.com, and others can print higher quality photos at lower prices. What they can’t do well, however, is to integrate color content into your documents, nor can they provide instant turnaround.
We’d suggest that having an on-site color printer is a good idea for small businesses and home businesses, and is now cheap enough that even many home users may find it handy and cost-effective.
One hint we can make to help keep your cost of operations low is to buy one or two spare Brother HL-4040CN color laser printers for a source of consumables including the toner cartridges, optical drums, and toner waste boxes.
They use all the same consumables as the far more capable MFC-9840CDW, but are cheaper to buy than individual toners, optical drums, and waste boxes used in many current Brother color laser printers. When the HL-4040CN printers are on-sale for $199, they are often 20% to 40% cheaper than buying just a full set of four standard yield toner cartridges!
When you add in the cost of the optical drum and toner waste box, neither of which need to be changed as often as the toner catridges, the savings can exceed 50%. Right now, the Brother HL-4040CN color laser printers are on sale at Staples  for $199.99 after a $150 rebate. They have been on sale like this a few times in the last several months. We’ve bought HL-4040CN units from Staples previously to use their consumables in our MFC-9840CDW and they work fine, as they should considering they are the same part numbers.
One more cost-saving hint is that if you’re printing a lot of black-and-white pages like most of us do, you might want to get an inexpensive monochrome laser printer in addition to the MFC-9840CDW.
There’s a lot more competition in the monochrome laser printer and all-in-one units, so we won’t even attempt a comparison here. We’ll just mention that Brother also has some good options and we’ve been pleased with our older Brother monochrome laser all-in-one units.
If you just print and want duplex printing but not copying, the Brother HL-5250DN Network Ready Laser Printer with Duplex  is a good choice for about $155 as of this writing.
If you do a lot of black and white copying, consider the Brother MFC-8860DN Flatbed Laser Multi-Function Center with Duplex  for about $390.
Wireless networking versions of both are available, but cost about $70 more. We have used the MFC-8860DN and found it is very fast, but not as good at printing black-and-white photos as our older and much slower MFC-8820DN. You may find you’d rather be printing photos in color on your MFC-9840CDW so that limitation doesn’t matter.
Connection to your PCs
The MFC-9840CDW can attach to your computer via a USB 2.0 cable, just like most printers today. But if you’re like a lot of people, you have multiple computers in your home or office and would really like to be able to print from any of them, without having to depend upon using a particular computer as a print server.
The MFC-9840CDW fortunately attaches directly to your network via 10/100Mbps Ethernet or via 802.11b/g wireless. We’ve used both as we’ve moved between sites. The wired Ethernet connection is faster and more reliable, which is no big surprise.
As most small office/home office wireless access points and routers include 100Mbps or faster Ethernet ports, we’d recommended attaching it to your wired network if you can do so. If not, it will be a little slower, especially at high resolution color print jobs including lots of photographs and color scans. For typical text black and white document printing and scanning, the difference isn’t much as the limiting factor is the speed of the print engine itself. But print jobs including color photos and multiple-page color scans can run tens or hundreds of megabytes in size very easily, and for those the computer to printer connection can become the limiting factor. 100Mbps wired Ethernet is likely four or more times faster than you are realistically going to get out of a wireless 802.11g connection.
Note that no cables are included with the printer. We’re using Ethernet cables, and got them from one of our favorite low-priced sources at DeepSurplus . Try this link for 10 foot category 6 Ethernet cables for less than $3 each .They have similarly excellent prices for other lengths of patch cables.
Finally, note that color laser all-in-ones are heavy units. Be prepared to have two people unbox and move this machine. Be sure to have sturdy furniture on which to place the unit.
The software included with this machine includes drivers for Macintosh and Windows PCs. It also includes a basic version of ScanSoft PaperPort SE version 11  for Windows to use for scanning, cleanup, and reassembly of documents.
It can easily output to PDF files, clean up smudges and spots on documents, and also works great with photos saved to JPEG format. We’ve noticed that PaperPort occasionally loses communications with the MFC-9840CDW and has to be terminated and restarted to continue scanning. It’s annoying when it happens, and until we figured out what the problem was and how to fix it, the problem elicited some harsh words. But it doesn’t happen often and is easy to fix once you realize you just need to go to Task Manager to kill the PaperPort processes and restart them in order to recover.
Also included is scanner software for Macs which is Presto! PageManager, but we haven’t tried this so can’t report on it.