Supporting my customers, I get to deal with a wide variety of peripherals and multi-function devices.  From a pure administration & functionality standpoint, I prefer (and recommend) Ricoh’s Aficio series of multi-function devices (compared to Canon, Sharp or even Konica/Minolta Bizhubs).  Regardless, those are all quality devices for a decent sized client.  What has been a constant struggle for me has been finding a decent, cost-effective multi-function with self-contained walk-up functionality for the small client / remote office.  We’ve been consistently disappointed with HP devices over the last few years (I can’t begin to count how many warranty claims we’ve had on M2727nf or M1522 devices.  And even when they don’t flat-out break, it seems the ADF and paper tray are just wearing out way too quick.

My other gripe with the HP multi-functions, are the same as most of the other devices on the market – for scanning functionality, they require you run software on the PC.  So scan to email is a matter of walking the document over to the device, going back to your desk, opening the HP software, jumping through the wizard and selecting the scan destination, then completing the email message and manually sending it.  While in theory this isn’t that difficult – I have some users who don’t keep Outlook open – and they can just never remember that even though the HP scan app will open a new message & attach the scan – when they click send the message isn’t actually sent if Outlook isn’t open – it sits in the outbox until they open Outlook.  And don’t get me started on scan-to-folder, especially when you are working with users hot desking with kiosks . . .  

So we’ve looked at HP devices, as well as low to mid level Canon, Lexmark & Samsung devices.  We even have a customer with a Xerox Phaser MFC – and we’ve been consistently disappointed in the way network scanning seems to be an after-thought at best.

I must say though, that I think I have finally found a winner.  I just replaced my MFC in my office – which quite honestly is used for scanning more than anything else.  I purchased a Brother MFC-8890dw, and wow am I impressed.  Now obviously, it’s not going to have the nice touch-screen display and polished web interface that we get with the 5-figure Ricoh / Bizhub type devices.  But for the small office, it does network scanning extremely well.  The best in this area – the ability to scan-to-email or scan-to-file (SMB or FTP) by walking up to the device – no PC needed!  Configure multiple scan-to-file profiles (each profile can be either SMB or FTP, with separate authentication for each profile).  Configure the device once with your outbound SMTP server info, then you can either use preset scan-to-email destinations, or manually key in the destination email address as needed.  It even has a front USB port allowing you to scan directly to a USB thumb drive.  As for file formats, it supports scanning to TIFF, PDF and Secure PDF with multiple options for color scale and resolution. 

Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this is about the only device with this level of network scanning functionality in this price range (MSRP $499).  And the feature list keeps going:  not only do we have true network scan-to-email and scan-to-file from the device, we also have a network twain driver for the scanner – so you can scan from your favorite desktop app (Adobe Acrobat, etc.) if you want to.  The B&W laser printer is rated at 35ppm, and has full duplex (the ‘d’ in the 8890dw).  There’s an optional 2nd 250 sheet paper tray available as well.  But the duplex functionality doesn’t stop with printing – oh no.  The 50-sheet ADF has it’s own full-duplex functionality, allowing for automatic two-sided copying & scanning.  The 40 available speed-dials can be programmed as either fax speed-dials, or one-touch scan-to-email destinations.  Finally, in addition to USB and 10/100 ethernet, this device also includes standard 802.11g wireless connectivity (the ‘w’ in 8890dw), giving us the flexibility to place the device where it’s convenient for users – not necessarily where we have a network drop.  And the replacement supplies are very reasonable, with the standard 3k page toner running about US $75 and a high-yield 8k toner running about US $115.

I’ve only had the device a few days – but so far I am definitely impressed with this device, and especially the functionality it provides for the price point it is at.  The few negatives I’ve encountered so far are extremely minor:  the ADF is louder than I would like, and the web-based administration interface can be a bit slow at times, but I’m more than happy to live with those trade-offs for the extensive functionality.  This is definitely the device we’re going to be recommending to customers who need a device in this class.  So there you have it – a completely unsolicited / uncompensated review and recommendation of the Brother MFC-8890dw