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Hands-on Gear Review
Brother MFC-9130CW Review
Price: $350 List | $299.63 at Amazon
Pros: Excellent text quality, well designed interface
Cons: Relatively slow, expensive
Bottom line: Fully featured all-in-one, but is slow and lacks duplex printing
The Brother MFC-9130CW is an all-in-one color laser printer that can fax, scan, and copy. It provides first class text quality, reasonable operating costs, produces decent graphics, and has a great touchscreen interface. In many ways it is a more economical, slightly poorer performing version of our Editors' Choice Award winner, the HP Color LaserJet Pro. However, its slow printing speeds and inability to print double sided pages may dissuade many potential buyers.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Criteria for Evaluation
The graph below compares how the Brother MFC-9130CW performed in our testing to the other models we tested.
Here we further discuss how the MFC-9130CW performed in each one of our individual tests.
The MFC-9130CW was of the best scorers in our text quality testing, sharing the top score of 9 with two other printers. This was orders of magnitude better than the worst scorer, which received a 3. The MFC-9130CW's text was near perfect with great clarity and clean, smooth edges. It was the sort of high quality text we would expect from a laser printer. It was unable to snag a rare perfect score because it sometimes made small fonts look just a bit light, which was particularly noticeable under our microscope. This is such a minor detail that we feel confident no one will be disappointed with the MFC-9130CW's text quality.
The MFC-9130CW scored a 6 in our cost testing, putting it towards the front of the pack in a metric that had scores falling between 2 and 7. It prints black at white at the very low rate of about $0.02 per page, or $10.80 per ream of paper. Color printing costs were on the higher side: about $0.10 per page or $51.43 per ream. The MFC-9130CW has an estimated lifetime cost of $535, which isn't particularly expensive for an all-in-one, but certainly isn't cheap either. Though the MFC-9130CW can't match the Editors' Choice Award Winning HP Color LaserJet Pro M277dw in quality, it does have an estimated lifetime cost that is $110 cheaper.
Ease of Use
The MFC-9130CW scored a 7 in our ease of use testing, putting it towards the top of the scoring in a metric that saw scores ranging from 4 to 9. The large touchscreen control made setup and navigating through functions easy, and a separate number pad facilitated typing in fax numbers. It includes both an automatic document feeder and a bypass tray, so it can handle large scanning jobs and irregular paper stock with ease. Our testers were slightly dismayed by its lack of a flash drive USB port, but the main reason it fell behind the top ease of use scorers was its lack of double sided printing. It seemed ridiculous to us that a printer of this caliber couldn't print double sided. Brother offers the MFC-9130CDW, which is essentially the same model with automatic duplex printing, but it costs almost $100 more.This lack of double sided printing was a deal breaker for a number of our testers, and may be for many of our readers.
The MFC-9130CW produced average quality graphics and photos in our testing. It scored a 5 in this test, which had scores between 2 and 7. It had some noticeable pixelation in simple graphics, but not to a distracting degree. In general, lines and bars in graphs had clean edges and bold, solid colors. Photos were also noticeably pixelated, but of a good enough quality and color composition to not be jarring when mixed into a text document. If you're biggest concern is graphics quality then the MFC-9130CW isn't for you, but most users will be satisfied on this front.
Besides the lack of duplex printing, speed is the main weak point of the MFC-9130CW. It scored a 5 in this test, putting it close to the bottom in a metric that had scores ranging from 2 to 9. In the cornerstone single sided text page test it clocked a speed of 11 pages per minute, which was well behind the top speed of 25 pages per minute. It also took a full 2 minutes to print a full page photograph. As mentioned above, it does not print double sided, so we can't measure its speed in that capacity. This is definitely not the model for you if you value quickness.
The MFC-9130CW has a retail price of $350, and at the time of this writing could be found online for close to $100 less. This is only moderately less expensive than the HP Color LaserJet Pro M277dw, which offers much better performance. However, the MFC-9130CW has a lower lifetime cost than the HP, so it represents a fairly good value in the long run.
If you can get over the MFC-9130CW's lack of duplex printing and fairly slow print speeds, it is a decent choice for those looking for a fully featured all-in-one at reasonable price.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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