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Brother delivers clear declaration of war on Total Cost of Printing to Hewlett-Packard with new A3 inkjet business AiOs

Issue #1102 – With new A3 inkjet All-in-One models now being launched by Brother, the battle for the A3 inkjet business AiO sector is now fully on. Brother has drawn a new line in the sand with a range of devices that claim doubled print speed from the previous generation and all of which deliver duplex printing (even in A3 format), A3 scan platen and both wired and wireless connectivity as standard features.

Brother MFC-J6910DWBrother MFC-J6910DW

Hewlett-Packard’s Officejet Pro 7500A, launched in September of 2010, is the only competition for Brother’s A3 MFCs and was a great first entry to the market for the company, especially with its web-enabled interface. However, it did not represent a leap-frog product in terms of form-factor and specification. The two major advantages it did have was print speed and unbeaten Total Cost of Printing (see TCPglobal Issue #1015).

Hewlett-Packard Officejet 7500AHewlett-Packard Officejet 7500A

This means that Brother does not need to leap-frog Hewlett-Packard with its new products in most areas of specification. However, although all products compared here are four-function All-in-One devices, the Officejet 7500A actually has a fifth function in its Web App capability. This is one area where Hewlett-Packard has a firm lead over Brother – only Lexmark has also introduced AiOs with a web capability so far and Lexmark does not have an A3 model.

So, we need to investigate the hardware of the new products against the Officejet 7500A to fully appreciate Brother’s extended lead in this arena.

There are actually no less than eight main areas in which Brother has pushed forwards to keep Hewlett-Packard at bay:

  • Print speed
  • Duplex printing (at A3 throughout)
  • A3 scan head/platen throughout
  • Duplex ADF (J6710DW and J6910DW only; A4 only)
  • Second paper feed (J6710DW and J6910DW only)
  • Paper input capacity
  • Rear bypass paper feed
  • Cartridge capacity / Total Cost of Printing
11×17” print area
Print speed
Copy speed
Paper input
User display
Correspondence – 12ppm mono / 10ppm colour
Draft – 35ppm mono / 27ppm colour
Fastest – 23ppm mono / 20ppm colour
10/100Mbit wired / Wireless b/g/n
250-sheet standard feed
Single sheet rear bypass feed
A3 – 35-sheet
Automatic A3
8.3cm widescreen LCD display
LC1240 series (C / M / Y / K = 600 pages)
LC1280XL series (K = 2400 pages;
C / M / Y = 1200 pages)
Ships with LC1240 series
Ships with ScanSoft PaperPort;
Reallusion® FaceFilter Studio
11×17” print area
Adds: 250-sheet second paper feed
Duplex ADF for fully automatic 2-sided
A4 fax and copy
11×17” print area
Adds: Touchscreen LCD user display
Fully automatic 2-sided A4 scan
Officejet 7500A
13×19” print area
Print speed
Copy speed
Paper input
User display
Correspondence – 10ppm mono / 7ppm colour
Draft – 33ppm mono / 32ppm colour
Fastest – 33ppm mono / 32ppm colour
10/100Mbit wired / Wireless b/g/n
150-sheet standard feed
Legal – 35 sheets
6cm LCD display
HP 920 series (K = 420 pages;
C / M / Y = 300 pages)
HP 920XL series: (K = 1200 pages;
C / M / Y = 700 pages)
Ships with K = 420 pages; C / M / Y = 250 pages
Web connectivity with downloadable Web Apps
Ships with ArcSoft® Scan-n-Stitch™ Deluxe

Print speed
Using a new print head with a higher nozzle density, the new Brother models boast a correspondence print speed that is up with Hewlett-Packard’s low-end colour laser printers, let alone the A3 inkjet Officejet 7500A, which it beats by 2ppm in mono and 3ppm in colour.

Certainly, the previous generation of Brother AiOs left something to be desired in terms of print speed. However, they were/are exceptionally capable and reliable machines that fit the bill for many, many environments perfectly adequately. The increased speed of the A3 J series (12ppm mono / 10ppm colour) gives these three new machines a new-found competitive advantage against the low-end category of laser AiOs. This should easily put colour print speed from 4-pass laser engines in their place in practice and give the low-end single-pass laser engines a good run for their money.

Duplex printing (at A3 throughout)
While the previous generation from Brother offered one model with A4 duplex printing capability (MFC-6890CDW), these new models boast duplex printing at A3 format as a standard feature on all models.

Hewlett-Packard does not specify manual duplex printing, even through the driver, on its 7500A.

Brother MFC-J6510DWBrother MFC-J6510DW

A3 scan head/platen throughout
Likewise, Brother has fitted the A3 scan platen and ADF throughout the new range while the Officejet 7500A has a legal platen, with image stitching software, to produce a copy from an A3 original.

Duplex ADF (J6710DW and J6910DW only)
Taking this aspect on a step further, the upper two models from Brother incorporate a duplex ADF that is capable of automatic duplex faxing and copying. Unfortunately this is restricted to A4 format only on both models but the J6910 handles automatic duplex scanning as well as faxing and copying. There was no doubt that duplex copying was tricky on the original model, allowing for easy single-sided to two-sided copying but not full duplex copying, so this is a really useful and welcome improvement.

Second paper feed (J6710DW and J6910DW only)
One of the best features of the MFC-6x90C series was the provision of a second paper feed, allowing both A3 and A4 paper to be held at the same time for quick and easy printing on either format. Alternatively, envelopes or headed stationery could be kept permanently loaded in one feed. All but the base A3 J series model from Brother also offer this second paper feed.

Hewlett-Packard’s Officejet 7500A has no second feed capability.

Brother MFC-J6710DWBrother MFC-J6710DW

Paper input capacity
Some users may wish to keep plain A4 paper in both feeds. The existence of the second feed pushed paper capacity to 400 sheets on the previous generation models but, in the new A3 J series, paper capacity is improved further through the use of a 250-sheet feed as the standard feed on all models. On the two upper models, this is joined by a second 250-sheet feed that takes paper capacity to a whopping 500 sheets.

This compares to only 150 sheets on the Officejet 7500A.

Rear bypass media feed
Brother’s models also benefit from a single-sheet rear bypass feed for printing on specialist materials – very unusual for inkjet devices but very useful for general offices and design environments where printing on thick materials can be desirable.

This allows for a flat paper path from rear to front that is capable of handling media up to a maximum media weight of 285gsm.

Again, there is no feature of this nature on Hewlett-Packard’s Officejet.

Other specification items
Sadly, the wired network interface offering on the new Brother MFCs falls short of Gigabit speed but the wireless interface is n-rated, giving a typical connection speed of around 130Mbit per second.

One area where the Officejet 7500A does score is that the paper format is actually A3+ rather than straight A3, including borderless printing capability at A3+.

Unfortunately, though, despite Hewlett-Packard always playing the environmental card because of the low energy consumption of its inkjet devices, it appears that Brother may now have the edge on energy consumption in these new products.

Officejet 7500A
Operational maximum <28 Watts 50 Watts
Idle mode <8.5 Watts 6 Watts
Sleep mode <4 Watts 4.1 Watts
Off mode <0.3 Watts 0.75 Watts

Note: Energy consumption for MFC-J6710DW and MFC-J6510DW is lower

Cartridge capacity / Total Cost of Printing
Now we come to the most important, and definitely the most exciting (for me), feature of all.

While the LC1100 series cartridges used in the previous generation of Brother business inkjet AiOs yielded 950 pages from the black cartridge and 750 pages from the colour cartridges, the A3 J series pushes this way beyond the Officejet 7500A’s 1,200 and 700 pages per cartridge.

Brother LC1280XL black ink cartridgeBrother LC1280XL black ink cartridge

In fact, exceeding the yield even of Hewlett-Packard’s HP 940 series cartridges, Brother’s new LC1280XL black cartridge yields a massive 2,400 pages per cartridge! LC1280XL colour cartridges are again rated very high but this time, at 1,200 pages, not quite matching the HP 940 series.

Also available, and shipped with the AiOs, is the standard series cartridges, LC1240, that yield 600 pages for all four inks.

Perhaps more exciting than the straight cartridge yield in itself though is the pricing of the cartridges – leading to the Cost Per Page and Total Cost of Printing.

Brother LC1280XL colour ink cartridgesBrother LC1280XL colour ink cartridges

It is here that Brother has really stepped out, taken a bit of a risk, and laid down the gauntlet in front of Hewlett-Packard with cartridge pricing, Cost Per Page and Total Cost of Printing that actually pushes the Officejet 7500A into LAST place!! Not even the most expensive, top-end Brother model has a Total Cost of Printing that is higher than the Officejet.

This really is a massive turnaround for Brother. Historically, Brother’s Cost Per Page has tended to be on the high side, meaning that it has not been hard for Hewlett-Packard, Brother and Canon to come in with lower costs.

So, this represents a really exciting time – to see how this will all develop and what response we might see from Hewlett-Packard in particular.

In the chart below, we see the extent to which Brother is challenging Hewlett-Packard’s HP 920 cartridge series used in the Officejet 7500A. Brother black XL cartridges are priced to give a CPP some 42% lower than Hewlett-Packard’s black, while colour cartridges are priced to give a CPP some 15% lower.

Cost Per Page

A3 Business Inkjet AiO

It is at this point that we must then talk about the hardware purchase price of the Brother MFC-J6510DW, MFC-J6710DW and MFC-J6910DW.

Because they are new to market, the entry price is almost certain to be higher now than it will be in six or 12 months time. It has to be said that they are very much higher than we might have expected and higher than is sustainable for the duration of their life.

On the left of the Officejet 7500A (in the centre of the chart below) are the current prices for new Brother models, while to the right of the Officejet 7500A are the prices researched in August 2010 for the previous generation Brother models. It is very clear to see just how much more expensive the new models are than the previous generation before the channel-clearance prices came into play just recently. It is also clear how much more expensive they are than the Officejet 7500A – almost 60% for the MFC-J6510DW and the MFC-J6910DW is just over double the cost.

Median Hardware Purchase Price

A3 Business Inkjet AiO

Note that for this level of machine, the mixed mono/colour CPP over three years shown in the accompanying table is calculated on the basis of 1,000 pages per month; 70% pages in mono and 30% pages in colour; is based on the use of maximum capacity supplies; takes into account any standard, or starter, supplies shipped with the device; and also includes the cost of purchase. All prices are Median Street Price with tax, sourced in Germany.

This is likely to put some potential buyers off the idea of investing in the latest generation from Brother – for a while at least. However, what we have to remember is that all three models offer specifications that are well ahead of the previous generation – especially between the outgoing MFC-5890CN and the new MFC-J6510DW – that certainly justifies a significant increase in price. Whether it justifies a 145% price premium is another matter!

A premium of only 27% is evident for the smaller specification increase from the MFC-6490CW to the MFC-J6710DW and an even lower 16% premium at the top end for the MFC-J6910DW over the MFC-6890CDW.

Ultimately, I would expect purchase prices to fall to a similar level to the normal pricing (excluding current clearance pricing) for the outgoing models (but allowing for specification differences).

So, how does this come together in the Total Cost of Printing calculation?

Well, the first thing to remember is that it is the cost of supplies that determines the larger part of the Total Cost of Printing rather than the hardware purchase price!

Yes, you’ve guessed it, even the top of the range, and therefore the most expensive, MFC-J6910DW enjoys a Total Cost of Printing that is lower than the Officejet 7500A – by 5.4%! See chart below.

Total Cost of Printing

A3 Business Inkjet AiO

This is a remarkable situation. Lower down the range, the MFC-J6710DW is almost 11% less costly over three years while the MFC-J6510DW, the model with the lowest specification, and therefore the closest match to the Officejet 7500A, is almost 15% less costly.

And, this is with high introductory hardware purchase prices! So, unless Hewlett-Packard cuts the pricing on its HP 920 cartridge series, the Brother models are set to present themselves as the more attractive option both on specification and Total Cost of Printing and, to a small degree, widen the gap with the Officejet 7500A as the hardware purchase price falls in the future.

No longer can Hewlett-Packard claim “Lowest cost in class” for the Officejet 7500A without determining that the Brother MFC-J6x10DW series belongs to a class above!

That established, what effect does variable monthly page throughput have on the calculations?

Firstly, because of the high hardware purchase prices of the Brother models, there is a point at which low print volume renders the Officejet 7500A less costly to own for a three-year period than the Brother models.

This is only effective to about the 750-page-per-month level, compared to the top-end MFC-J6910DW. At the other end of the scale, the MFC-J6510DW becomes the least costly option at less than 500 pages per month.

Total Cost of Printing

A3 Business Inkjet AiO

What this means then is that the Officejet 7500A can still claim class-leading Total Cost of Printing at a low page throughput. But, as page volumes rise, the Brother series become increasingly better value against the Hewlett-Packard model. Because of the nature of pricing structures here, reversing the balance of mono/colour pages printed makes no difference to the relative positions of the models in the comparison – the only difference is that the overall Total Cost of Printing is higher because more colour ink is used and less black.

To round off the investigation then, the new Brother A3 MFC-J6x10DW series has been launched in Germany (where these prices are sourced) and has been announced in the US but nowhere else at this stage.

Launch/release/announcement dates for other countries are not known.

As mentioned briefly in last week’s article, it would be expected that the new print head/engine from Brother will be used in A4 business inkjet models as well as these A3 models in due course. This will lead to some very exciting comparisons, potentially challenging the Hewlett-Packard Officejet Pro 8500 in a way that Hewlett-Packard has never know competition for this class of AiO before.

Can we expect Brother to investigate Web Apps and introduce web-enabled models, I wonder? I hope so. That would really present Hewlett-Packard with a serious challenge.

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