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Brother introduces duplex A3 inkjet printing and copying to the office with the world’s first desktop A3 duplex inkjet MFP

Issue #0920/1 – Not only was Brother the first (and only to date) printer manufacturer to bring us an A3 inkjet multifunction device but now we have the long-awaited duplex printing version in the form of an A3 MFP with print, copy, scan and fax functionality. Sadly, duplex printing is at A4 only in this first iteration of the product but the MFC-6890CDW again places a Brother model firmly at the top of the functionality pile, alongside its 6-function MFC-990CW office communications hub, with a very attractive Total Cost of Printing.

There is no doubt that the MFC-6890CDW is going to have to fight a battle against A4 laser MFPs to win the hearts and minds of the small office community. In fact, the bigger battle will probably be against the preconceptions and prejudices of the average business printer user.

Brother MFC-6890CDWBrother MFC-6890CDW

However, on cost, it holds its own very well against Brother’s own 4-function duplex A4 laser MFP and the only issue with potential buyers will be the old problem of laser vs inkjet. For small business users with an A3 requirement though, the decision should be a no-brainer.

What this launch really does is to land Brother in a section of the market where there is no competition and yet where there is tremendous potential.

For decades, large organisations have invested in high-priced A3 devices almost by default. Indeed, until recent years, when the A4 MFP arrived on the scene, any office copier was A3 format by default. There must, then, have been a recognition that A3 was a valuable format.

Also until relatively recently, A3 printing in a small or micro office was priced out of existence because the only devices capable of handling the format were priced at the high, corporate end of the product range.

Finally, duplex printing has only crept into the A4 office printer category very slowly over the course of this decade.

Now, in the MFC-6890CDW with have the full works. In terms of its business, value and environmental proposition, the MFC-6890CDW offers:

  • 4-function office workhorse
  • A3 print and copy format
  • Duplex printing capability (A4) to save paper
  • Wired and Wireless networking capability for flexible sharing
  • Inkjet technology – therefore with:
    • low power consumption
    • low supplies waste
    • low supplies packaging waste
  • Low purchase price compared to A4 laser MFP
  • Low cost compared to A4 laser MFP and most A4 inkjet AiOs
Printing Speed Up to 35 ppm mono
Up to 28 ppm colour
Connection Hi speed USB 2.0 interface
Connectivity Wired and wireless network, USB
Duplex Printing Standard, A4 only
Standard Paper Capacity 250-sheet feed
plus 100-sheet multipurpose feed
ADF (Auto Document Feed) Up to 50 sheets
Modem Speed 33,600 bps
Ifax Fax documents anywhere in the world over the internet without the use of a telephone line
Standalone Copying Yes
Copy Speed Up to 23 cpm mono
Up to 20 cpm colour
Copy features 25-400% reduction/enlargement
n-up copying
Scan to Scan to email, OCR, image, file, media card, USB memory stick and FTP
Direct USB Printing & Scanning Yes
Consumables available (yield @ A4) 950 pages K; 750 pages C/M/Y
(ships with 450 pages K; 325 pages C/M/Y)
Power Consumption Sleep – Less than 4.5 Watts
Standby – Less than 6 Watts
Printing – Less than 29 Watts

So, how do we compare a device that has no competition in the market?

To ensure the greatest stability of comparison, we need to bring into the picture examples of the types of device that small and micro businesses might consider when deciding what to buy.

In this instance, we would look at an A4 laser MFP and at least one A4 inkjet device – but always maintaining the 4-function character of the device. In this instance, we’re going to bring in two A4 inkjet devices, including one low-end 4-function device without network interface, just to help demonstrate the cost dynamics of the market.

In addition, for consistency, it is helpful to focus on Brother products only and to take all their prices from just one reseller.

Brother MFC-9450CDNBrother MFC-9450CDN

Taking a look at the wider market first, though, street pricing (median) for the MFC-6890CDW is around £315 / €490 / $345 compared to a starting point of around £385 / €575 / $675 for a duplex capable A4 laser MFP (and rising to at least double these levels). On this basis, the MFC-6890CDW offers a considerably more attractive entry price for duplex colour printing than the laser devices and offers A3 printing and copying into the bargain.

In our comparison we see that the price of the MFC-6890CDW is indeed only a little more than half the price of Brother’s MFC-9450CDN entry-level A4 colour laser MFP. As a balance though, it is well over double the price of a more standard A4 inkjet AiO (without duplex) and more than three times the cost of a more basic USB connected device. It is here that the MFC-6890CDW effectively plugs the gap – it provides the A3 format that is not available elsewhere but at a price that is much lower than laser technology.

Hardware Purchase

Brother A3 Duplex Inkjet MFP vs A4 Inkjet & Laser Multifunction


Considering the supplies for these machines, we find the classic trend unveils itself for the inkjet machines, where the cheapest machine to buy has to be fed with the most expensive ink, making it the most expensive to run, and the most expensive machine to buy benefits from the least expensive ink, making it the most economical to run.

Turning to the laser device, it does at least have a nominal black CPP that is no higher than any of the black inks. However, nominal colour CPP with the laser device is raised to the level of the networked A4 inkjet device and this carries over to the long-term CPP, meaning that a user can expect the A4 networked inkjet AiO and the laser MFP to cost about the same at this level of usage.

Total Cost of Printing

Brother A3 Duplex Inkjet MFP vs A4 Inkjet & Laser Multifunction


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 750 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 Street Price without tax, from a single UK supplier. All CPP figures are for A4 printing.

This is really significant because the laser device only becomes the less costly A4 device of the two once the page volume rises well above the 1,000 pages per month level. This means that inkjet is a clear winner on cost for small business owners.

This is emphasised when we look at the A3 inkjet MFC-6890CDW. This inkjet machine is consistently cheaper to own than the A4 laser MFP (MFC-9450CDN) no matter what the page count – and it gives the user the A3 printing and copying capabilities into the bargain.

Total Cost of Printing

Brother A3 Duplex Inkjet MFP vs A4 Inkjet & Laser Multifunction

Brother MFC-290CBrother MFC-290C

Where the A3 device cannot compete on cost is at low volumes – but this is when pitched against the traditional A4 inkjet machines. This is simply because of its high initial hardware purchase price – justified by its larger format and built-in duplex unit.

Brother MFC-490CWBrother MFC-490CW

Below 300 pages per month, both of the A4 inkjet machines are less expensive to run than the A3 MFC-6890CDW and below 400 pages per month the wireless network MFC-490CW is still more economical.

However, above this level, the A3 machine not only offers the additional functionality and flexibility of the A3 format but is cheaper to run than any of the A4 machines. More significantly though, it costs less to own than the A4 laser MFP throughout the page volume range.

So, what do we need as a reason to buy A3 inkjet instead of A4 inkjet or laser? In essence, the answer is very simple – divided into two parts:

    Firstly – if A3 format printing and copying could be a useful feature, then the purchase of a MFC-6890CDW is not only a good move but opens up the whole new world of the larger format to the small and micro business, with duplex printing capability for all the A4 office documents. And, all of this at a cost significantly and consistently lower than the cost of running an A4 colour laser device.

    Secondly, for a small company with a page volume above 400 pages per month, the MFC-6890CDW becomes a lower-cost option even than the A4 format network-ready MFC-490CW without duplex printing capability.

    Thirdly, the MFC-6890CDW offers a very low cost entry into A3 copying for any small organisation for whom a full-blown colour (or even mono) A3 laser MFP is out of reach. The fact that it has the duplex capability places it directly into a competitive position with these high-level machines for the small business.

This machine, quite simply, is at the forefront of hard copy technology for the small office hard copy market, offering functions and features just not accessible to most small businesses in any other way. It provides an opportunity for small businesses to break out from the constraints of A4 printing and copying and offers the potential for new creativity in the production of spreadsheets, report materials and marketing collateral.

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