Not long ago, small offices and businesses had very clear reasons for choosing entry-level color-laser-family printers, such as Brother’s new $449.99 MFC-9325CW, over inkjet all-in-one (AIO) machines. Generally speaking, lasers and laser-class devices printed faster, were rated to print more pages per month (in printer lingo, had higher “duty cycles”), and, in terms of consumables (that is, toner versus ink), cost less to use. They also usually printed text and business graphics, such as charts and graphs, better.
Nowadays, though, high-volume inkjet AIOs, such as the $399.99 Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4540 and the $299.99 HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus, print at comparable speeds, have similar duty cycles, and are—relatively speaking—inexpensive to use. In addition, inkjet AIOs do some things, such as print near-lab-quality photographs and borderless pages, that laser-class devices just can’t. This raises the question, then, why your small office or business should choose a laser multifunction machine over a less-expensive inkjet one with a similar feature set and capabilities.
That brings us back to the MFC-9325CW. First, we should point out that technically this Brother printer is not a “laser” device, but a light-emitting diode (LED) printer. The difference between LED and laser printers is that, instead of using lasers to charge the page image onto the print drum (the part of the printer that attracts the toner and transfers it to your paper), LED-based machines achieve basically the same results with an LED array. (See our feature story “How It Works: Laser Printers.”) Printer makers use LEDs instead of lasers because they cost less to manufacture, are smaller and lighter, and have fewer moving parts. These differences aside, LED-based machines are otherwise similar to laser printers, right down to their reliance on toner, rather than ink.
Compared with competing laser and LED multifunction printers in its price range, the MFC-9325CW is a capable business machine. It prints, copies, and scans nice-looking business documents at respectable speeds. It’s well-outfitted, too, with nearly every productivity and convenience feature most small businesses want. And it’s well-built, as well as easy to set up and use.
Overall, we liked this machine, but it has one hard-to-forgive caveat: Its printing cost per page (as discussed in the “Design & Features” section of this review, following) is prohibitively high, especially compared with several high-volume inkjet AIOs we’ve looked at lately. That’s hard to ignore unless you have very modest print-volume needs.