Brother MFC-J430w delivers fast printing under $100

For a printer that retails for only $100 (as of January 3, 2012) and is heavily discounted online, the Brother MFC-J430w color inkjet multifunction (copy/fax/print/scan) gets things done in a hurry: Text pages print at a brisk 7.6 pages per minute or faster. Other strengths include sharp text output and below-average ink costs, if you stick with the high-capacity supplies.

You get some nice features for the price, but note that colorgraphics quality is merely adequate, paper capacity is minimal, andautomatic two-sided printing or scanning is nonexistent.

The MFC-J430w’s appearance is bestdescribed as conventional. The all-black MFP has a small, 1.9-inch LCDthat tells you what’s going on, plus the usual array of navigation,job, and fax buttons. The buttons are logically placed, and navigatingthe menus is very easy. You can even scan to a PC directly from thecontrol panel.

Although the MFC-J430w is easy to set up and supports bothWi-Fi and USB connections, it hasno ethernet, no card slots, and noUSB/PictBridge port. If you frequently need to print photos from acamera, look for another MFP. The input tray holds just 100 sheets, andthe ADF for the A4-size scanner holds 20 sheets. It’s definitely alight-duty machine.

Brother has implemented one software feature that’s currently unique:The iPrint&Scan app for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 7 letsyou scan from the MFP directly to your phone or tablet via Wi-Fi. It’spretty cool. Printing over email happens through Google Cloud Print,which has apps for iOS and Android, but not Windows Phone 7. Brotherprovides both PC and Mac drivers, as well as OCR software (ScansoftPaper Port 12 for Windows and Presto PageManager for the Mac).

Cheaper than average per pageprinted

Alas, while Brother embraces the Mac, it’s less than a bear hug: You’llfind no support for even manual two-sided printing. Also, you’ll needto download the latest driver from Brother’s Web site to get around aproblem we encountered using version 4.1.4 from our installation CD:The Mac scanner driver would not install automatically. We confirmedthat the company solved this problem with driver version 4.1.5.

The MFC-J430w’s ink costs aren’t as low as those for the Kodak ESP C310, a like-pricedcompetitor, but they are cheaper than average if you use thehigher-capacity cartridges. With the standard 300-page cartridges ($15black and $10 per color), you pay 5 cents per page, 3.3 cents per pageper color, and 15 cents for a four-color page. The 600-page XLcartridges ($25 black and $15 color) reduce costs to 4.2 cents perblack page, 2.5 cents per page per color, and 11.7 cents for eachfour-color page. Stick with the XLs for the best deal.

This printer is fast

Output from the MFC-J430w is competent. Text appears dark grayrather than black, and color graphics look clear but a bit washed out,with shadows that darken too quickly. Our larger photo scan sufferedeven more from the steep contrast curve. Copies are generally good.

I mentioned up front that the MFC-J430w is fast. As I noted, in ourtests, text pages printed at a faster-than-average 7.6 ppm on the PC,but they exited at an even more impressive rate of 8.2 ppm on the Mac.Half-page photos printed to plain paper at a brisk 4.8 ppm, but slowedto a more normal 1.2 ppm when we used Brother’s glossy photo paper.Full-page photos printed on the Mac to the same glossy paper took about2 minutes apiece, which is about average, but scans and copies to plainpaper were quite quick.

If your scanning and printing needs are minimal, but you want jobs tobe done in a hurry, the Brother MFC-J430w is a cheap and efficientoption. The output is serviceable, the ink is affordable, and–asidefrom the lack of automatic duplexing–the MFP has no salientweaknesses. If your budget is even tighter, the Canon Pixma MX360 has a lowerpurchase price, but its ink costs are higher.

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