Brother aims at the ambitious small office with its Brother MFC-5890CN colour inkjet multifunction printer, whose wide-format capability and cheap inks increase your in-house publishing potential without breaking the bank. Unfortunately, it's slow, and its design has a few drawbacks.

We like the Brother MFC-5890CN's control panel. The buttons are clearly marked and logically arranged, and the 3.3in colour LCD makes navigating options easy. Our only quibbles: the menus don't rotate, and the difference between the 'Clear/Back' and 'Stop/Exit' button can be confusing.

The paper trays have generous capacity. With the Brother MFC-5890CN you get a 50-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF) as well as a 150-sheet, A3/ledger input tray - an unusual find at this price. The tray's top lid can catch up to 50 sheets of output.

Both loading and adjusting the tray involve some tricky techniques, such as retracting the output extensions to remove the input tray, and then holding the input tray in place when you pull the extensions out again. The documentation for these processes is thorough (as it is for most topics), but the number of warnings should tell you something. The Brother MFC-5890CN lacks duplexing of any sort.

Brother deserves credit for its mostly economical inks. The Brother MFC-5890CN relies on separate cartridges for each colour, which reduces waste.

Brother also bundles the high-yield versions of its ink cartridges with the Brother MFC-5890CN. Why so generous? Brother says the initialisation process uses a lot of ink; with these cartridges, you'll still have plenty left.

Whatever the size, however, the black ink is surprisingly costly.

The biggest drag on the Brother MFC-5890CN's rating is its plodding text speed. It churned out just 5.7 pages per minute in our speed tests. Its 2.4ppm speed in printing graphics was more in line with the pack. At least the results were pleasing: text samples fell short of true black but were still crisp. colour photos looked dull and fuzzy on plain paper, but very nice on Brother's own photo paper. Scan and copy samples looked good.


If time is money, the Brother MFC-5890CN hurts on both counts. It makes you wait forever for plain-text pages that also cost more because of the pricey black ink. Wide-format printing remains rare in this price range, however, so if you need that feature this machine is still worth considering.