If your budget is modest, but you don't want to skimp on features, then Brother has you in its sights with the DCP-J525W.
It's a multi-function printer with copying and scanning features, plus a touchscreen and Wi-Fi connectivity, yet it's affordably priced at £85.
Brother's current line-up of multi-function models look so similar you'd be forgiven for thinking they're all made using the same mould. This one shares the low-profile design of its siblings. Although it's finished predominantly in matte black plastic, Brother has used a glossy, dimpled effect on the scanner lid.
The sloping edge at the front is home to a small flip-up touchscreen. Extra touch controls have been added to the right-hand side. There are also buttons for cancelling print jobs or selecting between colour or black and white photocopies.
Sadly, this model lacks a memory card reader or a host USB port, so there's no support for direct photo printing. As with the other budget models in the Brother range, the DCP-J525W has a slot-in cassette-style paper tray that can take up to 100 sheets of A4 paper. There's no separate photo paper compartment; when you need to print photos you'll have to first remove the regular paper sheets.
Brother has obviously tried to make setting up as simple as possible and it has largely succeeded. Installing the ink cartridges couldn't be more straightforward. They slide straight into slots that are hidden behind a plastic door on the front right-hand edge. Once they're in place, a test page is automatically printed to let you check that the cartridges are working as they should.
The software installation is quick and painless. Halfway through the installation of the driver you're asked to select between using Wi-Fi or a direct USB connection.
If you do decide to use USB, then you'll find that the port is oddly placed. To get at it, you have to hinge up the scanner mechanism and, once the cable is connected, run it through a small channel out the back.
Scanning and copying
Unlike, the more expensive models in Brother's range, this one doesn't have an automatic document feeder. If you're scanning multi-page documents, you have to manually place each sheet on the scanner's glass.
Nevertheless, scan results are good for a model of this price and it's reasonably quick to use for photocopying. Our black and white test sheet was processed in 18 seconds, with a high-quality result.
Speed, quality and cost
For a budget multi-function model, the DCP-J525W turns out to be a pretty impressive performer when it comes to print speed. It printed off our black and white text document in just one minute and 18 seconds, while our 10-page colour business presentation was completed in 2 minutes and 20 seconds.
It was no slouch on our graphics test either, delivering 10 copies of the sheet in 2 minutes and 3 seconds, while our 4x6-inch photo test took 57 seconds.
Print costs are certainly not the cheapest around, but neither are they astronomically high. A black and white page costs 3.2p to print, while a colour page works out at 6.4p. Both of these figures include 0.7p for paper costs.
Black text doesn't have the cleanly-defined edges that you get on higher quality machines. There was some obvious feathering on bolded-up sections of our test pages.
On the plus side, blocks of colour were refreshingly free of banding in our business presentation. But colours on the whole aren't as vibrant as they could be across both colour graphics and photo prints.
There's no doubting the DCP-J525W's speed. It pumps out documents at a fair lick of pace.
However, print quality is something of a let-down. The truth of the matter is that you'll get significantly better results from competitors' models, without having to sacrifice that much print speed.