The £100 Brother MFC-3360C might be one of the least expensive multi-function printers on the market, but it's far from the best. Aesthetically speaking, its boxy shape and drab colour can't match the more modern designs of competitors. Although the print quality is an improvement on that of other Brother printers we've tested, it costs about as much as the Canon Pixma MX330, a more versatile printer with a colour LCD.
Once again, we're unsatisfied with what Brother has to offer in terms of forward-thinking design. The MFC-3360C seems to take much of its aesthetic cues from printers and fax machines of the early '90s. We'll concede that the device is small (41 by 33 by 49cm), but we're disappointed by the boring, outdated look. Next to the MX330's streamlined figure, the MFC-3360C's rubber buttons and flimsy, matte plastic drawers look depressing. We struggle to believe that anyone will find this printer visually appealing.
The small rubber buttons on the control panel are arranged around a one-line LCD that lacks a backlit screen, which makes it difficult to read under anything dimmer than fluorescent office lights. The screen sits at an immovable angle, which doesn't help. We found ourselves squinting to read the tiny characters.
The main fax, scan and copy function buttons sit directly below the LCD screen, and a larger row of shortcut buttons occupy the rest of the front panel. You also get the small bonus of a telephone handset for phone calls and auto-dialling on the keypad, which might come in handy but also adds to the 'traditional' feel of the design. The 20-sheet auto-document feeder folds out from the top of the unit and also protects the control panel when not in use. Unfortunately, the printer lacks a memory-card reader or a USB port for external media.
A removable plastic tray handles all of the incoming and outgoing paper, with adjustable tabs that corral small 4-by-6-inch photo paper all the way up to full, legal-size slabs.
The drivers on the MFC-3360C's installation disc give you the option to adjust the printer's quality settings between 'normal', 'fine', 'fast' and 'fast normal'. In addition, you can select 'natural' or 'vivid' photo prints, and there's a unique 'True2Life' colour-enhancement tool that lets you customise colour density, white balance, contrast, brightness and other settings. The driver also installs a status monitor that pops up during job processing to monitor ink-cartridge levels and quality control.
Brother also gives you the option to install a third-party imaging application called PaperPort by ScanSoft. This program lets you edit photos in a file-browsing set-up similar to Apple's iPhoto, with basic photo-editing solutions for auto-enhancement, blemish erasing and red-eye elimination. We played around with the software for a while and enjoyed its simplicity compared with iPhoto, although don't expect editing quality on a par with Adobe suites -- it's geared more towards light users and amateur photographers with limited time and editing resources.
The MFC-3360C's crippling disadvantage is its lack of a dedicated flatbed scanner and copier. If you plan on scanning thick books, large documents or anything other than single sheets of letter-size paper, you'll be much happier with another machine. Note that the MX330 does have a built-in scanning bay, with a 50-sheet auto-document feeder, for roughly the same price.
The MFC-3360C uses a four-cartridge system with individual tanks for black, cyan, magenta and yellow, which load into the front bay.
The MFC-3360C managed to achieve performance scores so slow that it's frustrating to even look at them. The printer took last place when compared with others in the same price range, producing one measly page of text per minute, most of which was spent preparing itself to receive the document from the computer. This printer doesn't have Wi-Fi connectivity, so we're talking about a direct USB connection here. It performed equally poor in the rest of the benchmark speed tests.
The MFC-3360C redeems itself slightly in terms of output quality. It produces decent-quality black text, and it's even slightly sharper than the MX330, but it's still not nearly as sharp as many other photo inkjet devices. The difference is clearest in the photo-quality tests. Photos printed from MFC-3360C lose their pop and definition in finer lines and quick colour transitions, lacking the even saturation produced by the MX330. The photos and graphics are passable for the average consumer, but those with a keen eye for photography will immediately notice the fuzzy edges and spotty white blemishes that seem to infect every photo that comes out of this printer.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Presentation speed (ppm)||Photo speed (one sheet)||Colour graphics speed (ppm)||Text speed (ppm)|
The Brother MFC-3360C has taken a fairly severe beating with the ugly stick. Although it produces decent prints, it does it very slowly. The Canon Pixma MX330 represents a better investment.
Additional editing by Charles Kloet