Pros / The printer has excellent copy and scan quality.
Cons / Its print quality has its flaws, lagging behind competitors with color imperfections and minor problems printing photos.
Verdict / The Brother Business Smart Plus MFC-J5520DW is a workhorse all-in-one printer that has great print speeds and low operating expenses, along with a generous two-year warranty and high duty cycle.
Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it has been replaced by another product. You can still read our original review below, but Top Ten Reviews is no longer updating this product’s information.
The Brother Business Smart Plus MFC-J5520DW is our top pick, thanks to its low-cost printing, durable construction and generous two-year warranty. It may be the best home all-in-one printer for you in our review, particularly if speed and affordability are your primary concerns.
The printer’s most distinctive feature is that it orients paper sideways, printing horizontally across the page instead of top to bottom. The paper tray loads lengthwise, and paper feeds into the printer with the long edge, a change that facilitated some of the fastest printing we saw in our tests. The printer cranked through black-and-white documents at 17 pages per minute (ppm) and 15 ppm for color documents. Kicking things into draft mode raised the speeds to an impressive 18 ppm for black-and-white documents and 17 ppm for color. If you need to print fast it’s great, but the difference in quality is noticeable, with blacks faded to grey and colors lightened to pastels.
Pristine quality isn’t on the menu for this printer. When we examined our test prints, we found that black-and-white documents were of a passable quality, but text wasn’t as sharp as that printed on several competitors. Color documents had some real problems like banding and gradient stepping – where there should have been smooth transitions in color there instead were very clear distinctions. Photo print quality was mostly acceptable overall, but in one-third of our test prints, the photo paper was actually damaged by the printer. That’s the last thing you want to see when preparing to hang your memories on the wall or paste them into a scrapbook.
The Business Smart Plus MFC-J5520DW comes with the usual short-lived starter inks, but the cost of replacement cartridges isn’t bad. With a 550-page yield, documents printed with standard ink cartridges work out to just 12 cents per page. High-capacity cartridges do even better, dropping the price to just 7 cents per page and making the Business Smart Plus MFC-J5520DW one of the best all-in-one printers for economical printing. Built for small business use, the printer also boasts a duty cycle of 30,000 pages per month, making it one of the most durable home office inkjet printers you can buy.
Swapping out ink is simple, thanks to a front access panel and Brother’s unique cartridge design. There’s no need to reach inside the printer to change out a cartridge, and the cartridges come with a removable nozzle cover that prevents spills and protects the nozzles, keeping messes to a minimum.
The printer’s primary paper tray holds up to 250 pages, and a multipurpose input in back accepts an additional 80 pages and supports other media like envelopes and cardstock. The portrait-oriented paper feed accepts paper up to 11 x 17-inches, which is significantly larger than the average printer. With automatic duplex printing, you can print two-sided documents with ease, but you can still only scan and copy one side at a time.
An automatic document feeder lets you scan, copy and fax multiple-page documents, holding up to 35 pages at a time. The feeder is built into the lid of the scanner and folds away when not in use, blending into the clean lines of the lid.
As an all-in-one printer, scan, copy and fax functionality are all built in, and the Brother MFC-J5520DW’s scan and copy quality were best in class during our tests. These are standalone functions, so they can be used without first connecting the printer to a network or computer. In our testing, both scanned images and basic document copies showed better fine detail and subtle color variations than any competing unit could match.
Printing from external storage is also fairly simple, with slots for both SD cards and older Compact Flash cards and a USB port for printing files directly from a flash drive. These ports are conveniently accessible on the front of the printer, protected by a hinged cover next to the control panel. The printer also supports printing directly from any PictBridge-enabled camera over USB.
Connecting a PC via USB is a little less convenient. A quirk seen on several Brother printers makes the primary USB connection difficult to access and requires you to lift the scanner platen and plug a USB cable into a deeply recessed port. It’s a bit of a hassle, and it shortens the reach of the cable by a full 16 inches compared to the standard external ports found on other printers.
Network connectivity is simple, with both wired and wireless options. Like other top-rated wireless printers, the Brother MFC-J5520DW also includes several web-connected features. Once connected, you can scan to and print from cloud storage services like Google Drive, Dropbox and Box. Scanned images can also be shared to social networking sites, such as Facebook, right from the printer or sent to note-taking apps like Microsoft OneNote.
Wireless printing from your various devices should also be straightforward, with Wi-Fi Direct allowing you to connect directly to the printer without needing to go through a router or authorizing a network connection. It supports smartphones and tablets with both Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print. If your phone or tablet doesn’t support these wireless printing standards, Brother also offers a proprietary app for printing over Wi-Fi.
Brother covers the Business Smart Plus MFC-J5520DW with a two-year warranty – twice the coverage usually offered for a printer. Brother also has several support options available, and dedicated support personnel can be reached via phone, email and live chat on Brother’s website. The website also has support materials like an online user manual and answers to frequently asked questions.
For affordable and efficient printing, the Brother Business Smart Plus MFC-J5520DW is one of the best wireless all-in-one printers you can buy. It may not have pristine print quality, but it has inexpensive inks, durability to spare and a generous warranty. As wireless all-in-one printers go, it’s a real workhorse and an affordable one at that.