Feature Articles

Best Gadgets for the Home: Tech Awards 2022 Editor's Choice (Part 2)

By Team HardwareZone - 16 Apr 2022

Best SOHO Printer

Best SOHO Printer

Like the previous time we ran this category in 2020, for SOHO printers, we looked at All-In-One (AIO) printers that can print, copy, scan, and fax. As an office-grade printer consideration, we ensured it came with more usability features like duplex printing capability and an automatic document feeder (ADF). The latter is a key differentiating factor from our Home printer category.

Printers don't usually refresh every year, especially one at the same price point, which is why we didn't run this category the previous year. As per our requirement for Tech Awards 2022 Editor's Choice categories, the contenders must be launched in 2021 to qualify for nominations. For the Best SOHO printer class, we were also looking at options that cost about or under S$500 to make the cut.

The scoping brought us to qualify printers from Brother and HP where both were using ink-based technologies. While the former was using normal ink cartridges, the other has gone the way by adopting an ink tank system as manufacturers are increasingly focusing on lowering printing costs, though it comes at a higher base cost.

Nominees:

  • Brother MFC-J4540DW
  • HP Smart Tank 750

From an assessment perspective, we looked at the size and footprint as space could be at a premium in a SOHO setup, along with the relevant features and connectivity options. While ease of use was important, the overall price of the printer, print quality, and cost of printing were key winning criteria. 

     

    And the winner is...

    The Brother MFC-J4540DW, plus its twin paper tray racks.

    The Brother MFC-J4540DW. We liked its print speed, its output, and the overall mix of features.

    It has a nice touchscreen display, a good mix of connectivity options, two paper trays, a port for USB printing, an ADF to support duplex copying with ease, and I found it very easy to set it up and get it started. There is also a guide to how much ink is left at the bottom corner of the display and within the app.

    It was also the faster printer in both our print and scan tests while also offering good quality prints (more on this below). Scanning was a straightforward chore; thanks to the ADF, multiple pages went through easily with no jams, and it didn't require anyone to intervene.

    The mobile app looks more business-like than those from HP and Canon. HP’s app, for example, has a UI with coloured friendly squares, while Brother’s app is single toned, with a more corporate look and feel.

    Handily for SOHO deployments, the printer also comes with a three-year warranty.

     

    Our test results

    As mentioned earlier, we liked the quality of the print results. And the fact we didn’t have to wait long, was even better.

    The scanned output of the Brother MFC-J4550DW. Text was clear and crisp, with little ink splotching.

    The text was crisp and clear, being easy to read. There was little splotching or ink running from one word to another even when magnified, which is a good sign of quality.

    Our graphic image also turned out sharp and clear, and I felt ts colour rendition was closest to our original. But I didn’t find any evidence of colour bleeding or excessive colour saturating.

    Image colours are rich but not overly saturated.

    However, it takes a hit in terms of value, with the problem being the cost of printing.

    Unlike most printers released these days, the MFC-J4540DW uses ink cartridges rather than individual ink tanks. According to Brother’s website, replacement high-yield ink cartridges cost S$99 for both black and each individual colour cartridge with Brother saying that they can print 6,000 pages in black and 5,000 pages in colour. The default ink cartridges that ship with the printers can print 3,000 pages in black and 1,500 pages in colour.

    This means once the owner is done with the initial ink cartridges, replacing all the ink cartridges with high-yield ones will cost S$400. This isn't unusual for standard ink cartridge costs, and one that's high-yield of this variety, but it's certainly a large expense for some owners. 

    Having caveated the print costs, you can see why Brother still gets our vote as the print speed and quality are a fair bit better than the Ink Tank based HP option from our scoring breakdown below. If your print needs aren't high, and you value quality and speed, Brother's MFC-J4550DW is the one you'll need for a brand new printer for your home or home office.

    Scoring Breakdown
      Brother MFC-J4540DW HP Smart Tank 750
    Design 8.0 7.0
    Features 8.5 7.0
    Print Speed 9.0 6.5
    Print Quality 8.0 8.0
    Value 6.0 8.0
    Overall Score 8.0 7.0
    Price S$418 S$489

    *Note: Prices and ratings listed are accurate at the time of individual product evaluation.

    For more information on how the nominees fared in detail and thus helping us pick our winner, check out the full reviews and articles listed in the References below.

     

    References

    • Brother MFC-J4540DW review coming soon
    • HP Smart Tank 750 review coming soon
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