getting organized with a Brother MFC-5890CN

Finding tools to make you more productive can often be, well, counterproductive. For every new online task list manager program, there’s another set of fancy features that do more than you want and missing features that make them less than useful.  You set up a great filing system, but it gets bogged down with paper.  You have online files that you mean to read but you can’t take your netbook along with you everywhere.

I had been wishing for quite a while now that I had a few tools that would make me more productive:  a better productivity book than the ones I’ve read so far, a filing system that made better sense than my current one, a high-speed multi-page scanner, a netbook and a few other things (high among them a good online task manager, since Remember The Milk is very good but does lack a couple of features I want).

I was lucky enough to get a Brother MFC-5890CN Professional Series Compact Color Inkjet All-in-One with Wireless Networking “device” to review.  I say device because I couldn’t really categorize it as a printer or a scanner (and it’s a fax machine, too).  It does a lot of stuff, far more than the printer I owned.  To be honest here:  in exchange for the review, I get to keep the printer.  Brother did not, however, ask me to give a positive review… they simply asked me to express my opinion on the printer. Since I have been wanting something like this for a while, and it seemed to be a good productivity tool, I agreed.

A little background – I’ve had the same printer/scanner unit – an HP – for years.  It scanned, slowly, one page at a time.  It printed, but the print cartridges were expensive and even an ink refill was pricey.  I don’t blame HP.  I’m sure if I bought a new HP it would be significantly improved.  But the cost of the cartridges and the slowness of single-page scanning made it more of a hindrance than a help to productivity.

The Brother printer is much better. It has a 3.3 inch color display for photos, so if you put in a camera card you can print directly without loading onto the PC.  It’s a cute feature, but if you want to correct red eye, lighting and so on you still need to upload.  I’d call the display a cute feature but ultimately not that helpful.

It has some neat wireless features I didn’t try out, yet. I hooked it up via USB, and despite having to install from a CD it worked very well from the get-go.  Print speed is great, and it prints 11×17 pictures, which are practically posters.  Print speed was impressive, too.  The CD installation was annoying, to be honest.  There were a million hoops to jump through before I got it up and running, but once everything was installed it worked just fine.

Other productivity features – it has a 33.6kbps fax modem.  Again, I haven’t faxed with it yet – and I think faxing is a dying technology – but occasionally I have found myself wishing I had a fax machine just to avoid the annoyance of scanning and emailing, when a fax would have sufficed.    So even though a fax is rapidly becoming as pointless as a rotary-dial phone, having it built in saves some trouble.

But here’s the best thing about the printer:  the scanner. I won’t lie – I love this feature.  It scans up to 50 pages at a time, and fast.  I always wanted a high-speed scanner, and this one did not disappoint at all.  It scans straight into any format you want, but I have been using PDF.  Being able to drop a 50-page document into the scanner and have it come out as a neat PDF is fantastic.  I have visions of paperless filing dancing in my head already, even though I know certain things like birth certificates and diplomas won’t ever be tossed in favor of their electronic counterparts.

The print cartridges are weird – there’s 4 of them, a black one and three color ones. On the other hand, the nice thing is that the cartridges – even the “high yield” ones – are far cheaper than HP cartridges.  The black ink cartridge – the high yield one –is only $27 bucks.  It cost me $17 just to refill an HP cartridge – new, they run closer to $50.

The Brother is not as cheap as a lot of printer/scanner/fax combos.  It runs around $200. But I can say, as someone who’s vaguely needed a printer, a high-speed scanner and a printer than can print quickly and on bigger-sized paper – this printer’s alright.

Read more about it here.

And by the way – if you enjoyed my review, let me know. I’ve been thinking about adding a weekly feature along the lines of “stuff that I use to make life easier/be more productive/etc.”.  I have a few products – books, stuff, etc. – that I’ve been thinking about writing about.  I am never compensated directly, but I do get copies of books and the other items I talk about, so you can take that for what it’s worth.  On the other hand, if you found my review annoying, let me know that, too.  Either way, your comments will make my writing on this blog better!