Brother DCP-115C and MFC-215C

The DCP-115C is almost identical to the DCP-110C (the model it supercedes) and is a fantastic, affordable multifunction device -- minus fax capabilities -- that is easy to use and maintain. The only difference between this model and the DCP-110C is support for greater memory card capacities through the built in memory card reader.

The DCP-115C interface includes a one-line LCD, as well as clearly labelled control buttons and concise menu system which allows you to change copy and scan settings without any fuss at all. The interface allows you to photocopy, scan-to-PC, scan-to-memory card, scan-to-file, scan-to-email and also to scan-to-OCR. It uses Scansoft's Paperport 9 for the latter task. The scan-to-file function includes the ability to scan directly to PDF format, which is very convenient.

Its ink cartridges are not fitted to a moving print head as found in other devices, instead the DCP-115C has its ink tanks fitted to the actual body of the machine, and it uses four individual ink tanks for black, cyan, magenta and yellow.

The installation of the cartridges is simple and the individual tanks allow replenishment on a per job/colour basis. Ink is transferred from the cartridges to the print head using a capillary system, which keeps the head's ink levels at their optimum level. This system is designed to reduce the weight of the print head, and hence reduce the amount of vibration and noise emitted when printing. Despite this, we still found the print head, as well as the paper rollers, to be noisier than we anticipated.

Printing: The DCP-115C employs a curved paper path at the front of the machine, from which all paper, including glossy photo paper, enters and exits. The input tray holds up to 100 sheets and the output tray directly above it holds 25 sheets. When printing on 4x6in photo paper, the output stops just inside the edge of the printer, so you have to reach inside the tray to retrieve the photos.

Printing photos on 4x6in-sized paper at maximum detail settings takes 2min 30sec, when printing with a border, while borderless prints take up to 7min. A full-page, A4 print-out emerges in just 5min30sec. The results of these print-outs aren't as sharp as what you would get from more expensive, dedicated photo printers, but this is an outstanding result for an affordable multi-purpose machine.

In document printing the DCP-115C can print in five modes -- normal, fine, normal, fast normal and fast normal. Each mode gets progressively lighter, and faster, and a single page can be completed in less than 20sec when using a fast mode. The text quality results were very good in normal mode, although lettering appeared slightly disjointed and feathered. Fine mode produced more solid looking letters and a single page took only 43sec to print using this mode.

Scanning: Documents can be scanned from a PC using the TWAIN driver or the task-based control centre, which allows you to scan directly to an image-editing program, word processor (for OCR using ScanSoft PaperPort 9), email client or even to a file (for PDF). These functions can also be carried out directly from the interface panel on the DCP-115C. We found this interface very easy to use and provided convenient access if you have no need to adjust settings on your PC.

Using a PC, the Brother Control Centre allows you to customise its software buttons for scanning different types of documents, for example, you can set up one button for scanning directly to a PDF file, or another to scan directly to a Bitmap image. It's a versatile interface, but the TWAIN driver itself is not very versatile. It only allows you to select the resolution and adjust the brightness and or contrast of images, but does not have more advanced settings such as descreen (remove images electronically), when scanning a book cover, for example.

You can expect an A4 image set at 300dpi to take about 50sec, while a prescan takes 17sec and a text heavy A4 document takes only 20sec to scan and then get processed through the OCR software. OCR accuracy was 100 percent in our tests and the scan quality of images was good, although it did struggle to properly display some fine gradations. Images can also be scanned directly to memory cards. We conducted the tests using a Pentium D 820 with 512MB RAM.

Photocopying: A full colour, A4 photocopy, using the maximum quality settings of the DCP-115C, takes around 2min 55sec to complete. We did find some finer colour gradations to be missing from the copy when compared to the original, but overall, the results were impressive. Thick materials can be photocopied (or scanned) on the flatbed -- the DCP-115C has hinges on the lid -- and copies can be reduced in size to 25 percent of original or increased up to 400 percent.

Ease of use: As mentioned, the control panel on this unit is very easy to use with its one-line LCD display. The associated Control Panel software is intuitive and easy to configure for one-click scanning, in particular. Physically, the separate ink cartridges are located under the hood of the unit and are conveniently accessible and easily replaceable. The integrated memory card reader makes printing out photos from a digital camera nice and quick and index pages can be printed first, so that you can select the photos you want to print.

Functions: Printer, scanner, photocopier, memory card reader, Verdict: Small, inexpensive and well performing, the DCP-150C is recommended if you are after a basic machine for very good quality document printing and photo output. It also has a built-in memory card reader and separate ink cartridges. Price: $149 Phone: (02) 9887 4344 URL: www.brother.com.au

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