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BROTHER vs CANON comparison + some things you may have missed
on September 27, 2014
Brother J475 Review and comparison to Canon MG5520
After a long loyalty with Brother spanning 10 years I broke ranks and have used Canon the last four years or so, because the under $100 Brother units of the very recent past compromised color print quality. And I kept going through Brother printers in less than two years but I'm a heavy user. After switching to Canon I didn't see any difference in how long they lasted, just how they performed daily.
Thankfully with the J475 here, the color print quality is top-notch and I can no longer see an obvious advantage with Canon for photos and image printing. Brother has leveled the playing field with amazing, sharp color imagery.
The J475 is very comparable to the Canon MG5520 but you do get a fax with Brother and a multi-sheet page feeder for copies which is really nice.
Both of these printers will work well in your home office environment, so I'm going to compare the MFC-J475 to the Canon MG5520, both good printers available as of this writing for under $100, as follows:
The Brother has less expensive factory ink, although this may not be a big factor because both Brother & Canon have good aftermarket ink available on Amazon that are cheap. Test out a few brands and go with seasoned reviews on ink. For Canon I really recommend using Sophia Global on Amazon. They're one of the few companies that consistently offer good compatible ink tanks in the same packaging a year after year and aren't reselling other people's ink. I never have problems with their ink. For some reason they don't carry every brother model but aftermarket ink does exist for brother, you'll just have to try a few vendors with good longstanding reviews for the model you need.
SETUP AND PRINTING
Both printers are about the same size, weight, and footprint. If you're buying another printer online, make sure you check the size and weight because some of these multifunction machines are incredibly large and heavy. Not an issue with either of these models. Small-office friendly.
Brother is way easier to set up, and much easier to use via the control panel. Scanning is a breeze and it prints fast & well with black & white. Where Canon wins, is speed of color printing. If you print lots of color or mostly color, go with the Canon hands down because its just plain faster output, much faster. Again I didn't see much of a difference in image quality between the two printers where in the past Canon has always won out. The Canon does yield better print quality in "draft" (fast) mode than the Brother. Might be important for those of you that print in draft to save ink but still want a usable output. If color with speed is your thing, Canon wins. Both printers can be heard while printing, but the Brother is quieter. Perhaps 50% quieter. However see below notes about QUIET MODE for Canon.
Both printers offer a wireless and wired print option, the USB connection on the Brother is hiding under the cover next the fax & phone jacks. I found the Brother slightly easier to install and hook up via wireless, and my Canon installation did not like the fact I had an identical Canon printer installed (Windows 7).
COPY & SCAN
Brother wins for copying, simply because of the easy control panel and digit keypad. It also is quieter than the Canon in normal mode. The LCD menu and getting around is also much more intuitive with Brother. And you get a multi-document feeder so you can copy five pages by feeding them into the top panel all at once (with Canon you'll be lifting the glass cover and doing each sheet separately!) All this without loading tons of bloatware and extra software on your system. Both Canon & Brother install software, but Canon loads a crapload and their scanning interface is outright slow, and terribly hard to use! And it's been this way for the last few Canon models I've had. I don't recommend the Canon at all for scanning. The quality is fine, it's the user interface and software which will have you swearing and throwing things. It's slow cumbersome, and hard to work with the finished files regarding saving, etc. Brother wins out big here for scanning & copying ease. To scan a photo, you do it all from the little LCD and select "scan to email, document, or image". If you scan to image, it quickly scans' the photo and the image pops up on your computer ready to save. This same process is much more convoluted and slow with the Canon.
PAPER LOADING & OUTPUT
If you are constantly loading different types of paper in the machine, like plain paper, glossy paper, and different shipping labels for you ecommerce Ebay & Amazon sellers out there, you'll like the Canon slightly better. This is because there is no annoying tray to pull out to get to the paper. You simply load the paper in the exposed slot. Brother has you pull out a tray. I will say Brother made the tray easier to pull out & push back in with this model compared to earlier printers, but some people who are changing paper alot will prefer no tray to pull out and push back in.
Both printers have an access door in the back and bottom panel to access paper jams.
One MAJOR flaw in the Canon - they made the darn output tray too short. So if you print more than one page, the printed output will fall off the printer on the floor. Insanely bad engineering by Canon! I have fixed this issue by taping a piece of cardboard to the output tray extending it by about two inches. No more dropped printouts. Unbelievable that Canon missed this. This is not a deal breaker, but it is not an issue on the Brother which has a large and completely retractable output arm that catches all the printouts.
LCD, LIGHTS, NIGHT QUIET MODE
Both have a color LCD on the front of the unit, the Brother is smaller but much easier to use and navigate so I prefer it. It also gives you a color read-out of ink levels on the LCD. The Canon instead has an annoying pop-up on your computer monitor about ink levels each time you print. So every time you print, you get to see the ink levels and sometimes the pop-up window interferes with other things I'm doing while typing or switching windows.
If you work at night and dont want to disturb people, the Canon has a cool "quiet mode" that prints in stealth quiet fashion. Its really almost completely silent when it prints. I'm sure the tradeoff is a bit slower function but I haven't noticed it. I don't see this option on Brother, but in normal operating mode the Brother is quieter than Canon. The Brother though has an auto sleep mode though where the screen goes dark (you can set when & for how long this happens) so there is no annoying bright light on. The Canon has a pretty bright blue light in front that stays on even when the printer is inactive, unless you power it off. You'll have to shut it off to get it to go dark, I keep mine covered up with a piece of paper. If you keep a printer in the bedroom or other place you want dark at night, you'll appreciate the auto sleep function on the Brother where the entire console goes dark automatically, and all you have to do is press any button or execute a printout and the printer immediately comes to life with no waiting.
For longevity - I dont know who makes a better product, in the past I'd probably give the nod to Brother. But I print alot and for me the image and text quality generally declines after about a year, but I print alot, probably more than the typical home-office user. I also always use aftermarket ink, this may or may not contribute to the life expectancy but even so I make it up in savings on ink even if I have to replace a printer every year. Honestly at well under a hundred bucks, I'll take the better performing machine for my needs as the replacement cost isn't enough for me to worry about.
WIFI (UPDATE 9-18-15) Both printers work fine over WiFi and wireless printing but this is dependent on your router! I've had an older router (4-5 years old) and both these printers worked intermittently with this setup sometimes poorly and unresponsive. HOWEVER AFTER UPGRADING MY ROUTER both printers perform flawlessly wirelessly. Sometimes there is a bit of lagtime when switching printers in your print dialog box, but its not a big deal. I've always felt its better to hook up printers hardwired but rest assured with a newer router you won't have any issues, and my router is in the next room away from 2 of my printers and still no issues. You do need to make sure your router is in range and the signal percentage isn't too low otherwise you can have weird or slow performance set in with your printers and you won't know it's the router. I do think eventually printer manufacturers will do away with USB connections on some models to save money, so if you're looking at this review for a future model just make sure it has the connection you need. These models in this review support both USB and wireless printing.
These are both really good quality printers that are going to work well for printing, copying, and photos. You probably can't make a mistake getting either one if you read the below. I've broken the "winner" down by task below, as these printers excel at different things with different features. Let's face it, both of these are under priced considering the quality as both companies will make up their profit on their ink tanks (especially high priced Canon ink). Aftermarket ink is readily available for both models.
If you are doing lots of color printing I'd go with the Canon for sure, its just plain faster (even in fast mode, the Brother is still dog-slow for color in my opinion). For black and white they are both fast.
For lots of scanning or copying, or printing mainly in black & white (or if you need a fax) go with the Brother for sure - it highly excels over Canon in these areas. Canon is cumbersome with scanning and has no fax function. Brother also includes a cool sheet-feeder for copying multiple pages, a 'plus' for any office.
The Brother is quieter in normal mode, but the Canon has a neat "night" or quiet mode which prints almost silently and can be set by you.
Canon excels at color printing by far, if you're doing any measurable amount of color printing, go with the Canon, its just much faster without giving up quality. The Canon likes to drop paper printouts on the floor because the output arm is way too short, which is highly annoying (if you keep the Canon further back on a desk away from the edge this shouldn't be a big issue but the Brother still has a better output tray.)
Also keep in mind the Canon has an exposed paper tray (nothing to pull out) so quicker paper loading if you're switching paper types often, (but this is more prone to dust and foreign matter falling on the paper if you aren't using it regularly).
If I think of anything else I'll update the review, and feel free to ask any questions. Thanks for reading.