Top critical review
6 stars for printer, -3 for BAD manuals -1 for PDF and SCAN flaws
on September 11, 2012
UPDATE, 12/09/13: this machine is WAY OVERPRICED, now. I got mine for maybe $400, will check and write an updated note in the comments. It wasn't worth the amount I paid, much less the selling price now.
UPDATE 12/09/13: I finally gave up and reinstalled my prior MFC 9700. It scans well. This 8480DN cannot scan directly from the machine, but ONLY from the computer. However, at least the 8480DN has a power button, along with wire hookup in two ways, parallel and USB. It also allows you to configure it from the computer, without having to use that HORRIBLE LCD menu. But I gotta tell ya, I'll never buy another Brother printer again. They didn't learn any lessons from the insanity of the MFC 9700's frustrating interface.
UPDATE 3/22/13: I upgraded one star for the printer, because there is a way to make it do searchable pdf via its PaperPort function. But the scanner itself can't do that. YOU can do tht, if you have Acrobat; its OCR function will also convert any Google doc into searchable pdf (yay, finally I can search Shakespeare and Gibbon)! Of course this printer can't do that, but once you scan it, even without PaperPort you can take an old Adobe Acrobat 6.0 and render it searchable. I still prefer my ScanSnap S1500.
I still haven't found a way to directly press the scan button ON the machine and have it scan. But printer quality is excellent. The rest of the remarks below, still stand.
UPDATE 10/13/12: the scanner does NOT produce searchable pdf. This makes the scanner nearly useless. So I downgraded the printer to 2 stars. Then downgraded it today (1/22/13) because THE SCAN BUTTON DOESN'T WORK on the machine. You can only scan remotely, from your computer. Someone in Brother quality control was very thoughtless. The machine does have some advantages (see below), but I'm giving this low rating to call attention to the UTTER THOUGHTLESSNESS of the design and the manuals.
Gist: If you seek a simple fax/scan/copy/printer, look somewhere else. If you want a sophisticated version with a small footprint and are willing to accept a light duty cycle (30K pages per month -- meaning really no more than 500 per day) -- keep reading. This machine has fax/scan/copy/print features I can't find elsewhere except in machines costing 2k or more -- cleverly created and handled. And, it's reliable, a steady workhorse. Consumable costs are low, for what you get. When the thing gets tired after about 7 years, it still works fine, but its menu begins to say its drum needs changing, even though that's not true.
It will be easier to follow along in this review if you first download the user's manuals on the 8480DN from Brother. Just Google on that model number and 'manual download', to find the page quickly. I will no longer buy any electronic product until I've read the manual. Here, I'm already quite familiar with this line of Brother machines. But the manuals are a nightmare, so you do need to read them and decide if it's worth the hassle of learning. Machine itself is of great quality. Boring putty gray and charcoal color, but hey: business machines are deliberately dull (color chosen by committee vote always means dullish gray or beige or black, yuck). Well, this one isn't as ugly as some. Two-toned.
Even so, the Brother MFC-8480DN is MUST-BUY, if you still have DOS word processing, because it recognizes PCL 5 language, which back in DOS days was very common. I'm so thrilled about this: all my old Multimate Advantage II merge files print as intended. (MM II used to be the standard DOS word processing in Fortune 500 corporations, and had the easiest-to-program merge functions ever invented.) My happy history with the elder MFC 9700 and this newer model's PCL 5-6 emulation, were the main reasons I bought this 8480DN. Saved my bacon for all my 20+ year old client files.
Yet the 8480DN can also handle modern stuff, sporting a dual TWAIN and WIA-compliant, Network-capable multifunction fax/color or b&w scanner/copy/print machine on a legal-size scanning plate, with PCL 5-6 (emulating HP language as well as PostScript), which is compatible with Linux, Windows (through version 7), and Mac: you get three CDs (Windows pre-7, Windows 7, and Mac) for that reason. The TWAIN feature allows duplex scanning, but on the 8480DN, I'm not sure how to make it work. Might not work at all, in XP and prior. The instructions are ambiguous, probably because the duplex problem is a WINDOWS problem, not the machine's. Still, you can scan odd then even pages, and re-assemble in Brother's own PaperPort or even via Adobe, to make into a duplex (so I hear).
This 8480DN is not automatically set up to handle wireless, but through its Ethernet port you could presumably plug it into a router. (The 8890DW is supposedly able to do wi-fi out of the box, AND it offers easy duplex scanning; but I didn't buy that unit.) You can download the Linux drivers from Brother. Go to its website, search on 'Linux drivers', and you should get a page of them, with a bunch of model numbers. So you download, by clicking on the model. Brother is big on Linux compatibility.
Sophisticated FOUR-TIER Operation, and Installation (Outline for this Review)
So, this 8480DN would be a ten-star machine, except for its infuriating, fragmented, instructions: some options are scattered in the online manual, some only show in the paper manual, some only are listed on the web; some only, in the machine's menu. But it has a lot of features. Witness: there are FOUR DIFFERENT WAYS to run this machine, that's why it's so dang confusing. Ultimately you'll find one way you want to use it, and forget the other options. But to begin with, you need to know what your options even ARE.
1. Run the machine from its own menu and buttons ON the machine. Trust me, you will soon hate doing this. But you will need to learn it, because the other ways of running the scanner, don't include all the options which are ON the machine. Some important options, like printer emulation mode, are only available from the machine. The paper manual is correlated to these options, so is relatively easy to read.
But alas, not all options you need to configure, are on the machine, so are not covered in that paper manual. So the rest of this review, will cover tips on 8480DN salient features, plus operation via Tiers #2-#4, plus Maintenance.
2. Run the machine from the Brother Control Center options on your computer. Totally different organization for the many overlapping options, which basically 'tell' the machine how to function; neither the online nor the paper manual, correlate the same options in the Control Center. Worse, the online manual isn't organized the way the Control Center displays. Aaarrrggghh. Not all of the important options are configurable from the computer. So you have to go through BOTH manuals, but you cannot program in both places at the same time! So go through the computer options first, then the machine's own options per the paper manual.
3. Run the scanner from the PaperPort Software. Oddly enough, this is covered in the online manual, where you don't expect it; also, as would be expected, from the PaperPort's own Help menu. In my older MFC-9700, when you scan using the machine first -- meaning, you stick the thing to be scanned in the machine and hit the scan button ON the machine -- the PaperPort menu automatically comes up on the computer. So presumably that happens with the 8480DN, too. So this will be the most common computer experience you'll have, if you start your scans at the machine and hit its own buttons. Unfortunately, I can't get my 8480DN to operate by simply hitting the SCAN button! EDIT, 10/08/12: I still can't operate the scan button on the machine, must use Control Center to scan. Since I don't find anyone else having that problem, I must assume it's something wrong on my end, pending talking to Brother. They want me to call them, and I can't do that until after the 15th. One quirk in their program: you can't replace an existing file, even if an administrator. So if you want to rescan with the same file name, you must save to a different directory or first delete the file you originally made.
4. Run the machine's security and permissions, from the web. Apparently this is for Networking functions by the administrator. I don't use a network, so won't review this option. Its function is in the Network User's Guide put on your computer at installation. The main functions concern who has what kind of access to the MFC 8480DN. Because, it has a lot of storage capacity (with added memory you can easily add to the side of the machine, too); so presumably access to its functions, is relegated to an administrator using the cloud. UPDATE 9/13/12 -- the manager of a large apartment complex with units all over the place told me her 8890DW was completely and swiftly installed REMOTELY by some geek in another state. He did it all by commands directly to the machine. No CD required. So apparently network installation can be heavenly.
The rest of this review now focuses on Tier #2 and #3 usage. These are the most useful and difficult tiers of configuration features, to understand. There are over 1000 configurable features. Sadly, Brother's explanations while good, are VERY disorganized. You will spend HOURS in the pdf manuals, as a) they have no page numbers, and b) their own search engine is dysfunctional (not Adobe's search engine, but their own. Why?)
NOTE TO BROTHER: Organize the pdf according to the Control Center software screens, to lower confused customer calls? Dovetail the at-machine paper manual with the pdf User's manual, so the user can IDENTIFY common functions, versus functions only ON the machine, or only choosable FROM the computer? You have a good product, Brother -- but oh brother, the convoluted manuals make us tear our hair out!
INSTALLATION TIPS: 1) install the software first. 2) DO NOT hook up the USB or Parallel interface to the MFC until told to do so; 3) leave the MFC OFF until told to turn it on. 4) DO NOT select 'Custom' installation: it sends the installer into a hang, for Brother wants to advertise using its own toner brand; the installer won't complete, else. So, you must install three times (without uninstalling): a) install first WITHOUT Paperport, then b) install again WITH Paperport, then c) do it a third time, to install the only option left, Brother's PostScript driver. Took me four hours to figure out that a) b) c).
After installation, there are HUNDREDS of setup options to analyze: 20 customized presets (maybe more). You can also change options ad hoc, right on the machine, though its now-larger LCD menu remains as annoying as ever. At least now it's backlit and readable. Whew.
Oh: the 8480DN forgets the time, even if unplugged for a moment. To reset it, call up Brother's Control Center menu and use its Remote Setup, Device Settings, Initial Setup: then check the box next to 'PC Clock'. DO NOT reset the time ON the machine: your PC clock then can't reset it, unless you reboot. Sigh. Okay, but that's all the bad news: dysfunctional pdf manuals, and a hypersensitive ticker. Not too bad.
Else, this multifunction machine is a huge improvement over its hard-working predecessor, the MFC 9700, which I've owned since about 2005. So let's see why.
What can this 8480DN really do? LOTS. To wit:
** SCAN or print directly to PDF (and other formats), either via your computer, or by itself, with a handy USB port right in front of the machine; just stick in a pen drive and convert your files on it. (I have to test this more, to see how it works.) You can preset 16 sets of options, but only via the computer. Quality scanning is very slow. If you want fast, readable but not superlative scans, accept the defaults of 400 or 200 pixels. File sizes are also smaller. A quality scan will take maybe 20 minutes. Frankly I don't see much difference between the umpteen bizillion pixels Brother can do, versus the small file standard, but maybe there is a huge difference in photos. Scanning options are many, creative, and sophisticated. For example, say you wanted to make a banner. So you print out sections of this 'banner' and now want to 'assemble' it in a scan as one big piece. You can do that. Or, conversely, scan to fit as many as 25 pages onto one legal or even smaller page. You can do that. You can duplex scan, but in two steps, not one; and you have to use PaperPort (covered below), if you're on XP.
** Duplex or simplex PRINTING in black and white, but color for scanning, selectable to very high resolution levels. Legal size glass, so you can fit more on the scanner. You can also size the output to shrink up to four pages onto one page. Via a special option in Direct Print -- where you plug a pen drive into the front of the machine and print what's on the drive, bypassing the computer -- you can shrink as many as 25 pages onto only one page. The printing options here are enormous and sophisticated, seen on many high-end machines (i.e., make books or pamphlets). The machine is silent except when printing. When printing, the chief sound is the fan, windlike; not harsh. You can hear the paper revv up, too. Warmup isn't fast, but is acceptable. 32ppm is about right. It's fast enough for a small office. It's aggressive about conserving energy, hence the slower warmup.
** ADF of 50 pages, I think. It looks improved, versus my older machine. This newer model has a fabulous paper path to make it easier to remove jams.
** You get many REMOTE PROGRAMMING options set from either the computer or directly on the machine, versus earlier Brother models. You can operate the machine remotely, too; call into it and 'poll' (receive its stored input).
** You can FAX receive/send either directly from your computer, including broadcasting to groups, timed faxes, polling (get faxes from some distant machine, like IRS fax downloads). The Brother offers many different resolutions and settings you can choose for printed fax clarity; by contrast, its internal PC-Fax function (faxing directly from your computer) is weirdly capped to 200x200 resolution.
** You can SCAN to create files on your computer, of course. Paperport manipulates the scanned pages afterwards (i.e., change page order, formats). The 8480DN uses Paperport version 11.
** COPYing, including with almost-too-many settings for 'cleaning' an original, reduction, enlargement, shrinking up to 4 pages into one page. Many options in the dialogue boxes to help correct bad originals; the manuals offer good hints, too. Copy and print settings you change on the fly (i.e., lower row of charcoal square buttons) don't change your defaults; they only change your next function.
** NETWORK-capable, has its own Ethernet port. Hook it up using either parallel or USB. (I prefer parallel; keeps my USB ports free and less drain on the machine.) Lots of security options; mind-boggling, how you can configure pinpointed security.
** SIMULTANEITY, true MULTIFUNCTION: you can send/receive a fax, print, and scan to file all at the SAME time. No special setting for this, it's automatic. I've been in the middle of a scan when a fax came in; or, was printing, on my older 9700. Or had left something scanned on the plate but scanned something else, with no mixup. I still don't know why it works so well. So that convenience continues in the newer 8480DN.
** Need more MEMORY? Simple: buy and insert the added RAMM into the side of the machine as easily as you'd insert an SSD card into a slot of your netbook. Default memory claims to support storage of 600 pages of scans (presumably text, not necessarily that high for photos).
Now to Tier #2, at this review's start: running the 8480 DN from the CONTROL CENTER.
After installation, you access Control Center 3 via subset of the MFC-8480 menu under 'Brother' menu/folder. Ignore its option to use the 'Modern' skin, stick instead to the turquoise default menu. Pick Device Settings, then Remote Setup. There will be a pause, as the computer loads the settings resident in the machine. These are fairly straight forward, except for some arcanely-named options, covered below. As you work with them, remember to periodically hit the 'Apply' button, to save your work to the MFC while editing. Click the OK button to save and exit. The Remote Setup Dialogue box's 'tree' headers are:
GENERAL: the oddly-named 'Mode Timer' means the RESET time between the last function you did, and resumption of Fax Mode. If you turn 'Mode Timer' off, you disable faxing. At times that's helpful, to avoid interruptions; generally you'd want the default of 2 minutes. The setting also controls how long you can repeat whatever you last did, too. So if you've a longish copy or print job, increase the Mode Timer or turn it 'off' to disable any reset to Fax Mode.
--- Paper Type and Tray #1 (.5 ream) and MP Tray. The former is the pull-out tray. The other is a bypass tray, which they call 'MP'; its door is drop-down: light-gray door on the front of the machine (not the dark gray part for the drum and toner): see the paper manual's page 12. So you can feed 1-3 sheets or envelopes at a time, via the bypass. This becomes useful for mixed paper types in a print job, when you code the machine to pause at certain points. You can also buy another .5 ream pullout tray to attach underneath the machine, for about $200 more. (The tray integrates into the machine via screws supplied with the unit.)
--- Default Paper Type is Plain (think 'copy paper' of Xerox quality, approx. 18-lb); but the 8480DN also accepts thin or thick paper. The manuals give you great hints on how to tell what's thin or thick by paper behavior -- including envelopes, the #1 complaint users have about this machine -- so you waste less paper guessing. Envelopes are problemmatic in any laser printer; the cheaper ones are usually the worst. The thinner, the worse. As for thick, 65-lb paper qualifies as 'thick' (stiff stock for title pages in presentation folders). Even 65-lb paper worked fine in my MFC 9700.
--- Tray Use means where should the machine SEARCH for the paper to print. Default is the bypass 'MP' tray first, then the pullout ('T1') tray. Be sure to match the machine's settings to the size paper you use. You have many sizes to choose, all the way up to legal.
--- Glass Scan Size limits how far the scanner will scan on the plate. So you match that to your actual paper size, as well, lest you get black/blank scan.
--- File Size refers to compression if you're printing to a file: use 'small' if you'll email. Else, use the default for either Color or Grayscale, to file. (Acrobat will give you the smallest file size. Next best is Fujitsu S1500 scanner. This Brother might be as good.)
FAX: Setup Receive's Ring Delay should probably be set to 2, so the fax will pick up on the third ring. The Fax/Tele Ring Time of 30 seconds is usually best, as that's the usual 'handshaking' time between calling and answering faxes, especially if you attached an answering machine (aka 'TAD'). Don't use voicemail, because Ameritech or Comcast or will take the call, so your fax can't 'hear' it. Attach an old-fashioned answering machine from 1990 or later.
--- Setup Send is a little more arcane: here you can set Batch or Real Time transmission off or on, whether a cover page and what kind, with preset or customized messages. (Frankly, it's easier to create your own cover page, unless you broadcast to many people.) See pages 45-46 of the paper manual, for details.
--- Address Book! Yowsa: you can type in the numbers and names (they make Vcards), or you can import Outlook or Outlook Express 6 data to the MFC -- but not from HERE! Oh no, they put the Address Book import option in Control Center 3's PC-Fax, 'Setup' option. Then, select the 'AddressBook' tab and specify type and file path for your book.
--- Report Setting gives you a valuable history log of faxes in and out. I set mine up to give me a weekly report, but you can select it by day, hour, or x # of faxes. The 'Start At' means what hour, for time. It might mean something else, if you pick a different option.
--- Remote Fax Options: these control how you want your fax to act, when you're away. You can have it forward, be paged, have it store in the machine (so you can retrieve it remotely, which Brother calls 'polling'); or, have it store in your computer.
--- Dial Restrictions is a kind of quick password protection, to prevent others or yourself from dialing wrongly.
COPY: You'd adjust these settings for higher than normal resolution. Increase Contrast if copying pencil; increase brightness if the original is old or discolored. The manuals here offer helpful hints on how to clean up your originals (esp. what Brother calls 'noise'). So too, the dialogue boxes; play with the settings. Very nice and rare features.
PRINT: to duplex or not duplex, that is the longevity question. In the 'Automatic duplex Printing' section of the onscreen User's Guide -- it says 'DO NOT use bond paper' for duplex, with good reason. I'd argue never to use duplex at all, unless you want to shorten the life of your machine, and spend extra money at least once a year to have some professional clean your machine's innards.
=====> GRATUITOUS TREEHUGGING MESSAGE: If you want to save a tree, go paperless. If you want to see your printed paper become brittle faster, go duplex. Its value is way overrated. Great for book printing, but again you'll just dirty your machine twice as fast, i.e., 100 pages duplexed 50, will dirty twice as fast as 100 pages simplex, for the toner goes on BOTH sides of the rollers. It's a false economy, and you can always reuse paper on only one side, for scrap...
DIRECT PRINT: makes the MFC print directly from your pen drive or plugged-in camera, without the computer. Here, you can shrink up to 25 pages onto one, in multiple formats. Could be useful if the computer is off or tied up.
SCAN to USB: means you can scan directly to a pen drive, too, bypassing the computer.
NETWORK options are fairly straightforward. Remember that UTC is almost equal to GMC, for the time zone.
INITIAL SETUP: Check the 'PC Clock' box. Quirk in the machine will keep on unchecking that box, after you save. That's probably why when you turn off the machine, it forgets the time. But hey: my beloved MFC 9700 didn't even have a power button. The machines are meant to stay on, ever vigilant for faxes.
Here you must experiment, with 'Dial Tone'. Sometimes setting it to Detection creates glitches; sometimes not. The 'Dial Prefix' should be '1' (just as for your Fax and Tel numbers), if your stored phone numbers don't have that prefix, or you otherwise have a direct line out. If you have to dial some prefix to get an outside line, put that in front. Since the 8480DN is hooked up to the PC, check 'from PC Clock' for the source of the machine's time, especially if you often have power outages. Finally, if you set the machine to 'manual' fax receipt, then you must type a code, to activate the fax. You set the code in the Setup Receive option under FAX.
Whew! You're 10% done! Now let's talk about the other turquoise ControlCenter3 entries above 'Device Settings'. These, too, don't operate as you'd expect.
SCAN: if you left-click, you tell Brother to scan something IMMEDIATELY on the scanning glass, for any of the four items listed. They are DESTINATIONS for your scanning, so you must program them first. So you RIGHT click, to configure settings. Next, you'll see a tabbed dialogue box. Its 'Software Button' is a preset you configure for scanning directly into an application, but USING YOUR COMPUTER. By contrast, the 'Device Button' is a preset for the SCAN BUTTON on the 8480DN. So, you have one 'pair' per Image, OCR, Email and File. Thus you can have up to eight presets. If that much flexibility makes your head spin, set both Software and Device button options exactly alike, so you can use the computer OR the button on the machine, to get the same result. Repeat: the buttons are DESTINATION-oriented, so you have up to eight destinations, two per type of scan, you can choose. And you choose, the application DESTINATION for the scan; the File Type, resolution and scan type, paper size. Also, click 'Scanner Interface' if you plan to crop the image after scanning, or otherwise edit it. If an application you want to use isn't in the drop-down list and you know the path of the application you want to use, then click the 'Add' button and then click on the folder icon, to browse for that program's location. Suggest you add MSPScan.exe which is Microsoft's own Document scanning program. Sometimes it's faster; and like Paperport, offers post-scan file manipulation.
=====> SUGGESTION: pick the highest resolution and quality settings for IMAGE and OCR and FILE; but for EMAIL pick the lowest settings you can stomach. For your average email ISP services like AOL, Verizon, etc. allow only 5MB for attachments. So too, the IRS and other Government agencies provide their employees with very limited storage, capping email attachments to about 5MB per email. (Note: gmail and Yahoo have much higher caps, like 20-30MB per email.)
CUSTOM SCAN: this is the same as scan, except that you get to change the icon names, too. Another 8 configuration options, for Software and Device Buttons.
Whew! Now you're 50% done! Could they make it more complicated?
COPY: Here you get four added presets for Copying, when you right-click. You can even specify different printers, whether to scale (fit) the text to the size of the output page, and other options. Since it's usually easier to change common copy settings on the machine, these four are best reserved for very special jobs, with maybe 60 suboptions. Give the presets names which will make you instantly remember what they do.
PC-FAX: Max resolution is 400x 400, in this model; but if you plan to do delayed or batch/broadcasted (to many people) faxes, PC-Fax can be helpful (see pages 45-46 of the paper manual). Again, you right click the Send icon to configure it to send faxes directly from your computer, rather than print out and then feed the machine. Presumably the Send icon setting controls Receive, too, as you can't configure that one's resolution from the computer; you CAN configure it from the machine, see the paper manual on Setup Receive.
Back to the Control Center configuration: If you make a mistake and hit its Receive icon more than once, you get the PaperPort menu, so have to quit and REBOOT, to reset the icon. So instead, hit the Setup icon. Finally, here you get a sensible dialogue box. The 'Address Book' tab is most helpful: you can load your Outlook or Outlook Express addresses and phones into the Brother. Suggest you first complete your Outlook/Express data before you import. Finally, the Speed Dial tab allows you to configure a special 10 speed dial from your computer. These will not be the same as what you programmed back in the Device Settings, Remote Fax Setup 'Address Book'. Presumably those latter, match the speed-dial numbers on the machine, up to 34. (By the way, when you use Speed Dial, the too-white menu on the machine will light up with the name associated with that speed dial number, so you get to SEE the speed dial name, before sending.)
Back in the 'Speed Dial' tab of PC-Fax Setup: to configure the special 10, you must manually 'add' the name on the left, to a number on the right. Again, you can only dial these from your PC.
Whew, 70% done! Are you groaning, yet?
Now to Tier #3, using Paperport to run your 8480DN.
Paperport is a scanner controller plus sorter and converter; it works like moving papers on your desk, into finished bundles. Paperport has distinct scanner control advantages versus direct machine or Control Center. You access Paperport from the ScanSoft Paper Port menu item (or programs). Most importantly, it can make duplex scans. Here's how: access Paperport, select duplex, and you'll get a cute dialogue box telling you how to do it. Additionally, you can specify whether you want to scan in TWAIN or WIA mode, an option not selectible (so far as I can tell), via Tier #1 direct on-machine or #2 Control Center operating modes. It might not work in XP, or maybe it only works with Twain. I've not yet tested it, just going by its instructions, en ce moment. Will report back here with the results.
Again, Paperport is fairly basic, intuitive. It has has many fans, and three chief advantages: a) it's organized like a desktop, so you can arrange stuff on it, move that stuff around into stacks or unstack; just like shuffling papers into or out of stacks, on your desk. So, scan of 50 unrelated pages; and then move each of those pages into other stacks, be they photos, charts, whatever. Then b) you can scan while in Paperport, to add more stuff to reassemble. Then c) you can export your stacks into a variety of applications which are iconized at the bottom of the screen: like Outlook Express, Excel, Word, pdf, etc. Paperport is Win7 compatible, so will show compatible apps. You get these same features with Fujitsu Scan Snap S1500, Adobe Acrobat, and many Acrobat knock offs, my favorite being Smart PDF Creator Pro. They all work better at arranging and converting, vs. MS or WordPerfect Office.
Limited tagging and editing, in Paperport. I couldn't see any options, but I'm sure there are some.
This machine requires very little upkeep. A bit of Windex on the plate once a week or month, depending on how often you scan; feather-dust everything else, especially the interiors, once a month or more often; I actually use a turkey feather bought in a craft shop (you know, for kids wanting to play Indian chief at Halloween). I use it also to clean between my keyboard crevices. Handy thing.
RUN CLEANER SHEETS after a major print job which is dense (200+ pages), else once a week (you can buy these in Amazon). You can use each of these sheets five or ten times and still get cleaning from them. They are impregnated with a substance which catches toner and DUST. Those are the two killers of good output, and if you don't do it, you ask for trouble. Think of it as the equivalent of not defragging your hard drive. If you don't defrag once a week, your machine will slow to a crawl. The sheets prevent that BLACK LINE you so often see in unkempt faxes. Toner is a kind of dust; it's so fine, that by the time you see little black spots, it's almost too late. GET THE CLEANING SHEETS. Any printer needs this.
I like those lint-free old flour towels our mothers used to have, for cleaning the plate. Got any old makeup brushes? Clean them and use them to dust inside the ADF, especially the rollers. DO NOT use solvent on the rollers, unless you like a dysfunctional machine. At most, use a dampened sheet which has no lint (better still, just a soft blush brush which is VERY clean). Dirty ADFs are a major cause of jams. Takes a few minutes while on a phone call or watching something on TV. Once a week.
CONSUMABLES: I think the Brother toner runs about $70, and it lasts a long time. They say 3,000 pages, but I've gotten a lot more than that. I still keep the old toners, in case I suddenly need one. Shake it from side to side maybe once a month or two, to make it last longer. The toner problem isn't so much that it runs out, but that it sticks to the sides. When the print quality looks bad, the toner cartridge needs a little rocking from side to side. Do it over the sink, unless you have black carpets.
The drum unit is maybe $100-120, and it too has a much longer life than Brother recommends. Though, they tell you to ignore the CHANGE DRUM SOON warning until you see degradation you can't tolerate. My old MFC 9700 h