That said, connecting the printer for permanent use on a base computer or a wired/wireless network is refreshingly easy in a world of buggy print drivers and complicated setups. The process isn't as basic as the plug-and-play design of HP's Smart Install feature, but the manual and companion disc had the printer up and running for me in a matter of minutes. Though most users will default to the driver menu to connect wirelessly, you can set it up just as easily on the printer itself using Brother's onscreen guide.
Brother also gives you the option to install a third-party imaging application called "Paperport" by ScanSoft. This program lets you edit photos in a file-browsing setup similar to Apple's iPhoto, with basic photo-editing solutions for auto-enhancement, blemish erasing, and red-eye elimination. I played around with the software and enjoyed its simplicity, but don't expect the editing quality to be on par with Adobe suites; it's more for light users and amateur photographers with limited time and editing resources.
The Brother MFC-7860DW's faster engine lends itself to a boost in print speeds compared with its single-function linemate, though it still trailed behind HP's P1606dn by less than a page per minute (PPM) -- certainly not enough of a disparity to notice in day-to-day print duties. With average marks throughout the test, the 7860DW won't keep you waiting too long for your request. Just prepare yourself for a jarring beep from the internal speaker each time the printer processes a new job.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
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The MFC-7860DW's text print quality is excellent, though not perfect. Taking a closer look at the text prints, I notice character flaws on the edges of letters. They aren't perfectly sharp, and the blocks of text exhibit a slight blur compared with others I've seen, though this is only obvious through the lens of a magnifying glass. Solid blocks of toner on graphics prints are blotchy, as is the case with most monochrome laser printers, but the overall imaging quality is certainly satisfactory for professional printouts.
Service and support
Brother backs the MFC-9440CN with a one-year limited warranty. Toll-free phone support is available weekdays from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. PT. You can also send an e-mail or a fax to tech support. Brother's Web site has an FAQ database, downloads, and manuals.
Slight hiccups in text output performance and a lack of features like a memory card reader and a lightweight duty cycle keep the Brother MFC-7860DW from earning an Editors' Choice Award, but its affordable price tag and reliable workflow put this monochrome multifunction laser printer at the top of its game.