The Brother MFC-J4540DW is a multi-function inkjet printer promised to be perfect for your home or small office. Providing exceptional value with a 2 year return to base warranty, business-quality features that emphasises speed, and premium pigment-based inks that deliver professional prints – it’s made to last.
Like tablets and laptops, the printer market is absolutely saturated, especially at the lower end of the price range. But it’s this area of the market that also usually catches you by surprise, when, upon discovering the price of replacement ink tanks, you find your “exceptional value” printer is not so exceptional value after all. Which is why I was intrigued by Brother’s printed statement in large, bold lettering on the front of the box: “Up to 1 year of ink in-box.” So, how well did that statement hold up in real world testing?
First impressions of the Brother MFC-J4540DW
The box of the Brother MFC-J4540DW sports a rather plain aesthetic, white and blue, but it is quite busy, with information covering every side except the bottom (even the inside top flaps of the box have information printed on how to repack the printer).
The box also makes it pretty clear that Brother is confident in their claim regarding the contained ink, because it features prominently on no less than 3 of the sides of the box.
The printer itself is well-built, compact (42cm x 33cm x 24cm), seemingly able to take a few knocks without issue, but is surprisingly heavy for its size (10.5kg), so don’t expect to be moving this frequently from room to room. The off-white & grey colour scheme is easy on the eye, and will fit right in without drawing undue attention to itself if placed on top of a desk.
The Brother MFC-J4540DW is simple to set up. After unpacking the machine and checking the components (helpfully shown in picture-form on the included Quick Setup Guide), you simply load the paper, plug in the power cord, install the inkbox ink cartridges, and connect it to your computer (either via USB or Ethernet.)
The four ink cartridges slot easily into place behind a door on the front of the printer. The device I reviewed came with the ink pre-installed by a previous user, but it’s my understanding that the printer will automatically align the heads, and prints off a test page for review.
However, if you wish you can check the print quality at any time by printing off this test page by following the LCD instructions on the touchpad. Likewise if you need to print the adjustment sheet to adjust the print alignment, however while Brother recommends this step, I found it didn’t actually need it, even after being shipped about the country.
You’ll find the telephone port (for the built-in fax) and phone extension port on the left side of the printer, next to the power port. Unfortunately, I did find the included power cable just a little bit too short to set up in the usual place for my Printer (on the upper shelf of a bookshelf), so I had to make-do with a spot on a lower table for the testing.
Connecting the Brother MFC-J4540DW to a wireless network is a simple step by step process using the touchscreen, where you select the SSID (Network Name) for your network, and then enter the password.
However, for my initial testing I decided to directly connect the printer to my computer using USB. It was at this point I realised that Brother doesn’t include a USB Type A/B cable with the printer. Thankfully I had one that didn’t exceed Brother’s stated maximum of 2 metres in length.
But this led me to another annoying discovery: While there is a USB port to plug in a thumb drive located in the completely logical position on the front of the printer, the location of both the USB connector used to directly connect a computer to the printer via USB, along with the Ethernet port, are best described as a little odd.
To access these, you have to lift the scanner bed, where they are both nested in the guts of the device. You then have to trail the cables through a moulded channel and out of a hole at the back of the printer.
To be honest, it’s a little clunky, and I’m not quite sure why they both couldn’t be placed on the outer body of the printer along with the telephone and power ports.
The Brother MFC-J4540DW is compatible with both Windows and Mac OS. My testing was limited to Windows only, but I will say that setup was a breeze. Upon connecting the USB cable, Windows automatically installed appropriate drivers, and within 2 minutes I was printing documents and photos.
There is a website where you can download and install Brother software, but I’ll cover more on that later in this review.
V12 performance printing, or 2-stroke equivalent?
The Brother MFC-J4540DW is resplendent with an impressive suite of printing, copying, scanning and faxing capabilities. That said, there are some notable absences from its capabilities, such as the ability to print or scan A3 documents, which may impact upon it’s suitability for some users.
The touchscreen is not especially large at 6.8cm, but it is extremely sensitive and the UI ensures ease-of-use for even the most technologically impaired users.
The printer has three paper inputs: Dual paper trays are capable of storing up to 400 sheets of paper and / or split paper sizes from A5 to A4; while a 1-sheet paper feeder at the back of the printer gives you the flexibility of printing on thicker paper up to 300gsm. This feeder comes in handy if you occasionally use thicker paper types (or photo quality paper), or if you’re like me, and are simply too lazy to swap over the paper in one of the trays for a small print job.
Which segues nicely into the paper trays. The two main paper trays sit at the front of the printer under the LCD touchscreen. Tray 1 is a general-purpose space you can fill with up to 150 sheets of A4, or smaller, specialty paper. Tray 2, positioned just below, can take up to 250 sheets, but is limited to use only with plain paper.
Printed sheets are ejected from a cavity between the LCD screen and the paper trays, and is capable of holding 100 sheets at a time. The only issue is that this can get in the way if you are trying to reload tray 1 mid-print.
Brother lists printing speeds for the MFC-J4540DW of up to 20ppm for 1-sided print jobs, 2-sides (duplex) speeds of up to 11ppm, scanning speeds of up to 17ipm and a First Page Out Time (FPOT) of 5.8 seconds. And short of getting out a stop watch, I can say those figures would be fairly close to the mark.
As stated the test device I was loaned had been previously used, so upon setup the ink check wasn’t showing the full 3,000 mono prints and 1,500 colour pages associated with Brother’s “1 year of ink” claim.
However, despite being given the heading “Approximate Page Yield,” the ink check was surprisingly accurate. After putting the printer through its paces with a not insignificant mix of both school resource sheets for a teacher, and high-resolution photos of my daughter, it still showed 2,300 pages of black and white printing, and 1,200 pages of colour.
For a cartridge inkjet printer, that’s a reasonable number of prints. But it’s even more impressive given the comparatively budget friendly price of the ink packs – approximately AUS $39 for each of the four standard-size cartridges (promising 3,000 pages mono, 1,500 pages colour) or, for the extra-large cartridges an approximate cost of AUS $71 for Black and AUS $119 for each of the three colours (which promises enough ink to print 6,000 mono and 5,000 colour pages respectively.)
It may not be the cheapest per page out of all of the options available on the market, but it’s pretty good. And if I’m honest, made me do a double-take on the prices I’m paying for my own printer ink.
The colour printing on the Brother MFC-J4540DW is impressive. It may not match the photo output you’d find in a wedding album, but it can certainly print out a very reasonable colour photo, even when you’re using plain paper, rather than the glossy built-to-task photo paper. The quality of the photo prints certainly puts that of my Canon MX926 to shame, and I’m not ashamed to admit I have even framed a couple of the afore-mentioned test prints of pictures of my daughter.
This, of course, also carries across to colour business documents, at least to a certain extent. The colour printing is bright and vibrant, and while still not comparable to a top of the line printer, for the price point you won’t be disappointed.
Standard quality text printing is fit for purpose, and more than satisfactory at reading distance.
The scanning is average for a device at this price range. However, if scanning a document, I would recommend increasing the resolution. At 1200 dpi, it made an appreciable difference to the scan quality (with a corresponding increase in file size).
Unfortunately, this also meant the colour copy option occasionally produced some differences between the original and what was printed. Not significant enough to be a deal-breaker, but certainly something to think about if you were intending on copying something like photographs.
The MFC-J4540DW does have the Scan to cloud ability, meaning once set up, you can do away with a computer as the middle ground, and have documents saved via internet to OneDrive, Dropbox or Google Drive.
Full disclosure at this point – I didn’t test the fax… mainly because I don’t actually know anyone who still requires the use of a fax machine, which made it difficult to check the quality of this option.
Power use is minimal – 1.2W in sleep mode, which it will engage automatically if left on. This apparently helps prevent ink clogging so is recommended. And the noise while printing is <65dB.
So that’s the hardware, but what about the software?
The MFC-J4540DW has a suite of software that can be downloaded from the Brother website.
The software allows users to easily scan to an email address, word document, or create a searchable PDF. There’s also the ability to create custom documents from templates, print directly from files and execute scanning, all from the desktop. Personally I didn’t find any of this software essential in my testing, and forwent it altogether.
However, Brother also offers the Mobile Connect App (available for both iOS and Android), which provides easy printing and scanning directly from your smartphone, as well as the ability to access an array of features, such as checking ink levels. This app easily installed by tapping your smartphone on the front of the printer (on the handy engraved icon to the left of the LCD Screen), and at the time of this review, the app has a 4.5 star rating out of over 100k reviews.
If you only install one piece of software, I’d make it the Mobile Connect App.
Final thoughts on the Brother MFC-J4540DW
The Brother MFC-J4540DW is a truly versatile office printer, packed with almost every feature a home or small business user could need.
Keeping in mind, I only had a loan of the device for four weeks, I won’t claim exhaustive testing. However, I certainly threw some heavy print tasks at it and wasn’t left disappointed. It really is a pleasure to use.
The MFC-J4540DW retails for about AUS $329, and if you are in the market for a good quality colour inkjet printer with reasonable print costs, this should definitely be on your list of contenders. It is exclusive to Officeworks, so head in store to check them out.
I’d like to thank Brother for the loan of the test device.
General – Printers
Printer type – Colour
Functions – Print, Copy and Scan, Fax
Display size – 6.8cm LCD colour touchscreen display
Max paper size – A4
Memory – 128MB
Technology – Inkjet
Connectivity – Wired Network, Wireless, USB
NFC – Yes
USB interface – Hi-Speed USB 2.0
Wirelesss network interface – 802.11b/g/n
Supported – Brother Mobile Connect, AirPrint, Mopria, Google Cloud Print
2-sided copy – Yes (A4)
Speed – 13ipm mono & 10.5ipm colour
Resolution (colour) – Up to 1200 x 600 dpi
Resolution (mono) – Up to 1200 x 1200 dpi
Dimensions & weights
With carton – 497 (W) x 312 (D) x 464 (H)mm
Weight with carton – 12.6 kg
Without carton – 435 (W) x 355 (D) x 250 (H)mm
Weight without carton – 10.4 kg