IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Brother MFC L5900DW Review: High-Quality Print, Copy, Scan, and Fax

The Multifunction Center L5900DW is fast, sharp, and versatile enough to run a small company or a department in a midsize or larger organization.

By James E. Gaskin

Brother Industries Ltd., a multinational electronics and electrical equipment company headquartered in Japan, has a deep product catalog and a long history of making multifunction printers. The company’s MFC-L5900DW laser-based printer/scanner/copier/fax unit offers the right balance of price and performance for SMBs.

The unit is fast, sharp, and versatile enough to run a small company or a department in a midsize or larger enterprise, plus it’s web-enabled and mobile-device friendly. Perhaps because of those web and mobile capabilities, Brother uses the designation MFC for multifunction center rather than MFP (printer) like most of its competitors.

Out-of-the-Heavy-Box Experience

If you weren’t sure this was a heavy-duty printer, the heft of the box makes it clear. You might ask for help getting the 38-pound printer loose.

Once out of the box, the dark-gray body, black control panel, and ADF (automatic document feeder) reinforce the no-nonsense aspect of this printer, balanced by the large color touch-enabled control screen. The weight means it stays still when the copy/scan bar moves.

Also in the box? A 68-page (large for today) printed Basic User’s Guide. Online, a manual for this family of devices runs well over 700 pages and is nearly 18MB to download. Many features await.

The optical disc in the box includes the (large) software installation tools. Those are easy to download from Brother support as well. Be prepared for a bit of an installation wait because there are plenty of extra programs in addition to the printer drivers.

You can choose what to install for each client, and use Brother’s Admin Light program to help manage your printer(s) across the network. Clients can connect to multiple Brother printers over wired Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or local USB.

Control over the nonprinter details comes through the Brother Control Center 4 utility. Access admin functions through the buttons on the top and left side. Scanned documents and images can be routed using the icons on the right-hand side (Save, Print, Open with an Application, Send E-mail, OCR). When this program is open on your PC, you can go to the MFC-L5900DW, load documents to be scanned, then hit the Scan button and route them across the network back to your computer. The scanned images will be waiting for your return.

The Brother Creative Center includes hundreds of business templates and other paper-based tools to ease users past their blank-page fears. You can also add the Brother Web Connect app to scan to multiple online hosts.

The major included program is PaperPort SE 14 from Burlington, Mass.-based Nuance Communications Inc. While Brother’s Control Center 4 software performs all the major scanning functions, PaperPort SE 14 has more polish and links to a wide variety of applications. Scan a document, click the application icon on the bottom row of PaperPort, and the application opens that document. If it’s Word, the text appears as a new document. Excel? Cells full of the text or numbers appear from whatever you scanned. Send OCR’d text to Notepad or WordPad, and one click sends documents to network storage over FTP, apps like Evernote, or the printer.

Printing and More

The glitz may come from the copying and scanning functions, but this is a printer first, and a good one. Pages start spitting out quickly, less than eight seconds from a cold start and faster when the printer is warmed up. Two-sided printing is fast, and we never saw a wobbly printout because of the paper shuffling. Big letters are completely black without striping and pixels are invisible, even on large curves and the thin end of script fonts.

The BRAdmin Light program uses a browser to connect to the printer, allowing quite a bit of control. Using the large color touchscreen is a snap, even for your users in the executive suite. You can set shortcuts for options such as dual-sided copying to help your users. If an executive does muck it up there are several network control utilities to help you put things right, such as remote reboot.

The ADF works fast and captures both sides at once. The scanner function appears to have many of the same capabilities as Brother’s ADS-2500We scanner we tested earlier.

Of course, scanning isn’t the real goal—finding the document later is. PaperPort enables you to put any batch of keywords on saved documents for later searching, or you can rely on date stamps. Retrieve invoices by searching the billing company name keyword for example.

Love cloud apps? Scan to a wide variety of cloud locations like Evernote, Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, and more. Or scan directly to a network folder or SharePoint server.

It took a bit to get the network connections settled, but once locked they stayed. Detailed controls on the printer and admin utilities aren’t always user friendly, but end users shouldn’t see them. Wi-Fi printing seems to work just as fast as wired, and Brother has an app to link the printer to mobile devices.


This is not a $100 throwaway desktop printer but a workgroup “document center” that can print, copy, scan, and fax with high quality in all areas. It looks serious; it deals with double-sided printing and scanning easily and handles legal-size paper as well. The duty cycle of 3,500 printed pages per month (up to 50,000) should cover paper-loving workgroups. And every printed page will look great.

About the Author

James E. Gaskin's picture

JAMES E. GASKIN is a ChannelPro contributing editor and former reseller based in Dallas.

ChannelPro SMB Magazine

Get an edge on the competition

With each issue packed full of powerful news, reviews, analysis, and advice targeting IT channel professionals, ChannelPro-SMB will help you cultivate your SMB customers and run your business more profitably.