The Brother MFC-L5900DW ($449.99) is a capable, feature-rich monochrome laser all-in-one printer for a small or micro office. Among its virtues are good speed and text quality, a wide range of connection choices, and an automatic document feeder (ADF) that supports duplex scanning. Its graphics quality was less than stellar in our testing, however, making the MFC-L5900DW ($529.98 at Amazon Canada) best for offices that largely stick to printing text.
DesignAt 19.1 by 19.5 by 16.8 inches (HWD) and 38 pounds, the matte-black MFC-L5900DW is typical in size and weight for a small-office monochrome multifunction printer (MFP). It should be easy enough for one person to move into place, and can fit on a desk in a pinch. You operate the printer via the 3.7-inch color touch-screen display on the front panel.
Standard paper capacity is 300 sheets, split between a 250-sheet main tray and a 50-sheet multipurpose feeder. Optional 250- and 520-sheet trays are available, up to a maximum paper capacity of 1,340 sheets with the addition of two 520-sheet trays. Its 70-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF) supports single-pass two-sided scanning. The main difference between the MFC-L5900DW and the Brother MFC-L5800DW is that the latter can only scan single-sided documents. Its maximum monthly duty cycle of 50,000 pages and recommended monthly print volume of 3,500 pages makes it a good fit for up to medium-duty use in a small, micro, or home office. The Editors' Choice HP LaserJet Pro MFP M426fdw ($529.98 at Amazon Canada) , with a maximum monthly duty cycle of 80,000 pages, can be used for heavier-duty printing, as can the Brother MFC-L6700DW ($529.98 at Amazon Canada) , with a monthly max of 100,000 pages and a recommended volume of 5,000 pages.4.0Excellent$829.99See Itat AmazonRead Our HP LaserJet Pro MFP M426fdw Review 4.0Excellent $897.38See Itat AmazonRead Our Brother MFC-L6700DW Review 4.0Excellent $1,329.00See Itat AmazonRead Our Brother MFC-J6920DW Review 4.0Excellent $1,266.31See Itat AmazonRead Our Canon imageClass MF6160dw Review 4.0Excellent$689.99See Itat AmazonRead Our Canon imageClass MF227dw Review 4.0ExcellentCheck Stockat AmazonRead Our HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw Review 4.0Excellent $583.48See Itat AmazonRead Our Canon Pixma MG5720 Wireless Inkjet All-in-One Review4.0Excellent $249.99See Itat DellRead Our Dell Color Cloud Multifunction Printer H625cdw Review 4.0Excellent $449.48Check Stockat AmazonRead Our Epson WorkForce Pro WF-6590 Review 4.0Excellent $1,499.99See Itat EpsonRead Our Epson WorkForce Pro WF-8590 Review 4.0Excellent $1,179.00See Itat AmazonRead Our HP PageWide Pro 577dw Multifunction Printer Review 4.0Excellent $809.99See Itat Amazon Read Our Brother MFC-J985DW Review Our Experts Have Tested 53 Products in the Printers Category in the Past YearSince 1982, PCMag has tested and rated thousands of products to help you make better buying decisions. (See how we test.)
The MFC-L5900DW can connect to a PC via a USB cable, to a local network via Ethernet or Wi-Fi, or peer-to-peer to a compatible device via WiFi Direct. It supports Google Cloud Print, and works with the Brother iPrint&Scan app as well as Cortado Workplace, and is both AirPrint- and Mopria-compliant to facilitate printing from iOS and Android devices.
Printing SpeedIn printing the text-only (Word) portion of our new business applications suite, the printer averaged 41.2 pages per minute (ppm), with a first-page-out time of 7 seconds, both of which almost exactly match the manufacturer's rated times. In printing our full business suite, which includes PDF, PowerPoint, and Excel files in addition to the aforementioned Word document, the MFC-L5900DW averaged 21.7ppm. These results are very similar to those from the Brother MFC-L5800, which we clocked on our text test at 42ppm, with a 10-second first-page-out time and a speed on our full suite of 20.3ppm. The more expensive Brother MFC-L6700DW was a bit faster, testing at 47.1ppm on our text test, with a first-page-out time of 6 seconds, and a 23.8ppm speed for the full suite.
These results aren't directly comparable to those from printers tested on our old business applications suite, which had a higher percentage of complex, graphics-heavy documents (as opposed to text) than the new suite. Based on points of similarity (for example, each suite contains a four-page PDF document and a four-page PowerPoint document) the MFC-L5900DW is quite fast for a mono laser all-in-one printer, especially at its price.
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Output Quality and Running CostsOverall output quality for the MFC-L5900DW, based on our testing, was just below par. Text was slightly above average, and should be fine for any business use other than those requiring very small fonts.
Graphics quality was below par for a mono laser. It did okay with most of our test files. We saw some mild banding (a regular pattern of faint striations) in several pages of an Excel document. It also had trouble outputting our PowerPoint file. With the Grayscale setting, which PowerPoint defaults to when printing to a monochrome printer, the MFC-L5900DW had trouble outputting a figure showing a gradient, with the tone changing gradually from dark to light and back to dark in the original—in the print, it stayed at a nearly uniform dark shade. With the other Grayscale prints, their backgrounds—two of which have similar gradients—were dropped, showing up as white. This is fine for many PowerPoint documents, where printing dark text is more important than background shading, but not so if you need to preserve background detail. (Ideally, in the latter case, you would want to use a color printer.)
The backgrounds were visible when I switched to the Color setting, though even there the printer did poorly in differentiating between similar tones and with some gradients. When outputting PowerPoint files from color originals with the MFC-L5900DW, you may want to use the Color setting, but even there the quality falls short of what we would look for in documents intended for distribution to colleagues or clients.
Although the quality of our test photos was generally typical of mono lasers, a couple of our test prints showed obvious banding.
The MFC-L5900DW's running cost, based on Brother's price and yield figures for toner and drum, is 1.9 cents per page, higher than the cost of the Brother MFC-L6700DW but a bit lower than that of the HP M426fdw.
ConclusionThe Brother HL-L5900DW is a solid choice for a mono laser all-in-one printer for up to medium-duty printing in a small office or heavy-duty printing in a micro or home office. It's reasonably fast, offers good standard and excellent optional paper capacities, has multiple wired and wireless connectivity choices, and its running cost is competitive. The MFC-L5900DW's subpar graphics quality makes it a poor choice if you need to distribute PowerPoint handouts, and it falls short of unseating the HP M426fdw as our Editors' Choice. It's a strong pick, though, if your printing needs are largely limited to text.3.5See It$854.50 at AmazonMSRP $449.99View More
The Brother MFC-L5900DW is a mono all-in-one laser printer that offers fast output, good text quality, and a wide range of connectivity choices for a small or micro office.
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