Brother MFC-J650DW — Wireless Inkjet Printer — Review

© 2014 Peter Free


03 June 2014 (revised 07 June 2014)



Despite its low price, I cannot recommend this printer


Brother’s MFC-J650DW wireless inkjet printer is so poorly engineered that it will frustrate anyone trying to be efficient.





(1) Foolishly written instruction book


For example, the manuals (both printed and online) do not indicate which side of photo paper should face up.  And their illustrations are often difficult to interpret.


A more consumer-oriented manufacturer might have linked to an illustrating video.


(2) Turns itself on every few days (even when the power button is off) — apparently so as to clean its inkjet heads


If our surge protector is turned off — so as to economize on “vampire” electric losses — the printer will have to run itself through a clean cycle before it is able to print.


However, the touch screen display does not tell you this.  Instead, the unit spits out blank sheets of paper, until you figure out that the inkjets are clogged and the unit needs to run the inkjet head cleaning cycle.


Perhaps this cycle will spare the Brother from our previous Epson Artisan 835’s fate.  But Brother could have told users that this was the case and what to expect.


(3) Penchant for getting trapped in error cycles


If something is not working to the printer’s satisfaction, the readout panel (on the unit) will give the user an error message with a sequence of suggestions on how to fix it.


This thoughtfulness would nice — if the unit actually knew what was wrong and how to fix it.  But often, it does not.


For example, in testing the photo printing function, the poorly designed photo tray did not work properly, and the photo paper got jammed at the back of the unit.  The illustration on the printer’s display incorrectly showed that I was to remove the paper tray and pull on two green levers located inside the tray slot to release the trapped paper.  But the suggested method did not work because the paper was not at the location the printer thought it was.


I quickly discovered that the way to properly access the jam was to open the back of the unit.  But, having removed the jammed photo sheet, the printer still thought there was a jam.  And it remained stuck in the erroneous “fix it” display, without providing me any way to override the message and restart the print job.


I had to unplug the unit to reboot it.


Rebooting is often necessary with this easily confused unit.


(4) Silly photo trays and photo function


Brother fitted this unit with a photo paper tray that sits on top of the letter sized paper tray below it.  The manufacturer’s reasoning is that one can put photo paper in the upper tray, without first having to unload the bottom tray of conventional paper.


Sound like a good idea?


Not in practice.


First, the photo trays are allegedly for 3x5 and 4x6 inch photo paper, which means (as we will see below) that one cannot print on larger photographic paper.


The 3x5 inch size tray doesn’t work at all on our unit.  When paper is placed in it and the moveable side adjusters have been set properly, the photo paper always gets jammed — or is ejected into Never Never Land, like atop the top of the photo tray.


If one wants to print a larger photo than 4x6 inches — or print a small photo on an 8x10 sheet of photo paper that has been placed in the conventional letter-sized paper tray — the unit ejects the unprinted 8x10 underneath the paper tray.


Thus, the printer cannot successfully use photo paper that is larger than 4x6 inches.


In addition, photo printing errors are another place where the Brother will not let the user override the message and continue printing after clearing feeding mistakes.  Again, one has to unplug the unit to reboot it.


(5) Color management is atrocious


Compared to the Epson Artisan 835, which was adequate (but not great) in color management — meaning outputting color that is similar to that on the user’s computer display — the Brother printer is awful.  You will spend a long time trying to calibrate it.  Even then, the technical quality of the resulting prints will not be worth the effort.


(6) Stupid touch screen control panel


The touch screen is supposed to adjust from its usual forward facing position to a horizontal one, or somewhere in between. But there are no detents to lock it into the tilted position.


Consequently, when the user has the screen in any other position than facing forward, touching it to interact with the control panel drops the panel back down to the vertical position.  Which, of course, defeats the purpose of making the screen tiltable.


This matters because, in the front facing position, the screen is nearly invisible to users who have the printer placed on a low or medium height table or rack.


(7) Preliminary functions take forever to complete


With our previous (non-Brother) printers, we hit “print” and they did.  This unit cycles through a very long and noisy sequence of preparatory functions before it is ready to do anything.


(8) Turning the printer off is an exercise in irritating obtuseness


Ordinarily, one can turn a printer off and it is off.  Not this one.


Before it shuts off, the user has to press “Yes” in acknowledging that whatever FAX data is stored will be lost.  This is true, even if one has never sent or received a FAX.


The Brother will also not let users turn the printer off, without first filling the empty paper tray.  Instead, the touchscreen panel insists (forever and anon) that the user must comply with its demands.


Manufactured-in inefficiency typifies the unit.




Text looks adequate.




In summary — a really lousy printer


The Brother MFC-J650-DW wireless inkjet printer is a stupidly conceived, time-wasting device.


Down the road, I will report on its longer term reliability.


Is that an oxymoron? How can a stupidly conceived, time-wasting device be reliable — except by being consistently inept?