HP vs. Brother – Inkjet Multifunction Showdown

Everything you need to choose the right printer

HP vs. Brother – Inkjet Multifunction Showdown

We have compared every currently listed multifunction inkjet printer from Brother and Hewlett Packard that has Print/Copy/Scan (most have Fax too) and duplex printing. The results are a little surprising.

HP – 12 Printers

The HP printers are primarily in the Envy low-end group – $79.99 – $129.99 – and OfficeJet Pro group – $119.99 – $249.99. A couple of outliers include the OfficeJet Pro Premier – more about that one below.

Notable advantages of the HP printers include:

  • Fast printing – anywhere from 7 to 20 pages/minute in color and 10 to 24 pages/minute in black. That is substantially faster than the Brother printers. However, if you are regularly printing very long documents, reports, etc. then a laser printer will generally be far more cost-effective. For an occasional 50 page report, 5 minutes vs. 10 minutes will not be a big deal for most users.

Actually, speed is the only significant advantage that I could find with the HP printers. Most other features are matched pretty well between the two brands.

The HP printers are clearly cartridge profit based. With the exception of the OfficeJet Pro Premier, they all include one starter set of cartridges, and the cost for replacements can be significant. The OfficeJet Pro Premier appears to be an OfficeJet Pro 9015 bundled with an Instant Ink $9.99/month package for “2 years of ink”. That is a small discount ($170 vs. $240) compared to buying the Instant Ink package separately after buying the printer. However:

  • Instant Ink in general is not a good deal. See Instant Ink or Instant Profit for a full explanation.
  • If you replace the printer in less than 2 years, you can’t get cancel the Instant Ink subscription since it was part of the purchase price.
  • If you print significantly less than 300 pages/month, you have more Instant Ink than you actually use. If you print significantly more than 300 pages/month, you have to pay extra. How many people know they will average 300 pages/month for 2 years?

Brother – 30 Printers

This sounds like a lot, but there is actually quite a bit of repetition. In particular, there are 8 printers (designated with L or XL after the main model number) which are the same as base models but with extra ink cartridges included. There are also, as with HP, groups of printers with minor differences in speed or features but using the same basic print engine – as shown by using the same ink cartridges. In fact, these 30 printers only use 7 different types of cartridges.

Many of the Brother printers use much larger ink cartridges than other Brother and than most HP printers. Brother calls these INKvestment. That is a marketing name, but the bottom line is that they save money. If you print a lot, they save a lot of money.

With one exception, the HP inkjet printers have cartridges with a maximum capacity of 2,000 pages/black cartridge and 1,600 pages/color cartridge. 21 Brother printers have black cartridges rated for 2,400 pages or more and color catridges rated 1,200 pages or more. Plus, these cartridges tend to be priced much lower per page than the HP cartridges, including black cartridges at just under one cent per page.

The Brother printers excel in Total Cost of Ownership

The Comparison

We compared all 42 printers for total cost based on:

  • Initial purchase price using current MSRP or, where listed, current discounted price direct from the manufacturer. In some cases Amazon, Staples or other retailers may have lower prices.
  • Cost of ink cartridges for each of 4 usage scenarios. All 4 scenarios are for 3/4 printing black and 1/4 printing color (which includes use of the black catridge as well). The 4 scenarios are:
    • Low = 100 pages/month
    • Medium = 200 pages/month
    • High = 400 pages/month
    • Very High = 800 pages/month – If you print more than this, laser printers are definitely worth consideration.
  • Two years of usage. With the actual printer price so low, repairs out of warranty (typically one year) are not cost-effective, so two years is a typical lifetime except for very low usage.

The Winners

Note that links to printers are to Amazon and the prices may vary – and are often lower than the listed HP/Brother prices. Inkjet cartridges are priced separately but included in the TCO numbers below. When ordering inkjet cartridges, always make sure to get the largest capacity cartridges available. HP and Brother often have 2 or even 3 different cartridges available for a particular machine and the largest cartridges are almost always the most cost effective.

Low Usage

Brother MFC-J775DW $129.99

Brother MFC-J985DW $149.99

These are relatively basic machines. Scanning is flatbed only. Correction: These two printers include a basic 20-page single-sided automatic document feeder, good for occasional color or black & white scanning. Not the fanciest or the fastest MFC-J775DW includes faxing, MFC-J985DW does not. Both machines include WiFi and USB connectivity, but only the MFC-J985DW includes wired Ethernet. Print speed is 12 pages/minute black 6 – 10 pages/minute color.

However, these are INKvestment printers, so each comes with enough ink for 2,400 pages black and 1,200 pages color. That means you don’t need to buy or install any ink for two years of low usage.

Medium Usage

Brother MFC-J775DW $150.98

Brother MFC-J985DW $170.98

Yes, the same printers as for low usage. Total cost goes up by $20.99 – the cost of one black cartridge.


High Usage

Brother MFC-J775DW $241.74

Brother MFC-J775DW L $241.97

Brother MFC-J775DW XL $250.98

Brother MFC-J985DW $261.74

Yes, the same printers as for low and medium usage. However, the MFC-J775DW L and MFC-J775DW XL that include additional cartridges now get into the mix. However, the difference in cost is so small that the base printers make sense for most users. If you print a little less than planned you save money. If you print more, it doesn’t cost much extra, and cartridge prices do tend to decline a bit over time.

Very High Usage

Brother MFC-J775DW XL $383.72

Brother MFC-J775DW $423.26

Brother MFC-J775DW L $423.49

Brother MFC-J985DW $443.26

Yes, the same printers again.This time the extra ink included in the XL pays off a bit more, though the difference isn’t all that much.

So now you are wondering, what about HP?

The lowest TCO HP printer in this group is the OfficeJet Pro 7720.

This is a nice machine, with automatic document feeder, faster printing (up to 22 pages/minute black, up to 18 pages/minute color), WiFi, Ethernet, fax – the works. But while the base price is $169.99, the cost including ink is:

  • Low Usage: $214.98
  • Medium Usage: $364.94
  • High Usage: $604.88
  • Very High Usage: $934.80

In fact, the costs for Medium, High and Very High usage are more than double the least expensive Brother machines. In fact, using Medium Usage as an example, there are 17 Brother machines that have a lower TCO than the HP OfficeJet Pro 7720.

If you are interested in a more full-featured machine than the lowest-cost Brother machines, then the Brother MFC-J5845DW

is a good choice. The basic $249.99 machine includes plenty of INKvestment ink, WiFi, wired Ethernet, Fax, automatic document feeder and a 2-year warranty. TCO is very good as well, beating the HP easily except at Low Usage:

  • Low Usage: $249.99
  • Medium Usage: $305.98
  • High Usage: $549.44
  • Very High Usage: $605.43

As always, everyone’s specific needs are different. Feel free to email us at printer@smartcomputerinc.com with any questions.