For this report, Brother fax machines regularly outpointed fax machines from other makers in most reviews. For example, the Brother IntelliFax-4100e (Est. $200) gets rave reviews as a high-speed office fax. The built-in Super G3 (Group 3) fax modem has a speed of 33.6 Kbps and is capable of transmitting a page in as little as three seconds, though perfect conditions and a compatible fax modem on the receiving end are needed for such speedy throughput.
This Brother laser fax ships with a 250-sheet letter/legal paper tray and can accept an optional second tray that takes an additional 250 sheets. The auto document feeder has a 30-sheet capacity. The 8 MB of built-in RAM can store up to 500 fax pages in memory, and memory backup will hold those pages there for up to four days should power fail. When receiving faxes, the Brother can print up to 15 pages per minute. Parallel and USB ports let the Brother 4100e double as a computer printer.
The 4100e also has copying and scanning capability but is not networkable. There's a handset for making phone calls and a connection for an external answering machine. Like many of the best-reviewed dedicated office fax machines, Brother's IntelliFax-4100e uses laser technology. A laser fax is faster and produces nicer printouts than other current fax machine technologies but costs more.
While the Brother IntelliFax-4100e is a great business fax workhorse for offices that do tons of faxing. Small offices and home offices can save a little coin -- at least initially -- by opting for the Brother IntelliFax-2840 instead.
The Brother IntelliFax-2840 is a black-and-white laser fax machine with a 250-sheet letter/legal paper tray; unlike the 4100e, however, there's no way to add a second tray. It also has a manual slot for envelopes and a 20-page auto document feeder.
Like the IntelliFax-4100e, this fax machine can also act as a scanner or a copier. There's no parallel port, but the USB 2.0 port also will let this fax machine act as a computer printer. The IntelliFax-2840 has a 200 speed-dial memory (which is more than the 132-number memory of the 4100e) and a 400-page document memory but no document memory backup, which is a source of concern.
We also saw a little grousing over consumables costs. The IntelliFax-2840 ships only with a starter toner cartridge (good for 700 pages), and its highest capacity cartridge (Est. $55) is rated for 2,600 pages. That's not a huge concern for a home business or small business that's printing out faxes a couple of times a day, but costs can mount up for a business that uses this office fax machine extensively. By contrast, the Brother IntelliFax-4100e is more expensive initially, but has lower consumables cost with a high capacity cartridge (Est. $65) that's good for 6,000 pages.
The Brother IntelliFax-4100e is also rated to handle a somewhat heavier workload. Its maximum duty cycle is 15,000 pages per month, though 3,000 pages is the recommended maximum. The Brother IntelliFax-2840, on the other hand, can handle up to 10,000 pages per month, though Brother recommends limiting most months to 2,000 pages or less.
Still, user reviews reveal that owners of the Brother IntelliFax-2840 are largely pleased. It wins praise for its speed (it processes faxes at 2.5 seconds per page -- faster than the IntelliFax-4100e's three seconds per page), ease of use, sharp output and value. In reviews, some loyal Brother devotees go so far as to say that it has become their favorite Brother fax machine to date.
Among fax machines from other makers, we also saw a little love for the Canon FaxPhone L190 ($175) . The Canon boasts a similar 33.6 Kbps G3 modem that can send faxes at up to 26 pages per minute. It comes with a 250-sheet document tray and a 50-sheet auto document feeder, each of which can handle legal or letter paper. In addition to faxing, it can again copy, scan or act as a computer printer. PCMag.com complains a little about output quality when used as a printer but notes that if you fax a lot, it's worth considering. User reviews are limited, but most that we saw are positive.