* Prices may differ from that shown
Our office fax machine gave up the ghost recently. It was a BT Paperjet-60, and while we had been fairly happy with it, it lasted less than two years. Wanting something a little more reliable, and being very pleased with our two Brother laser printers, we opted for a Brother T86. WHY A COMBINED FAX - ANSWERPHONE? Before the BT Paperjet 60, we owned a fax machine without an answerphone built in, and went through 5 different answerphones trying to get a combination that worked. Frequently, the answerphone would collect faxes on tape, and the fax machine would try to receive answerphone messages, or neither would work at all. In the end, we chucked the lot and opted for a combined machine. Like our previous machine, the Brother has a built in answerphone. For some reason the elctronics industry like to refer to an answerphone as a "TAD", standing for "Telephone Answering Device", so both the BT and Brother fax machines have an option labelled "TAD" which is how you turn the answerphone on. DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN FAXES & 'PHONE CALLS Both machines have been good at distinguishing between incoming calls. You could set the BT machine to manual, fax only (auto), fax/telephone or TAD/fax with one button switching between all the options. The Brother has a large pink button at the top labelled "DIGITAL TAD" which switches the answerphone on and off and enables you to check messages, and a smaller button further down labelled "MODE" that switches between fax modes (fax/tel, fax only or manual). We normally leave the machine in Fax/Tel mode with the TAD on when we are out, and haven't missed any faxes or messages yet. FAX/TEL MODE Both machines have a "fax/tel" mode. When the fax machine is in "fax/tel" mode, it answers after two rings, then checks to see whether an incoming call is a fax. If it is a fax, the machine prints out as normal. If not , you get a different ring tone and pick up the 'phone to answer normally. There are a couple of problems with this: The first is that a fax sent by the manual method (i.e. a person rings, waits for an answer, then presses start on their machine) is not picked up by the screening process. You answer the phone and someone says "I wanted to send a fax", and you have to tell them to press the start button on their machine, then press the start button on your machine to receive the fax. Sometimes the person sending you the fax gets annoyed or presses the wrong button, and they have to try again. Occasionally no matter what you do, the fax doesn't arrive. In these situations it is best to set your machine to "auto" and hope no-one else tries to ring in the meantime. I have found this occasionally happens when the other person's fax machine is a very old model. The second problem with "fax/tel" mode is the slight delay the person ringing you experiences while the fax machine is deciding whether or not the call is a fax. A large percentage of people hang up thinking they have reached an answerphone before you have a chance to answer the call. The BT machine allowed you to record a short message to play (ours was "please hold the line"), but in my opinion this just exacerbated the problem. Because of this second problem, we have decided not to use the fax/tel mode. When the office is manned, we keep our machine in "manual" mode. If you receive a fax message, you hear a loud "beep" on the line when you answer the 'phone. All that is needed is for you to press the "start" button, and the fax message comes through as normal. On the Brother machine, you don't even have to press start, since the "Fax Detect" option automatically detects a fax machine on the line and switches the fax reception on itself. BUTTONS I really like the buttons on the Brother machine. The ones you use the most are large and friendly (pink & blue!). The buttons are arranged really well, so that the TAD buttons are in one group and the fax & copy buttons are in a different group further down the machine, with the call buttons in a third group. This makes it easy to decide which button to press. Our old BT machine had a lot of small buttons grouped together and initially it took a long time to learn which ones I needed, but the new Brother machine was so easy to learn, I didn't need the manual! PAPER HANDLING Our old BT machine had continuing problems with paper handling, and this was the main reason for our choosing a Brother this time. We have two Brother laser printers which have excellent paper handling, and I'm glad to say that the Brother fax machine did not disappoint. We have not had a misfeed yet. The paper holder can take up to 30 sheets at a time, and the document feeder can take up to 10 sheets. DIGITAL ANSWERING MACHINE It was easy to record a message (just follow the instructions, ours was done in two minutes!). There is up to 15 minutes recording time, which isn't enough for a holiday, but should be long enough for a day off :-). Messages have been fairly clear (I'd say 4 out of 5 marks for the speaker, it could be better). The speaker on our old BT machine was worse, with more crackling and a much quieter setting. There is a clear LCD display which tells you how many messages have been recorded and prompts you to press particular buttons as needed. The separate "Play" and "Erase" buttons are clearly labelled and function as expected! MEMORY Up to 20 pages of faxes can be held in the machine's memory, which is very useful if the paper or ribbon runs out. When you have renewed the consumables, just resume printing. Unfortunately, this is the SAME memory that telephone messages are stored in, so that storing faxes reduces the a mount of memory available for 'phone messages. The memory holds faxes and telephone messages in the order in which they are received until it is full. Then it will not accept incoming faxes or messages. Both fax and voice messages can be retrieved remotely, which is a useful function if you are leaving the office for a couple of days. You can also use functions to force the machine to only accept voice messages or to only accept fax messages as you prefer. There is also an option to use an external TAD. Then you can set your fax machine's memory to only store faxes, and store all the voice messages on your external TAD. I have not used this option though and, in view of our previous experience with fax machines & answering machines, I would not recommend it! PRINTING The big problem with the BT machine (and the reason that we finally gave up on it) was that it was inkjet. The quality was very nice, but we only receive two or three faxes per week, and the ink cartridge/head kept drying out. There would be plenty of ink in the tank, so the machine would "think" it had printed a fax, when in fact all we got was a blank sheet of paper. The memory was no use, because the machine thought the fax had printed OK, so the fax wasn't kept in the memory. Cleaning the print head helped for a while, but if we didn't use the machine every day, the same problem would reoccur. We frequently had to ring customers and ask them to resend a fax (embarassing and unprofessional), and the final straw came when someone sent us a fax from a "number witheld" line. We never managed to trace it, and could well have missed out on a big order! Brother have thought about this a little :-) You can set the machine to "DOC:ON" to automatically store faxes, and switch on the backup printing option, so that faxes are automatically printed as well. Then, if the fax doesn't print for some reason, it is still in the machine 39;s memory so you can have another go! If you use this mode, you have to remember to erase the memory frequently though, or it will quickly fill up with faxes and leave no room for voice messages. BROTHER'S RIBBON CARTRIDGE The Brother FAX-T86 has a ribbon cartridge. This reminds me of the old-fashioned typewriter ribbons, only it's much bigger. It's the width of an A4 piece of paper and holds ribbon the length of 144 sheets of A4 in each cartridge!. The print quality isn't brilliant, but it is readable. It is expensive to run (replacing your ribbon with a twin pack from Viking, faxes work out at 4.9p per sheet), but shouldn't suffer from the same "drying out" problems as the inkjet fax machine. You do receive a full size ribbon cartridge with the machine when bought new. Many fax machines provide "cut-down" versions of their consumables, so you need to watch out for that and buy a spare cartridge if applicable. COPY FUNCTION You can use the machine as a photocopier for flat paper documents up to A4 size, but it is an expensive way to copy and the print quality is not very good. I would recommend your scanner/printer as a much cheaper and better option, although using the fax machine is quick and easy. There are also options to reduce or enlarge your documents. INTERNAL BATTERY The Brother FAX-T86 is equipped with an internal battery that holds date & time information for 15 hours, and "out-of-paper" faxes for up to 6 hours, in the event of a power cut. This has proved useful to us, since our power supply was cut off for two hours the day after we got the machine, and we didn't have to go through the rigmarole of setting it all up again. The BT machine also had a back-up battery. One thing you need to be aware of with this type of 'phone is that if the power supply is lost, the telephone will not work. This is also true of cordless 'phones, so it makes sens e to have an ordinary back-up 'phone available for emergencies. That way if you lose power, you won't necessarily miss those important calls! TELEPHONE There is a handset so that you can use the machine as a normal telephone, and all the usual modern telephone functions are included, such as speed dial (100 stations). There is also a facility to use a speaker phone; I find this brilliant for when I am being kept on hold by annoying answering services! RELIABILITY It's too early to say whether the machine will prove to be reliable, but there isn't much to go wrong. We have been running the machine for a little over a month with no problems so far. MANUAL Unlike our Brother laser printers, which came with minimal paperwork, the Brother fax-machine has a comprehensive and well-written manual with lots of pictures, as well as a very useful "quick start" guide, which meant our fax and answerphone were up and running within ten minutes of unpacking! Printed on the back page of the manual is a "cut-out and keep" card for remote access control. This is a great idea, so if going away you only need to slip this into your wallet or purse instead of taking the whole manual with you. PACKAGING There was the usual unrecyclable polystyrene packaging and plastic bags to keep everything dry inside the cardboard box. The packaging was very good at providing damage protection; our purchase was totally undamaged, despite some dodgy cornering on the way home from Comet! COMPATIBILITY WITH INTERNET CONNECTION We have in the past experienced problems connecting fax machines on the same line as our internet connection. One machine we tried (a Philips model with built-in "email messaging") totally disrupted our internet connection so badly that is was rendered inoperable. The BT machine worked perfectly, and we never had a problem. When the Brother machine is set to automatically d etect faxes, it sometimes interrupts when a computer modem is trying to connect to the ISP, or shortly afterwards. There are two solutions. You can force the machine to stop by pressing the "stop" button. The fax machine then beeps annoyingly displaying the message "replace handset". Pressing "stop" again returns the line to your computer. Our computer running Windows XP copes admirably with this, and settles down to a normal surfing session, but our computer running Windows 98 SE cannot cope, and loses its connection. The way around this is to use the second option and adjust the settings on the fax machine so that it no longer automatically detects faxes. (Press MENU/SET, 2, 3. Use the arrow keys to select OFF. Press MENU/SET again. Press STOP.) This works for both computer set-ups, but you have to remember to switch the fax machine back to Fax Detect when your session is over if you want it to automatically detect faxes. SIZE The actual machine is 10" (24cm) from front to back, but you need to allow 14" (34cm) front-to-back space to include the paper in the tray. Width is about 13" (33cm), and height is about 15" (38cm) including paper and sheet feeder. SECOND-HAND If you are purchasing this machine second-hand without a manual, you might be interested to know that you can print out a list of basic operational steps and functions by pressing "COPY/HELP" and then "START". There is a Brother FAX-T86 Page on the official Brother website: http://www.brother.co.uk/our_products/html/fax_86.html PRICES FAX-T86 RRP £119.00 Viking Direct £109.99 Dabs £116.32 Comet £99.95 PC70 REPLACEMENT CASSETTE WITH 144 SHEET RIBBON RRP£14.49 Viking Direct £12.99 PC71RF 1 X 144 sheet refill £8.99 PC72RF 2 x 144 sheet refill RRP £15.99 Viking Direct £13.99 PC74RF 4 x 144 sheet refill RRP £29.99 support pack (additional 2yr warranty) £35.00 A FINAL NOTE It is unlawful for a company to send faxes without the recipient's prior consent. If you have problems with unwanted faxes, register with the "Fax Preference Service" at www.fpsonline.org.uk
In one stylish machine you not only get a sophisticated fax machine with advanced business functions and an integral, full duplex speakerphone for handsfree calling, but also a digital answer machine with 15 minutes' recording capacity and remote message retrieval facility.
The technology inside this compact standalone fax machine is specified and built to a totally professional standard. As a result of this, everything you send and receive is of the highest quality and printed out on A4 plain paper. With Brother's FAX-T86, it's both quick and easy to search through and select any of the FAX-T86's advanced business functions - including the ability to automatically redial should a number be busy.
The FAX-T86, with its 14, 4000bps modem, is capable of transmitting a fax in approximately 10 seconds. And with its 512KB memory, it's also able to store up to 20 pages of incoming faxes. The features offered by the FAX-T86 mean less time will be wasted at the fax machine. You can store up to 20 pages in the fax memory for sending and it has 30 sheet paper capacity. Further efficiency gains can be made using the 4 one-touch or 100 speed dial pre-programmable locations.
To ensure the ultimate in versatility and user-friendliness, the FAX-T86 is able to forward received and stored faxes to another fax machine. It also offers a number of useful copy functions such as the ability to automatically sort multiple copies, as well as the option to reduce or enlarge documents from 50% to 150%. The FAX-T86 is a professional quality fax machine with the added benefit of an integral telephone handset and easy to use, one-touch digital answering machine.