After the problems I had with my last multifunction printer, I decided to shop for a new one. This time, I had the good sense to read the reviews on Epinions (which would have saved me from my last bad purchase). The Canon PIXMA MP780 was one of the best-rated printers in the multifunction category, with lots of favorable commentary, so I ultimately decided to purchase it. So far, after over half a year of use, I'm still very satisfied with it.
This model does everything anybody needs to do with regard to getting documents and images between digitized computer format and "dead-tree" (paper) form. It will print, scan, copy, and fax in color or black-and-white. (Although, when I tried once to fax in color, it refused, saying that the machine at the other end didn't support it. Maybe it would work if you were faxing to another Canon PIXMA MP780.)
Canon is known for the photography field, so one specialty of its printers is their use in printing digital photographs. This model has a USB port in the front for plugging in digital cameras so you can print pictures with no need for involvement of a computer, but I haven't used that feature since I prefer to import my pictures using a card reader. But, to give a more complete review, I attempted to do a direct camera-to-printer connection (from a Nikon Coolpix 7900... nice little camera, I'll have to get around to reviewing it too) just now. Unfortunately, I couldn't succeed; it kept saying that it couldn't find the camera, even though the camera seemed to recognize the printer, as it turned itself on when the cable was connected as it's supposed to do. So I'm still not sure how well this interface works, or which cameras it's compatible with; I haven't pursued the matter very far since, as I said, I don't really need the feature anyway.
Speaking of printing photos, this printer supports the wide variety of paper types available for inkjet use, including glossy photo paper. A sample of Canon 4" x 6" photo paper was included; it took me a while to figure out how to properly print on it (requiring lots of fiddling to figure out all the stuff like which side faces upward in the paper tray (it's the back side), which side of the tray to put the small paper (the upper right), and how to set the various options in the printer setup screen and/or the menus on the printer itself in order to tell it what type of paper it's using and whether to find it in the paper tray in front or the paper feeder in the back. If I get one of those things wrong and have to start over, it's likely I'll find that the other settings have been reset to their defaults, so I have to go through a bunch of menus to find and fix all of them. There are lots of things to get wrong. Maybe some day there'll be a future generation of printers that somehow senses the type and location of any paper you load into it so all of this stuff is set for you.
Anyway, pictures print fine once you figure out how to deal with the paper. So do other printouts, done on normal letter-size paper in color or black-and-white; you get fairly quick printouts (15 or 20 seconds to print a typical single sheet from a Web page, cluttered with text and graphics; faster in lower-quality draft mode and slower in high-quality mode), with the availability of some advanced features usually only found in expensive office machines like double-sided printing -- where the printer actually prints one side then yanks the page back in, waits a few seconds for it to dry, then flips it to print the other side -- though this, once again, requires you to dig through the setup menus to find the right option.
It also serves as a copier, a nice thing to have at home so you don't have to bring personal papers to work or a copy shop when you just need a copy of them. You can put the documents to be copied on the scanning surface or feed it through a document feeder; it works just like the fancy, expensive copiers at work, only a little slower. And it prints in color (if you push the color button), while most copiers are limited to black and white.
Naturally, since it's got a scanning surface, you can use it as a scanner too, in order to electronically import all your old photos taken with archaic film cameras, or documents needing to be scanned from paper. If you maintain Web sites, you're likely have plenty of need for one of those, and it's nice to combine it with your printer so you don't take any more of your valuable desktop space (that's your physical desktop, not the virtual one on your PC!) than you have to. Pressing the "scan" button on the printer will, if you have installed all of its software on your computer, cause the scanning control program to run on the computer and give you all the options you need to do the scan; no need to try and find the program amongst the icons and start menus of all the stuff you've installed on your PC.
One more function it has is faxing. That's not something I have very much use for (the fax is rather archaic these days compared to e-mail), but on the rare occasions when I need to fax something to somebody, it does the job. It hooks directly into your phone jack, and has a numeric pad to dial numbers, so it doesn't depend on your computer's modem; it can send and receive faxes even with the computer turned off. One thing to watch out for; the factory default setting is to automatically answer incoming calls, so before I reset this, I answered a call only to have my attempt at a conversation drowned out by the machine's attempt to get a fax connection going. This is easily remedied through the setup menus, however; there are several options depending on how you intend to use the faxing capabilities, from "manual mode" where it never answers inbound calls (my choice, since I don't use my phone line as an inbound fax line) to attempting to share the line by only responding to faxes and leaving other callers alone (I'm not sure exactly how it detects this).
This printer has so many features that I'm still discovering more neat stuff it can do even now, months after getting it. However, because of this, its wide range of buttons, menus, and setup options can be a bit intimidating at times even to a geek like me, and frustrating when it does something weird that I didn't expect, like answering my voice phone calls with a fax tone. In place of a detailed paper manual, it comes with an HTML-based user guide to be browsed on your computer. Its front page says that it "has been prepared on the assumption that it would be displayed and read under the following conditions", said conditions including that the user was using Microsoft Internet Explorer. I'm not; I can't stand Microsoft, myself, so I use Mozilla, and resent products that try to push me into using the crappy, non-standards-compliant browser from MS (Microsoft, not Multiple Sclerosis). However, the documentation seems to display OK in Mozilla despite that caution.
One "big deal" about printers is what sort of ink cartridges they need. That's where pretty much all the printer manufacturers do their best to screw the consumer, by devising an endless variety of proprietary cartridge types that they can maintain a monopoly on manufacturing (for which they invoke every intellectual property law they can find) in order to ensure that you have to buy an expensive replacement cartridge every time you run out of ink, instead of it being a cheap replacement like a light bulb (which, since it's standardized and nonproprietary, can be purchased all over, from many manufacturers). This one takes the tack of using separate cartridges for each color (with, oddly, two different black cartridges). This means more different cartridges to buy, but presumably will save some money in the long run because you don't have to replace an entire multicolor cartridge just because one color ran out; if your printing uses more yellow than cyan, you'll just have to replace the yellow cartridge more often.
All in all, it's a nice machine, with plenty of features. It should do everything an individual needs for personal or small-scale home office use.
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Amount Paid (US$): 299
Operating System: Windows and Macintosh