Pros: Strong performance in all areas, printing, scanning, copying.
Cons: Fairly large, Canon print heads need replacement about every two years. Had problems installing drivers.
The Canon Pixma MP560 Photo Inkjet All-in-One Printer is a mid range multifunction inkjet photo/document printer. The recently released (July 2009) multifunction printer lists at $150, and offers a nice package of features including separate ink cartridges, wireless networking support, two paper feeders, duplexing, scanning, copying, a small color display, and the ability to print images from USB flash drives and flash cards. My daughter, a macbook user who lives at college, has been using a HP C4385 multifunction printer in her room on campus. The C4385 has worked ok for the past 2 years, and has survived a few moves and a couple summers with almost no use. This semester she has been fighting lots of paper jams and problems with the printer feeding multiple sheets at a time, often printing a single page on multiple pieces of paper due to the sheet feeding problems. Rather than buy more ink for the HP printer, I decided to put the funds toward a new printer. I've used a lot of Canon, Epson, and HP printers over the past decade, and I've always had the best luck with Canon models. The only problem I run into with Canon printers is that the print heads need replacing after 2-3 years, usually at a price of $40-$70, depending on what I can find on Ebay.
After reviewing my options, I narrowed my choices down to the Canon MP620 and MP560. The older MP620 won't print from USB flash drives but otherwise is comparable to the MP 560, The higly rated MP 620 appears to be on its way out as I write this, but is still a nice choice, and is often available for <$100, if you can find this model. I chose the MP 560 instead, spending a few more dollars ($130) to get the latest model and features. The printer is mostly used for printing out reports (text and graphics), homework assignments, web pages, and is occasionally used to copy, scan and to print photos and copy other documents.
In the Box
The MP560 comes with a set of full size ink cartridges cyan, yellow, magenta, black dye based inks and a black pigment ink cartridge. Canon predicts you'll be able to print about 230 4X6 photo's from the dye based ink cartridges. A set of the four dye ink cartridges lists at $48, so you'll spend about 21 cents per photo in ink costs. The pigment black ink cartridge lists at $15 and is rated for 350 pages of text (5% coverage, double spaced text) for a cost of slightly over 4 cents per page. Full pages with text and color graphics will run 10-12 cents per page. I find that Canon ink provides the highest quality text and graphics, but I'll often use generic inks from Swift Ink or Carrot Ink to save costs, recognizing I'm giving up a bit in print quality. Service at both Carrot Ink and Swift Ink is truly outstanding. If you watch for coupons at Swift Ink (follow the "hot deals" at Anandtech.com), you can cut your ink costs by 60-70%.
Also included in the box is a 6' power cable, print head, a sample pack of photo paper, a setup/operating guide and a network troubleshooting guide. The power cable does not include a power block, so the power suppy much be part of the printer itself. A few things you might expect to be in the box, but aren't included....
- No USB cable (I get my USB cables from PCMicrostore.com, a 6' cable runs under $3 shipped)
- While the Canon literature lists Bluetooth compatibility and camera phone printing for the MP560, you'll need the optional $50 BU-30 bluetooth adapter.
- Canon literature also mentions xD card compatibility, but the fine print says you'll need an adapter. I'm not sure this adapter actually exists, I can't find it on the Canon website, and a google search finds lots of Canon printer owners looking for an xD card adapter for their printers.
Setup of this printer won't be as easy as you might like, if this is your first printer or if you're not somewhat familiar with wireless networking. I found connecting this printer wirelessly to the Dlink DIR 655 "Extreme N" router on my wireless home network to be surprisingly easy. Getting the drivers installed and working on the various computers in my home was a bit more difficult.
Setup starts with removing all the packaging materials and tape that Canon wraps around the printer to make sure it is not damaged during shipping. Must be 20 pieces of orange tape on and in the printer to keep everything in place. Plugging the printer in and installing the print head and cartridges is easy, but you'll want to read the instructions. After the ink cartridges are installed, the printer runs through a print head alignment procedure which is menu driven from the printer's display and the print outs you make. At the end you'll be asked if the printout looks ok, which is confusing, because its not clear exactly what the alignment/print out should look like. The printer has two paper trays, with photo paper being fed from a tray on the back of the printer, and letter sized paper being fed from a tray beneath the printer. This all takes about 20-30 minutes, depending on how comfortable you are working on printers.
After the mechanical setup is complete, you choose whether you want to connect to the printer by wireless or by USB cable. I tried both. The printer offers a wizard style menu for connecting to my wireless router. It found my router quickly, and once I completed the tedious process using the printers scroll wheel to select and enter the character's needed to enter my network password, I was connected to my network.
I first installed the Canon printer drivers on two desktop computers in my home. One was running Vista, and the other is running the Windows 7 Release candidate. The software installed easily on both desktops. Both computers were connected by ethernet cable to the same router, and both computers detected and recognized the Canon printer which I had just connected wirelessly to my router. Both the printing and scanning software works without problems on both systems.
I also installed the canon software on my daughter's Macbook, running the (recently upgraded) Snow Leopard operating system (OS/X 10.6). This Macbook connects to a the network using the built in Airport Extreme. This installation was difficult, perhaps because I'm not that familiar with OS/X. During the installation, when initially trying to connect the notebook to the printer, a window pops up asking I want to allow the computer to connect to the wireless printer. Unfortanately, the window only stays up for a couple seconds, and if you don't get to and click the yes button quick enough, you can't connect to the printer. It took me several tries to get past this point in the installation. Near the end of the installation, the software asks if I want to register the software. I clicked "NO" quickly, before I read much more than the word "register". What I was really being asked was if I wanted to "register" the printer and scanner as default devices to the Macbook, so I had to go back and repeat this step.
I've also installed the Canon software on a Dell XPS M1330 notebook running Vista. I struggled to get the software to install on this notebook, repeatedly getting a "Not enough storage to process this command" error during the installation, even though I have plenty of memory and disk space. Canon has responded promptly to email requests for help with this problem, but their suggestions haven't worked. I finally found a fix at Microsoft's website, suggesting I run Microsoft's system file checker (from the commmand prompt) to check and repair windows system files, and then modify some display settings in Device Manager to look for and delete hidden driver files. After running the system file checker deleting some "hidden" driver files in Device Manager, I was able to install the Canon software.
Once the printer was set up and connected to my network, and after the Canon software was installed on each computer, each user is able to use the printer just as if it was connected directly to his computer. There's no extra connection utility to run or check on each time you start your computer. I was able to print, scan, and check ink levels from each computer in my home, from a variety of operating sytems (Vista, Windows 7, and OS/X), with computers connected wireless or by ethernet to my network.
I believe most of my installation problems were caused by Windows and OS/X, but I mention the problems here as a warning that installing this software might take a couple hours for some users.
Document Print Speed and Quality
Using a wireless from my Dell laptop, I timed printing a few documents. Printing 2 single space pages of text in standard quality mode takes about 31 seconds, about 14 seconds for the printer start printing and about 8 seconds per page of full single spaced text after that. Selecting the "Fast" mode cuts about 6 seconds off that time, in Fast mode printing starts a few seconds quicker, and each page prints slightly faster. Text print quality in Fast mode is nearly equivalent to standard mode. Canon's nameplate print speeds of 9.2 pages per minute of black text are measured per an ISO standard test for printing "typical" office documents as described here:
http://www.usa.canon.com/app/pdf/PrintSpeed/ISO_standard.pdf. These "nameplate" speeds are not realistic "real use" tests which you can use predict times for printing 1-2 full pages of text and graphics.
Overall, the Canon MFP 560 prints quickly, speeds are competitive with other printers in this price range. Text print quality is solid, letters are dark, clean, and documents will look equivalent to laser printed documents to casual observers.
Printing pages of text and graphics takes longer. Printing the Epinions home page, about 2 1/4 pages of text and color graphics, takes 63 seconds, again, about 14 seconds for the printer to start printing, and then about 20 seconds per page to print. Print quality of text and graphics is excellent, no banding, accurate colors, sharp text, very little blurriness any where on the images. You do detect some "graininess" in the images printed in standard mode. Printing a page of text and graphics in high quality mode provides much sharper images with somewhat better contrast, though printing is much slower, up to 2 minutes per page.
The MP 560 handles photo printing well. If your printing a single 4X6 photo from a flash card inserted into one of the printer's flash memory slots, you'll need about 90 seconds, though it takes about 45 seconds for the printer to get ready to print, and another 45 to actually print. Each print thereafter takes about 40 seconds to print. Printed on glossy Canon photo paper photo quality is quite good, colors are realistic, good contrast and details on the prints. Prints are dry and ready to use as soon as they are printed. I was able to print images from my computer, and from flash memory cards and drives and cameras connected directly to the printer. I compared the prints from the MP560 with a few prints from a Canon Selphy dye sublimation printer. To my eye, the Selphy does a slightly better job with the prints, better contrast, while the prints from the MP560 look slightly soft in comparison.
The scanning software included with the printer has enough features that most users won't feel the need to buy a separate scanning package. Occasionally, the menus are a little difficult to navigate, for example, if you don't use the OCR function routinely, it can be difficult to find that feature. If you place multiple photo's on the scanning table, the software will recognize the separate images and separate them into separate image files. Image reproduction is very good, with accurate color reproduction and details in images that are scanned at 300 dpi. Scanned images can be saved as PDF, JPG, TIFF, or BMP files. When scanning printed text, the OCR software is near perfect, I found only one or two errors on each page of printed text that I scanned and converted to a text file.
Using the MP 560 to copy documents like a stand alone copier also works well. Copy speeds are similar to print speeds, and the quality of the copies is excellent.
When turned on, with the LCD on but in idle, the MP 560 draws about 3 watts. In standby mode, when the LCD display goes off after a few minutes of non-use, power usage drops to under 1 watt (less than half what our previous HP printer used in standby mode). When printing, aboaut 16 watts are used. When color copying, power draw ranges between 12 and 20 watts, depending on how fast you scan/print your copies. This printer uses significantly less power than the the HP multifunction printer I purchased two years, ago, although the savings will only be a few dollars per year. The printer is Energy Star certified. (Measurements taken with a P3 Kill a Watt Power meter.)