Pros: Individual ink tanks, very competent printing.
Cons: None at this price.
In a market flooded with inexpensive ink jet printers, the Canon Pixma iP3500 distinguishes itself by using separate ink tanks. Based upon my experiences with the iP4300, this is reason enough to put this printer on your short list of printers to consider. Then, consider the fact that this printer is often available for free or with a hefty rebate, there's little reason not to get one if you just want a general purpose printer that also prints fairly good photos.
This past Christmas, my college aged son wanted a inexpensive digital camera. After much research, I decided to purchase the Canon PowerShot A570IS 7.1MP Digital Camera. With the purchase of this camera, I was able to qualify for a $50 rebate with the combined purchase of the camera and selected Canon printers. The iP3500 was the least expensive printer qualifying for the rebate, and resulted in a net cost of $26. At that price, I figured "what do I have to lose?" If my son hadn't decided to keep the printer, I could have easily sold the printer and recovered my cost.
One evening after Christmas, we decided to give the printer a trial run. Out of the box, the printer is a moderate sized printer. Preparing it for use called for removing packing tape, installing the print head and four individual ink tanks (black, magenta, yellow, cyan), attaching the power cord, and having the USB cable (not included with the printer) ready for use. The enclosed CD contains drivers and software and is for use on both PC and Mac computers. My son got out his Mac laptop. Canon provides very nice large, well illustrated and easy to read instructions. Installing the software went smoothly, and in a matter of minutes, the printer was ready to use.
The iP3500 has two paper feeds. The top feed is designed to handle paper of different sizes.....for our testing, this is where we stacked a few sheets of Canon 4X6 photo paper. The paper feed area at the bottom of the computer is designed for standard size paper, and we loaded some basic paper. The first printing task was to print a self test and cartridge alignment, and this was easily completed. From there, we printed a few documents and photos. The results were what I expected...competent printing that would be as good as that of produced by other printers in the sub $100 price range. This printer is fine for printing everyday photos.....they compared well to prints made by my iP4300 which has one additional photo black cartridge. As i learned with the iP4300, photo printing will get better results by using Canon papers....in my testing, I compared results with HP and Epson papers. Photo enthusiasts will probably notice somewhat less detail and color variation when comparing to 6 ink printers. That being said, this printer does produce a pretty nice photo and with the advantage of separate ink tanks.
Operation of this printer is quite easy, but you do have to make sure that you have selected the correct paper feed. It is very easy to waste photo paper by not noticing that the paper feed indicator light is indicating the wrong feed for your printing task. And, this printer is constructed of plastic which will not take much abuse...but this is to be expected in cheaper printers. Print speed is pretty fast, especially when comparing the speed of printing a 4X6 photo to my older HP All in One printer. This printer hasn't been used enough to evaluate ink consumption, but based upon my iP4300, one can expect it to be quite economical. With my iP4300, I was able to print a lot of photos.....it's great to be able to replace only the single ink tank that is empty. I'm convinced that this generation of Canon printers is less costly to use due to the separate ink tanks and efficient printing technology.....my HP gulps ink in comparison.
The Canon software is very good and provides tools for basic printer operation as well as a very user friendly program for editing and printing photos. For the casual user, it may be all you need for editing and printing photos. Photo enthusiasts will prefer to use higher powered programs such as PhotoShop Elements, Paint Shop Pro, etc. Needless to say, the provided software allows you to select a variety of paper sizes, envelopes, labels and other media for printing tasks. And, it provides utilities for cleaning the printer head, aligning cartridges and checking tank levels.
It's common knowledge that printer manufactures lure you into their clutches by offering low priced printers to the consumer, and then make their profits on ink sales. I'll give Canon some praise for offering a budget printer with individual ink tanks. I did a lot of research on printers, and there aren't many budget printers in this category. The majority are two tank systems...one black tank and one tri-color ink tank. Base upon my experiences, the individual tank setup is preferable if you print a lot of color documents or photos.
As a total package, the iP3500 is a very competent entry level printer with the huge advantage of having separate ink tanks. For everyday printing tasks including decent photo printing, it will meet the needs of many. If your photo or graphic printing tasks are more demanding, you'll want to look at higher end printers and pay more. Irregardless, I consider the iP3500 to be a great printer for the price.