Canon i560 Desktop Photo Printer
The i560 is among the first printers equipped with Canon's PictBridge technology. Any compatible digital camera can connect and print via the PictBridge port on the printer's front panel--no need for flash-memory slots. HP, Epson, and many other makers of digital cameras and photo printers say they plan to support PictBridge, which should certainly simplify the process of printing digital photos.
The i560 printed attractive glossy photos, but overall, its print quality was less impressive than we'd have expected from a $130 machine. Glossy photos had realistic highlights and shadows, and details looked sharp. But some colors, especially flesh tones and earth tones, appeared grayish. This might be because the i560 uses just four inks, forgoing the additional photo inks that are becoming common on photo printers.
On both plain and coated paper, text looked black but not boldly so, and we noticed some speckling around letters. Even after it was dry, the ink smeared too easily on plain paper when we touched the printouts--a problem most ink jets have solved these days. Narrow parallel lines are a tough challenge for any ink jet, and the ones here were marred by stray wisps of ink. Very fine lines overlapped heavily. Black-and-white photos printed on plain paper looked slightly posterized; that is, they didn't show the subtle range of gray shades in the original photo, though coated paper improved this a great deal. Also, the i560 is as flimsy as most bargain printers, so you'll want to protect the paper trays by folding them closed when they're not in use.
Though its print quality isn't as nice as we'd like, the i560 delivers in other ways. For one thing, it's fast, turning out text at a zippy 7.6 ppm, and graphics at 2 ppm. It's also somewhat flexible: In addition to the PictBridge connector on the front and a USB 2.0 port on the back, it has a parallel port to accommodate anyone still nursing along an older PC. Canon's superb documentation includes a brochure explaining how to use PictBridge, a thorough setup poster, and a printed manual. The manual explains features, maintenance, and troubleshooting, and reproduces the table of contents from the in-depth on-screen manual that you can install along with the driver. Canon's reasonable ink prices are another plus. Based on Canon's yield specifications, a page of black text uses 1.9 cents worth of ink, and a color page (with about 20 percent ink coverage; less than a full-page photo consumes) should cost about 8.9 cents.
The speedy i560 is convenient if you wield a PictBridge-enabled camera, but its print quality isn't up to snuff, given its high price.