Canon i960 Photo Printer
At a Glance
Though it lacks some extras that are becoming common on photo printers--such as a control panel, an integrated LCD, and media slots--Canon's i960 has some attractive features. These include a PictBridge port on its front panel and two ports--one USB 1.1 and one USB 2.0--for sharing the printer without a network. A less useful extra is the auxiliary paper feed for 4-by-6-inch paper. This snapshot feed locks onto the main paper slot, and you move sheets down into the paper path by turning a dial. Unfortunately, the dial on our test unit jammed repeatedly and didn't pull the small sheets up and away from the paper path. On the plus side, the main paper tray and the output tray are made from tough plastic, and they close up snugly when empty.
The i960's print quality was impressive. Glossy photos showed superb detail and smooth, realistic textures, though the colors in some images looked slightly oversaturated. Print quality was good even on ordinary paper. Text appeared solidly black, with slightly choppy edges, and color graphics preserved detail, though colors looked slightly washed out. When we switched to higher-quality inkjet paper, our text, gray-scale pictures, and color images came out crisp, bright, and accurate across the board--even our inkjet torture-test document with rows of narrow parallel lines printed almost perfectly.
The i960 churned out glossy photos at 0.8 page per minute, a little faster than the average speed posted by recently tested photo printers. Text speed, on the other hand, was below par, at 2.5 pages per minute compared with our test average of 2.9 ppm for photo printers. (By comparison, general-purpose printers averaged 4.9 ppm for text, 1.2 ppm for color graphics, and 0.3 for glossy photos.) The printer uses six separate ink tanks, which you can replace one at a time; many inkjet printers force you to replace a three-ink cartridge when the first ink runs out. Costs per page were close to average in our tests: Black pages cost 3.1 cents each, while pages of color plus black cost 12.3 cents each (the average for five photo printers tested was 11.9 cents).
The two USB ports on the back allow two computers to share the printer without using a network. Why didn't Canon make both ports USB 2.0, since that standard is faster than USB 1.1 and is backward compatible? A company spokesperson said that using the USB 1.1 port avoids an unnecessary error that Windows XP would generate if you plugged a PC equipped with USB 1.1 into the USB 2.0 port. People who print a lot of text documents or who would like to print fold-up booklets, will appreciate the optional duplexer ($180) and extra paper tray ($100).
If you want a reasonably priced photo printer that can handle text duties, too, the i960 may be your best bet--assuming you don't need media slots or an LCD.