Canon i9900 Photo Printer
At a Glance
The i9900 Photo Printer is the first Canon model to add red and green inks to its palette, enabling it to reproduce a broader range of colors in photos. This $480 printer also has light photo cyan and light photo magenta inks, which Canon says will be necessary for achieving high photo quality until the company can reduce ink droplet sizes to less than 1 picoliter (the i9900 sprays 2-picoliter droplets). The i9900 is speedy, too: It output our best-quality photo in 61 seconds, faster than any other printer we reviewed. But it printed ordinary text at 3.1 ppm--slightly faster than the average of 4.9 ppm for recent photo printers, but still unpleasantly slow.
Text looked a bit grayish and showed some roughness at smaller type sizes, but color photos printed on plain paper had surprisingly sharp detail and accurate colors. On glossy paper the i9900 produced fabulous photos: Gray-scale prints had sharp focus and detail with lifelike depth and shading; color prints looked very bright and intensely saturated--especially the reds and greens--with great focus and detail.
Mechanically, the i9900 is simple and easy to use. The unit's wide carriage accommodates 13-by-19-inch prints, though Canon's glossy 13-by-19 photo paper costs $2.50 a sheet. The machine can print 13-by-19 iron-on transfers, too.
In ink cartridge yield tests conducted by the Rochester Institute of Technology for PC World, the i9900's cost per page was middle-of-the-road for black ink (3.3 cents per page) but a little high for black plus color pages using only the four primary inks (12.9 cents per page versus a photo printer average of 11.9 cents per page). Because the i9900's inks are dye-based, its prints may fade faster from light exposure than prints made with pigmented inks.
The i9900 can operate with its paper trays folded partway up, which saves space on your desk when you're printing on letter-size paper. The printer comes with USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 ports, as well as a Mac-only six-pin FireWire port on the back. If you're using a PC, you'll want to connect it to the USB 2.0 port, as we did for our tests: According to Canon, transmitting all of the data needed to manage the long carriage and the high number of ink nozzles across a USB 1.1 connection can double the printing time. So why didn't Canon make both ports USB 2.0, given that the standard 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. Though the front of the i9900 lacks media slots and a control panel, it does have a PictBridge port.
If you're serious about photo printing, this speedy model could be just what you need.