Canon Pixma MP500
At a Glance
Canon PIXMA MP500 Photo All-In-One Inkjet Printer (29 PPM, 9600x2400 DPI, Color, PC/Mac)
Dual paper trays, a built-in duplexer, and strong text and photos make the MP500 good value even without fax capability.
The Canon Pixma MP500 is an attractively priced combination of printer, scanner, and media card reader. It's not ideal for every user: serious photographers may bemoan the lack of a film-scanning capability, while home-office workers may miss a built-in fax and an automatic document feeder, but you get the most important functions in a compact and easy-to-use unit.
You can preview images and perform basic editing tasks on the 2.5-inch color LCD that flips up from the center of the clearly laid-out control panel.
The media slots hide behind a small door and can read most digital camera memory card formats. However, you'll need a third-party adapter to read xD-Picture, Memory Stick Duo, and Mini SD Card formats. The MP500's USB 2.0 port swiftly transfers images from the cards to your PC. The direct-print port on the front lets you print straight from a PictBridge-compatible digital camera. Unlike several of its rivals and many photo printers, the MP500 doesn't let you read images from a USB flash drive attached to its direct-print port. However, you can attach an optional $80 Bluetooth adapter to print from suitably equipped camera phones and PDAs. The MP500 also sports an infrared port that lets you beam images from many mobile phones.
The cassette in the unit's base holds 150 sheets of plain paper. The feeder at the rear has a 150-sheet capacity as well, but you'll probably use it to switch among different photo paper types and sizes. We appreciated that the built-in duplexer, which saves paper by enabling two-sided printing, waits a few seconds for the first side to dry before printing on the reverse.
Each of the printer's five ink cartridges incorporates a red LED that flashes when the ink runs low. In addition to the three primary colors, you get two black inks. On photo paper, the printer uses only dye-based black, but to produce stronger and sharper darks on the more-absorbent plain paper, it adds pigment-based black. In our lab tests, we saw dark text with crisp edges. Our line-art sample suffered only a few ripples in blocks of closely spaced vertical lines and some odd diagonal interference patterns. We also noted excellent contrast and surprisingly sharp details in photos printed on plain paper, though a little banding was visible in the darkest areas. On photo paper we saw beautifully sharp images with bold colors.
Scans of photos and line art earned high marks from our judges. Copies of a text document also scored well, but plain scans of the same file were less impressive. Many of the MP500's rivals outstrip its print speed of 6.4 pages--per minute for text, but the unit holds its own at 2.4 ppm for graphics. It printed our test photo on letter-size photo paper in a commendable 57 seconds. Its 4.3-ppm copy speed is also one of the fastest. Finally, the MP500 also performed solidly in our test scan of a 4-by-5-inch photo at 100 dpi, completing the scan in 9 seconds.
The MP500 may lack some frills, but it delivers a great combination of performance, quality, and paper handling at a fair price.