Canon Pixma Mini260
At a Glance
Beautifully designed controls make printing snapshots on the $200 (as of 11/3/2006) Canon Pixma Mini260 both easy and fun. With its cream-colored plastic and built-in carrying handle, it looks a bit like a 1970s portable radio. The lid folds up to act as the paper tray, revealing the bright 2.5-inch color LCD, and the front flips down to become an undersize output tray.
A dial in the center of the control panel on the top of the unit continues the radio theme. You turn it to select from a carousel of functions on the screen and to scroll through the attractively displayed menus. Two buttons beneath the screen supplement the dial for access to context-sensitive options. You can use in-printer functions--such as automatic color correction, red-eye removal, and cropping--to edit photos before printing. You can also apply two effects: sepia tone or "simulate illustration" (which makes the photo look like a pencil sketch).
Two media slots on the right side of the Mini260 accept most digital camera card formats, but you'll need a third-party adapter to read xD-Picture Card, and the printer can't read USB flash drives. The PictBridge-enabled USB port allows for printing directly from your digital camera, and you can beam images via infrared from suitable devices to an IrDA port. To print using Bluetooth, you'll need Canon's optional $80 adapter.
The Mini260 uses a single cartridge containing four dye-based inks, including black. One cartridge comes with the printer, but you get just a few sample sheets of paper. Canon sells a combo pack with a replacement ink cartridge and 100 sheets of snapshot paper for $30, giving an approximate cost-per-print of 30 cents.
In our tests we used Canon's Photo Paper Pro. Results were good overall, but (like other snapshot printers we tested) the Mini260 couldn't match the print quality of full-size inkjet printers and online printing services. Colors in photo prints generally looked too light, but accurate. And our black-and-white photo appeared posterized when printed, with too much contrast and no midtones. We did see some smooth tonal changes and sharp detail, though, and at 1.0 pages per minute, the Mini260 prints quickly for a snapshot printer.
In two informal moisture tests, we looked for defects after sprinkling water on week-old (and therefore dry) snapshot prints. Then we dunked them in water for 30 seconds and wiped them dry. After both tests, the Mini260's prints showed some discoloration, and the paper crinkled slightly after the dunking.
The included Easy-PhotoPrint software crops to match the output paper size and offers quality enhancements. It can also combine images into album pages. However, unlike the software that HP and Kodak supply with their printers, it won't help organize your photo collection or upload to a photo-sharing site.
Canon says it plans to offer an internal battery for the Mini260, but no price had been set at the time of writing.