Canon Pixma MP210
At a Glance
Canon's Pixma MP210 multifunction printer costs $80 (as of 9/12/07), as little as an entry-level, single-function printer. Because its copy functions are so limited, however, serious multitaskers should look elsewhere; and novice users may pause at its inscrutable control panel.
Installing the MP210 via the included CD is nearly automatic. The documentation is mostly good: A detailed poster guides you through the setup process, and a quick-start guide describes the machine and its major functions. The HTML-based on-screen manual is thorough, but because it covers two similar models it can be confusing.
Nicely featured photo editing and scanning applications come with the printer. In addition, Canon's Solution Menu dialog box leads you quickly toward documentation, utilities, and help files. A My Printer icon, installed in your Windows system tray, lets you view the print queue, change settings, or troubleshoot.
The Pixma MP210 performed competently in our tests. It printed plain-text documents at 8.6 pages per minute (ppm). Letterforms looked nicely dark, but a little fuzzy at the edges--a detriment to intricate or closely spaced fonts. Its speed in printing various graphics ranged from 1.5 to 4.1 ppm--about average overall for the category. The images sometimes looked faded and vague on plain paper, but using Canon's own papers made everything crisper and brighter (albeit at a much higher cost). Scans proceeded quickly and looked good overall. The cost per page (at 5 percent coverage per color) is reasonable: about 5 cents for black-only, or 29 cents for a page with all three colors plus black.
The machine's breadbox-like profile looks neat, but some aspects could be improved. To use the machine, you pull the input slot's two-part, hinged guide up from the back, and flip the output tray from the front. The trays are flimsy and tend to rattle. The ink-cartridge bays seem carelessly designed, as their shallow slots provide minimal guidance for seating the tanks correctly.
The control panel suffers from a shortage of visual cues. Even though the 'Scan' button is labeled, it's hard to find because it's the same size and color as less-important buttons. The buttons labeled 'Black' and 'Color' are for copying, but the vaguer word 'Start' sits above them instead. An LED cluster with an adjacent '+' button is not otherwise labeled, even though it has multiple roles (such as showing the number of copies, or displaying single-letter status codes), none of them obvious. You press an unlabeled button to toggle among three different media types; a small light next to each shows which is chosen, but nothing indicates that this is a copying option.
Unhelpful controls aside, the copying options themselves are limited. You cannot reduce or enlarge, only fit to page automatically using a button. You can choose high-speed copying (on letter or A4 paper only) by pressing longer on the 'Black' or 'Color' button. You cannot alter the brightness of a copy, and the maximum number of copies is 20. At least copies come out reasonably fast and look pretty good.
The Pixma MP210's real attraction is that it offers extra functions beyond printing for a printer-like price. But if your copying needs extend far beyond the occasional, look for a model that has better capabilities and controls, such as Canon's Pixma MP470, which costs only $20 more.