Canon Pixma MP980
At a Glance
Canon's Pixma MP980 color inkjet multifunction printer offers many premium-level features for photo enthusiasts. For its price ($300 as of 12/09/2008), it could be better in some ways, but it is, at least, progressive.
The control panel (integrated into the scanner lid) is innovatively designed. Taking a cue from Apple's iPod, it features a scroll wheel that you push to rotate through menu items shown on the large, tiltable, 3.5-inch color LCD. Rotating feels faster, but if it makes you dizzy, traditional four-way arrow buttons encircle the scroll wheel and serve the same purpose.
Two slim, black buttons below the LCD handle context-sensitive on-screen options, but the buttons are a bit too far away from the screen to be obviously associated with it. The only really confusing part: A button called "NAVI" has nothing to do with navigation (my best guess); rather, it lets you jump to frequently-used functions.
The silvery, boxy design has a lot of features--and some drawbacks. Connectivity includes USB, ethernet, and Wi-Fi; a Bluetooth adapter costs $50. An automatic duplexer offers easy, two-sided printing. You get two input trays: one that slides underneath and takes up to 150 sheets of plain paper, and a rear-loading one that takes a wider variety of media. The rear tray's telescoping panels move awkwardly and feel cheap and rattlely. The output tray flips out automatically when you print, but it holds just 50 sheets. One shortcoming particular to Canon printers: The media slots take CF, SD, and MS. But for any other kind of camera media (micro- or mini-SD and xD, among others), you'll need a third-party adapter.
Compared to the competition in our tests, the Pixma MP980 achieved average speeds of 8.1 pages per minute (ppm) printing text and 2.5 ppm printing graphics--but they're far short of Canon's claims of 26 ppm for text and 21 ppm for graphics. On plain paper, text looked very black and crisp; color graphics looked a little pale, and flesh tones looked orangey. On Canon's own photo paper, images looked detailed and natural, though still a little on the pale side.
Ink costs are reasonable. The machine ships with standard-size cartridges: a 344-page pigment black (K), and 447-page photo gray, cyan (C), magenta (M), and yellow (Y). A replacement pigment black costs $13.99 (4.1 cents per page). The other colors cost $12.99 (2.9 cents per color, per page); a page with four colors (excepting photo gray) would cost 13.1 cents.
Considering the Pixma MP980's price, I would have liked a faster machine with fewer oddities; however, it's a better bet than the similarly priced (and far slower) Kodak ESP 9 All-In-One. Add to that Canon's better-than-average performance in our Reliability and Service survey, and it's still well worth considering,