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Canon Selphy CP790 Snapshot Printer: Cute but Awkward

At a Glance
  • Canon Selphy CP790

    PCWorld Rating

    This printer is cute and stylish, but it wastes ink and has an awkward paper-handling setup.

At first glance, the Canon Selphy CP790 snapshot printer looks more like a lime-green lunch pail. With its convenient handle, it begs you to take it to your next children's party or family get-together. The trade-offs are a high purchase price ($180 on 11/9/09) and oddly designed, wasteful consumables.

The 3.2-pound printer acts as the top-heavy lid of an oval bucket. Plastic latches secure the printer to the bucket. The bucket is divided into two compartments for storing the AC adapter, paper caddies, and supplies. To make the printer truly portable, you'll need to buy the rechargeable lithium ion battery pack ($80). A Bluetooth adapter costs $50.

The top control panel consists of compass-style navigation controls and five logically labeled and intuitive control buttons. Menu items display on a 3-inch color LCD above the buttons. You can print directly from one of three media card readers or from a PictBridge-connected device. You can also transfer images via an infrared port on the front panel. If you install the printer on a PC, you can use Ulead Photo Express LE, an application that allows you to organize your photos and add effects to them. Canon does not include a USB cable with the printer.

The Selphy CP790 needed about a minute to print one 4-by-6-inch photo in our tests, which is faster than past models we've reviewed in Canon's Selphy series. Print quality was mostly good: Grayscale photos and portraits with various skin tones looked natural, but landscape shots were excessively yellow and lacked detail.

The dye-sublimation technology of the Selphy CP790 is distinctive--but not in good ways. The paper-tray design is clumsy, for one. The printer's two cassettes hold postcard- or credit card-size paper (18 sheets maximum). The cassettes' double-layered, clear plastic lids require juggling: To load paper, you lift both lids; to insert the cassette into the printer, you replace just the inner lid, while the exterior lid acts as the output tray. During printing, paper moves back and forth through the printer multiple times, sticking out the front and the back, just asking for someone to tug at it prematurely.

The ink design is wasteful, too. It comes in rolls of film, containing successive sections of cyan, magenta, and yellow, plus a clear finishing coat. During printing, each section of color passes over the paper and then rolls up for disposal, regardless of how much might be left. Also, you need dedicated rolls for each paper size. Canon doesn't have a recycling program for these plastic-encased ink supplies, though curiously you can recycle the printer itself by sending it back to Canon with a check for $12.

At least the consumables costs are tolerable. A five-print starter kit with postcard-size photo paper comes with the printer. A 108-sheet replacement kit costs $35, or a respectable 32 cents per print. A 36-print kit is only $15, but its 41.6-cent per-print cost makes me wince.

The Canon Selphy CP790 succeeds in being portable, capable, and even amusing. Still, the awkward paper handling and plastic-intensive ink cartridges are design drawbacks.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This printer is cute and stylish, but it wastes ink and has an awkward paper-handling setup.

    Pros

    • Built-in carrying case with handle
    • Innovative design; good connectivity

    Cons

    • Yellowish cast on some photos
    • Finicky paper cassettes
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