Canon's Pixma MG8120 Performs Well and Looks Great
At a Glance
The shiny, black Canon Pixma MG8120 color inkjet multifunction printer (which prints, copies, and scans), is nothing if not cool-looking--the control panel integrated into the top lid is a must see. But it also produces smooth text output at a good clip, and its replacement ink costs are reasonable. Alas, the eye candy will cost you: The MG8120 retails for a whopping $300 as of September 27, 2010.
The Pixma MG8120's most unusual feature is the 3.5-inch, tiltable color LCD with touch-sensitive controls integrated seamlessly into the top lid. The controls light up when they're needed and disappear when they're not. The layout closely resembles Canon's regular control-panel design, including the three buttons for selecting choices shown on the display. We found them awkward to use in conjunction with the more traditional navigation/selection buttons (which are always lit).
Though we wish that Canon had included an automatic document feeder, the Pixma MG8120 is otherwise well-equipped. You get automatic duplexing, a 150-sheet undermounted tray for plain paper, and a 150-sheet rear vertical feed for all other media. A 50-sheet output tray opens automatically from the front when you start printing. The scanner lid telescopes to accommodate thicker documents. USB, ethernet, and wireless connections are available. Wireless setup worked perfectly on the PC. On the Mac, however, the printer didn't work properly until we installed it with a USB cable attached. This might have been an aberration of our testbed; but if you experience a similar problem, using USB may solve it. Canon's Solution Center EX software bundle helps with printing, scanning, and copying chores, and is quite easy to use.
In our tests, the Pixma MG8120 was quite fast for an inkjet. Our text documents--ten pages of plain text, and a newsletter with a smattering of grayscale graphics--looked crisp and printed at a peppy 8.27 pages per minute (ppm) on the PC and 7.87 ppm on the Mac. The snapshot-size color photos in our PC-platform testing printed at just under 3 ppm to plain paper and about 2 ppm using Canon's own photo paper. The larger, higher-resolution photo that we use to test photo printing on the Mac took just over 2 minutes--a midrange speed. Also swift were monochrome copying (which took about 17 seconds) and color scans (20 seconds for a full-page photo at 600 dpi, and 55 seconds for a cropped section of that photo at 1200 dpi).
Color images and copies showed an orange tinge on plain paper (a common tendency of Canon MFPs), but this imperfection was less pronounced on photo paper. Simple monochrome text copy looked as good as the original, but color scans appeared somewhat dark.
The Pixma MG8120's ink costs are slightly lower than the norm. The standard-size, 328-page black cartridge is $16, or 4.9 cents per page. The individual cyan, magenta, and yellow cartridges each cost $14, and last for around 450 pages, which works out to about 3.1 cents per color per page. A typical page with all four colors costs 14.2 cents. Also priced at $14 each are the dedicated photo-black and photo-gray cartridges, which make the darker areas of photos look smoother and more realistic. They add relatively little ink to a typical document, and Canon says that the photo-black cartridge should last for about 670 4-by-6-inch photos, and the photo-gray cartridge for about 171.
Granted, other Canon multifunction printers, such as the Pixma MX870 and the Pixma MG5220, offer equally good output and features for a lot less money. Choose the Canon Pixma MG8120 if you want that something extra: a little more speed, and a control panel that's also a conversation piece.