capsule review

Canon Pixma MX420 Offers Fax, but Not Black Ink, on the Cheap

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Canon PIXMA MX882 Multifunction Printer

    PCWorld Rating

    Fax capabilities come cheaply in the MX420, but meager paper handling and costly black ink limit this model to low-volume use.

Canon Pixma MX420 color inkjet multifunction printer
The Canon Pixma MX420 lies in that tricky-to-shop-in, midpriced range of color inkjet multifunction printers. Costing just $150 (as of April 6, 2011), it offers print, copy, scan, and fax capabilities, but certain missing features limit it to low-volume small or home offices. Its black ink is pricey, too. Although the like-priced HP Officejet 6500A Plus e-All-In-One Printer is faster and offers cheaper inks, the Pixma MX420 has better print quality and design.

Call us old-school, but we prefer a set of well-organized and clearly labeled button controls, such as those found on the Pixma MX420, over the cool but sometimes confusing space-age touchscreens and panels found on some more-expensive units. The 2.5-inch color LCD is small but easy to read. You can even scan to a PC from the MFP's control panel--a rare ability at this price.

Setup on the PC platform was easy. USB, ethernet, and Wi-Fi connectivity are available. The only hitch occurred during Mac installation, which presented us with two separate entries in the Add Printer dialog box: one listed as Bonjour-connected and the other on 'canonijnetwork'. Even though we could use Safari to browse to the MFP's HTML configuration pages with either listing, only the 'canonijnetwork' listing functioned properly.

The Pixma MX420 has a 30-sheet automatic document feeder that scans up to legal-size documents, with a convenient flip-open panel for clearing jams, should they occur. The flatbed scanner is letter/A4-size. Otherwise, the paper-handling features are adequate only for low-usage scenarios. You'll find just a single, 100-sheet rear vertical feed for all media types. Duplexing (two-sided printing) is manual on the PC and nonexistent on the Mac.

Print, copy, and scan speeds for the Pixma MX420 are below average, though still acceptable. Black text and simple monochrome graphics printed at a rate of 5.6 pages per minute on both the PC and Mac. A small photo printed on the PC took about 25 seconds (2.3 ppm) at the default setting with plain paper, and 45 seconds (1.3 ppm) at better settings on Canon's own photo paper. A full-page photo printed on the Mac plodded out at a rate of 0.28 ppm. At 600 dots per inch, scan previews took about 6 seconds, and a full scan required about 45 seconds. A one-page monochrome copy took about 21 seconds.

Although we conduct our performance tests and quality judging using a printer's default settings (usually a balance of quality and speed), the Pixma MX420 speeds up dramatically when you switch to its 'fast' mode, or draft mode. The quality is acceptable for in-house use, and you can save a considerable amount of time and ink.

The Pixma MX420 continues the Canon tradition of producing graphics on plain paper that seem overexposed. This look turns into a bright, warm effect when the same graphics are printed on photo paper, though a slightly washed-out appearance persists in the lighter areas of a photo. The company does allow you a lot of leeway in adjusting colors using the Vivid Photo, Image Optimizer, and Photo Optimizer settings found under the Effects tab of the printer driver. Happily, Canon knows black: the text and monochrome output of the Pixma MX420 is dark and crisp.

The good news about the Pixma MX420's inks is that color costs are reasonable. The standard-size tricolor cartridge (cyan, magenta, and yellow) costs $21 and lasts 244 pages, or 8.6 cents per page; the high-yield version costs $27 and lasts 346 pages (7.7 cents per page). Unfortunately, black ink is expensive: $16 for the standard, 220-page size (7.3 cents per page), and $22 for the high-yield, 401-page size (5.5 cents per page). A low-volume user may not mind such costs, but if you print primarily text and monochrome graphics, over time the MX420 will be an expensive printer to operate.

For light use in a home office, the Canon Pixma MX420 is a decent buy--especially if you stick with draft mode most of the time. But it remains a feature or two shy of multifunction perfection. If you want more features and speed, or better ink costs, consider spending another $50 and going for Canon's Pixma MX882 or the Epson WorkForce 635.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Fax capabilities come cheaply in the MX420, but meager paper handling and costly black ink limit this model to low-volume use.

    Pros

    • Automatic document feeder
    • Easy-to-use design

    Cons

    • Duplexing is manual and PC-only
    • Expensive black ink
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