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Canon Pixma IP4600
The $100 (as of 3/3/09) Canon Pixma iP4600 color inkjet printer is inexpensive to buy and maintain. Although it's minimally equipped and slow when printing text, it's still worth considering for the budget-minded home user and amateur photographer.
The Pixma iP4600 printed fairly well on plain paper in our tests. Though text pages exited at a snail's pace of 7.3 pages per minute (ppm), they looked black and crisp on all but the most intricate fonts. Photos were slightly grainy and pale, but still acceptable. Predictably, Canon's own photo paper improved matters: Images showed better detail and smoothness, and flesh tones were pleasing despite containing a slight hint of yellow. Best of all, the iP4600 printed photos quickly--its 1.9-ppm rate is currently one of the best results we've seen.
All that attractive output costs well below average to print, too. At the time of this review, the standard-size inks cost $15 for a 350-page pigment black for printing text (or 4.3 cents per page). The remaining dye-based colors--cyan, magenta, yellow, and a second photo black designed for greater color depth--have yields ranging from 471 to 665 pages. A page with all four colors (except photo black) cost 12.2 cents at this writing.
The Pixma iP4600 has many nice features, but it makes one odd omission: It has no media readers, offering just a front PictBridge port instead. I don't understand how Canon can market this model as a photo printer when it lacks the ability to read cards.
You do get two input trays: a bottom-dwelling cassette, which takes only plain paper (150 sheets), and a rear vertical tray for up to 150 sheets of various media, including envelopes, photo paper, and legal-size paper. Automatic two-sided printing is an impressive inclusion on a printer this inexpensive.
Canon makes setup easy even for novices. Instructions in the concise "Getting Started" pamphlet are clear and amply illustrated. The printer communicates status and error messages via your computer screen, which is good, because all that the printer's front panel provides are two buttons with LEDs that light or blink in ways that are largely mysterious until you consult the documentation.
Even missing a few luxuries such as media slots and an LCD screen, the Canon Pixma iP4600 is still an excellent--and inexpensive--choice for your home. Out of the box, using standard cartridges, printing color on the iP4600 is a lot cheaper than doing so on its close competitor, the HP Photosmart D5460.
Canon Pixma IP4600
While the photo quality and speed are pleasing, the lack of media slots and the merely decent text speed are not.
- Low price; economical inks
- Comparatively fast at printing photos
- Slow while printing text
- No media slots