The trade-off between the price you pay for a printer and the subsequent charges you incur when you need ink refills has long been a bugbear of computer users.
Canon’s Pixma iP4600 doesn’t solve the problem entirely, primarily because it has five ink tanks (which seem a little smaller than the previous model), and the cheapest we could find fresh ink was around £40 for a full set. That’s not bad by current standards, but it’s still worth bearing in mind in case you think that the £75 street price of the unit itself is a bit of a bargain.
To be fair it isn’t a bad deal, not least because the quality of the printouts the machine produces is so good. It’s packaged well, with Canon putting together a thorough box of pretty much everything you’d need, from an easy-to-follow instruction guide through to a software CD and a tray for you, should you choose to print directly onto a disc surface.
And we had the machine up and running in about quarter of an hour, simply by following said instructions carefully. Things slowed down when it undertook its ink calibration, but half an hour after taking the machine out of the box, it was ready to use.
The Pixma iP4600 is a photo-ready inkjet, and so it seemed appropriate to kick off with some photographic material. The supplied software invites you to choose what kind of paper you want to print onto, and once we’d made our choices we were ready to go.
And this is where the iP4600 really made its mark. It may lack some of the gizmos of more expensive models, but when it comes to the job of printing – what it’s here for, after all – it produces very good results. The photographs it churned out, while they took a little time, were exceptionally strong, with vibrant colour reproduction and subtle handling of shades.
Even when printing text – and the iP4600 has a dedicated black ink tank – its performance was strong and reflecting what you might expect from a unit costing twice the price. Output speeds were just shy of two minutes for a full A4 photograph and we were getting just over nine pages of text per minute.
On the downside the printer itself is quite boxy, while the paper feeder at the back and the little-bit-fiddly tray underneath both hold around 150 sheets of paper each. And if it can’t grab some paper to print on, it does seem to go through a rather extended palaver. Yet forgive those faults and this is a good value, strong quality home inkjet printer, with real versatility for the asking price.
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