Canon’s range of all-in-one printers is roughly divided into two markets. The PIXMA MX range is intended for the small and home office markets, while the PIXMA MP range is aimed more at the photo enthusiast. The PIXMA MP540 sports the silver and black lacquer look of many recent Canon printers and is so clean-cut when closed that you wonder where the controls and paper trays are.
Everything folds out of this machine, so the control panel comes into view when you flip up the 48mm LCD panel from its right-hand edge and the paper feed trays unfold and pull up from the rear of the machine and slide out from underneath it. The output tray folds down from the front, and does so automatically if you forget to open it manually.
The controls include Canon’s trademark click-wheel, which makes browsing through menus a breeze, and other buttons for selecting number of copies and for starting black and colour copy jobs. The display is big enough to preview thumbnails of photos you want to print from any of the supported memory card types. Sockets for these sit behind a flip-out cover below the control panel and can take SD, MemoryStick, CompactFlash and xD cards. There’s a PictBridge socket at the bottom, too, for a camera connection.
The paper tray and cassette can each take 150 sheets of plain paper and the rear tray can also be used for photo paper. This makes the machine very flexible and, in combination with the A4 CIS flatbed scanner, which gives good and reasonably true colour image scans, offers the facility for photo as well as plain paper copies.
Canon claims a black print speed of 7.3 page images per minute in black and 5.5 in colour, using the new ISO specification for print speeds. Both these speeds are measured without allowing for processing and preparation time, though, which is crafty, as the PIXMA MP540 takes a long time to prepare before printing.
In some of our tests it was nearly 30 seconds before the paper started moving. We measured speeds of 3.95ppm and 2.94ppm for black and colour prints, around 60 percent of the rated speeds, though 15 x 10cm photos took just over a minute to complete, which is very respectable.
The print quality on plain paper is good, with clean black text, bright colours and fine registration. Photo prints are among the very best we’ve seen on a machine costing less than £100, with natural colours, excellent levels of detail and smooth colour variations.
This is a five-cartridge printer, with photo black supplementing text black. At typical Internet prices, you’re looking at just over 3p per ISO page for black and 8.4p for colour. Both these are reasonable costs for an inkjet in this price range, when compared with its main rivals.
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