Canon i850 review: Canon i850

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.3
  • Design: 9.0
  • Features: 6.0
  • Performance: 7.0
  • Service and support: 7.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good High-quality photo prints; retractable paper trays; easy installation; fast.

The Bad Mediocre text and graphic printouts; USB cable not included; can't read removable media cards.

The Bottom Line This solid, speedy printer offers great photo prints but mediocre text and graphics.

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If you want a color printer that's compact, easy to use, and capable of churning out colorful, detailed photo prints, the Canon i850 fits the bill perfectly. The catch? Text and graphics printouts look adequate at best, suffering from fuzziness and poor color matching. Furthermore, this printer features no LCD or card reader, which would allow you to print photos directly from digital media. So although Canon claims the i850 is an all-purpose printer, we'd recommend it as a photo printer only. For a better all-around solution, check out the similarly priced Canon S530D Color Bubble Jet instead.



Sturdy, telescoping ink trays.
On the exterior, the Canon doesn't offer many extras. For example, there's neither an LCD for tracking print progress or reading errors, nor is there a card reader of any kind, so you can't print photos directly from digital camera media, such as a CompactFlash card or an IBM Microdrive. Only two buttons (Power and Troubleshooting) sit on top of the unit; however, those who are intimidated by lots of buttons and knobs will welcome this simplicity. Also convenient, the machine's paper trays retract easily, effectively shrinking the printer when it's not in use. The average-sized i850 weighs 7.3 pounds and measures 16.5 inches wide by 10.8 inches deep by 6.3 inches high, fitting easily on most desks. Its intake paper tray can hold up to 150 sheets of plain paper or 20 sheets of photo paper--plenty for an inkjet.

Thanks to an illustrated, step-by-step poster, it takes only a few minutes to set up the Canon--provided you already have a USB cable. The printer connects via both USB and traditional parallel ports; unfortunately (though the practice has become a standard among printer makers), you won't find either of these cables in the box. But Canon counters with compatibility. The i850 works with all versions of Windows, as well as Mac OS 8.6 to 9.x. It also works with Mac OS X 10.1 or above, but you must download the correct driver from Canon's Web site.




No LCD or media-card readers.


Both USB and parallel ports.




Canon's Think Tank ink system.
Despite the plain exterior, the i850 has undergone quite an internal metamorphosis. Its new printhead contains 1,600 nozzles and supports Canon's Microfine Droplet Technology, which is designed to allow faster print speed, higher image quality, and better ink management. The printer also sports Canon's Think Tank system, which uses four individual ink tanks, including black, cyan, yellow, and magenta, instead of just two (color and black). This way, if you run low on, say, yellow, you simply replace that single tank, rather than your whole color cartridge, and you won't waste ink. You can also buy either regular ink tanks or the more costly photo tanks, which are optimized to print photos.

Out of the box, the package includes the printer, the setup poster, a manual, one set of ink cartridges (black, cyan, yellow, and magenta), a printhead, a sample packet of photo papers, and a software CD. The disc itself contains printer drivers for Windows and Mac 8.6 to 9.x, plus lots of snazzy, handy programs, such as Easy-PhotoPrint, which helps you print photos with a few clicks. You'll also find PhotoRecord (Windows) to keep track of your digital photo album, ZoomBrowser EX (Windows) and ImageBrowser (Mac) to make photo viewing more convenient, and PhotoStitch (Windows/Mac), which puts images together to create panoramic pictures. The CD contains in-depth user and photo application guides that display in easy-to-navigate Web-page format.

In CNET Labs' performance tests, the i850 printed about 6 pages of text per minute, speedy for an inkjet. It even ran fast during the most-demanding task, taking only 1.8 minutes to pump out an 8.5x10-inch color test photo at the printer's highest-quality setting.

Inkjet printer text speed
Pages per minute (longer bars indicate better performance)
Canon S520
6.9 
Canon i850
5.6 
HP Photosmart 7550
3.8 
Epson Stylus Photo 925
1.5 
 
Inkjet printer color photo speed
Minutes to print a color photograph (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Canon S520
1.7 
Canon i850
1.8 
HP Photosmart 7550
5.3 
Epson Stylus Photo 925
7.1 


But the i850's fancy new printhead can't ensure superior quality. The printer produced mediocre text quality on plain paper; we found the characters fuzzy and lacking in detail. With high-resolution papers, however, the text quality appeared both crisper and smoother.



Middleweight long-term ink costs.


Unreliable output.


In printing graphics, on both plain and high-resolution papers, the Canon disappointed us with its inaccurate color matching; the orange was light, the purple low, and the black faded. Also we noticed distinct banding on the printouts, which made them look as though the picture were divided into many horizontal parts--not good.

On the other hand, this photo printer came through where it counts; our jury unanimously gave it the highest possible score on the photo tests. The i850's pictures were crisp and detailed, maintaining great color balance.

Inkjet printer quality
•Poor   ••Fair   •••Good   ••••Excellent
 Printer Text Graphics Photo
Plain paper  Coated paper  Plain paper  Coated paper  Photo paper 
 Canon S520 •• ••• ••• ••• •••
 Canon i850 •• ••• •• •• ••••
 Epson Stylus Photo 925 •• •• •• •• •••
 HP Photosmart 7550 ••• ••• •••• ••• ••••


Even better, the i850 ink costs won't break your bank. According to our Labs' calculations, you'll pay around 50 cents per 8.5x10-inch photo page and 4.1 cents per A4-sized black-and-white text page. All things considered, this sub-$200 printer costs less than many other printers that offer the same photo quality.




Download the latest printer drivers.
Using the i850 is a piece of cake, but if you need help, you have many options. In addition to reading the included CD-based user guides, you can access Canon's toll-free phone support 24/7. And Canon's Web site lets you download drivers, software updates, and instructions, as well as get answers to your questions from FAQs and via e-mail. Canon backs the i850 with a standard one-year warranty that covers parts and labor. During this time, Canon will ship you the replacement for a defective unit overnight so that you can conveniently return the bad printer in the replacement's box.

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Where to Buy

Canon i850

Part Number: 7820A001  Released: Sep. 16, 2002

MSRP: $149.99

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Sep. 16, 2002
  • Interface Parallel
  • Connectivity Technology wired
  • Printer Type Personal printer - ink-jet - color
  • Max Resolution ( Color ) 4800 x 1200 dpi
  • Max Speed 22 ppm
    14 ppm
    0.8 min/page
    1.5 min/page