Although it excels at photo printing, the Canon MultiPass MP390 multifunction inkjet printer also copies, faxes, and scans. As a standalone device, the MP390 prints photos directly from any digital camera or camera memory card, and it scans, sends faxes, and copies in both black and white and color. Small ink tanks and the lack of an automatic document feeder limit the MP390's potential for busy medium-size office use, however, and this machine doesn't scan slides or film, so digital photographers should turn instead to the six-ink Epson Stylus Photo RX500. Similarly, bargain hunters should consider the inexpensive and frugal Lexmark PrinTrio P3150 first. That said, most small or home offices looking for affordable faxing, scanning, and photo-printing capabilities will be pleased with the MultiPass MP390. The Canon MultiPass MP390 is surprisingly stylish. Unlike some unwieldy-looking multifunction printers we've seen lately, the MP390 sports well-integrated and very high-tech details, including a faux brushed-aluminum scanner lid and clear black plastic sides with matte-finish, battleship-gray detailing. The front output tray unfolds from the center and a rear-mounted, 100-sheet feeder tray opens from the back. Should you forget to open the front output tray before copying or printing, the MP390 thoughtfully opens it for you, smoothly and quietly. With both paper trays open and fully extended, the printer measures 11.3 inches tall by 21.5 inches long by 17.9 inches wide--about average for a multifunction printer these days.
The flatbed scanner sits on top, alongside a two-line, 20-character LCD panel and button-filled control panel to the right of the scanner lid. The LCD displays functions and menus; the buttons control copying, faxing, scanning, and printing photos and photo indexes. A ring of four additional buttons cancels operations in progress, initiates black-and-white or color scanning, or reboots the printer. There is also a full numeric telephone keypad for standalone fax functions. The control key layout is both clean and functional.
Canon handily tucks away built-in camera card memory slots behind a curved plastic door on the lower-right side of the MultiPass MP390. One slot takes Memory Stick, SmartMedia, MultiMediaCard, and Secure Digital memory cards; the other takes CompactFlash, xD-Picture Card, and Microdrive cards. For printing directly from a Bubble Jet Direct or PictBridge digital camera or camcorder, a USB 2.0 port resides beneath the memory card slots.
On the backside you'll find a USB 2.0 connection port for your PC (note that to obtain true USB 2.0 speed, you'll need a USB 2.0 port on the PC as well as Windows XP SP1 or Windows 2000 SP 4). There are also two phone jacks, one for a direct telephone line and the other for a telephone or an answering machine.
The printer's only design flaw is Canon's use of two cartridges, one tricolor ($18.50) and one black ink ($7.00), each rated at only 300 sheets or so. Other vendors offer individual cartridges for each color, thus reducing the cost of consumables over the lifetime of the printer. The Canon MultiPass MP390 prints photos well, either from your PC desktop or directly from a digital camera. When printing from a PictBridge-compatible digital camera or camcorder, simply connect the camera to the MP390's DirectPrint port and use the camera's own print menu to make selections. When using a digital camera memory card, insert the card into the appropriate slot and create a contact sheet using the Photo Index Sheet button. Then mark the images and sizes you want, scan the completed Index Sheet, and wait for the MP390 to print your photos. This feature brings the MP390 up to speed with current multifunction printers from HP and Epson.
Standalone fax capabilities set the MultiPass MP390 apart from its competitors. The MP390 uses a fast G3 33.6Kbps fax modem with a full range of options, including up to 40 speed-dial numbers, automatic redialing, storage for up to 200 pages, and five different settings for receiving faxes and incoming calls. Too many multifunction printers these days use only Windows-based fax software, so the MP390 is a good value if faxes are important to your business.
As a scanner, the MultiPass MP390 scans documents one at a time from its glass flatbed and can be controlled either by the control panel or the PC in conjunction with the Canon's MP Toolbox 4.1 scanning software. The MP390 comes with Canon's ScanGear MP, a TWAIN, or go-between, scanning utility for use with the included image-editing and photo-printing software, ArcSoft PhotoStudio. For converting scanned text into editable form, the MP390 comes with the optical character recognition (OCR) program ScanSoft OmniPage SE. In our informal testing, this proved to be a winning software combination.
Using the MultiPass MP390 as a standalone copier is easy. Just place a document on the glass, set the size and paper type on the control panel, and press the Copy button. To make book and magazine scanning equally easy, the MP390's lid has a raised hinge.
Additional software includes Easy-PhotoPrint Plus, a web-printing tool called Easy-WebPrint, and Adobe Acrobat Reader, which all install along with the print drivers. Printing performance
In CNET Labs' performance tests, the Canon MultiPass MP390 proved itself reasonably fast, although nowhere near the vendor's claims. On monochrome text, it printed our test document at 5.4 pages per minute (ppm), well below the vendor's claim of 18ppm but faster than the Epson Stylus CX6400 photo's 4.8ppm. It printed an 8x10 photograph in 3.2 minutes per page (mpp), just a mite faster than the 3mpp from the Epson Stylus CX6400 photo.
As for print quality, the MultiPass MP390's text looked good, exhibiting excellent density but not completely crisp edges. On photos, the MP390 printed vibrant, highly saturated colors and outstanding detail.
Scanning and copying performance
As a scanner, the Canon MultiPass MP390 performed faster than the Epson Stylus CX6400 photo, scanning monochrome black images at 6ppm, just a little faster than the Epson's 3.5ppm. It scanned color documents at 2.8ppm, much faster than the Epson Stylus CX6400 photo's 1.5ppm.
Both the color and monochrome scans produced by the MultiPass MP390 were good but not spectacular. The color scan showed good color-matching ability, though it was grainy and blotchy in places. The monochrome scan reproduced a photograph smoothly but could not re-create sharp-looking text, especially in font sizes smaller than 10 points.
As a standup copier, the MultiPass MP390 made 2.6 monochrome copies per minute, slower than the Epson Stylus CX6400 photo's 3.2ppm. Also, the copier quality was not great. Text came out dark and illegible, and the graphics were much too dark and blurry. By contrast, color copies were clear and sharp on text, graphics and photos.
Find out more about how CNET Labs tests printers.
Multifunction printer text speed
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Multifunction color-photo speed test
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Multifunction scan and copy speed test
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The Canon MultiPass MP390 comes with the industry-standard one-year limited warranty plus Canon's Instant Exchange program for replacement of a defective printer. Free telephone support is available for only 90 days after the first call; however, the number listed is not toll-free. Support is available Monday through Friday, excluding holidays, from 8 a.m. to midnight, and Saturday noon to 8 p.m. ET. Out-of-warranty phone calls are $9.99 each.
The MultiPass MP390 also comes with a foldout setup sheet and a printed, 184-page user guide, something you don't often see. Canon does offer free help on its Web site, where you can e-mail questions to technical support, download drivers, and read answers to basic questions.