Canon Pixma iP1800
The Canon Pixma iP1800 is an entry-level, photo-oriented, single-function printer, and is the successor to the Pixma iP1700. For $50, you get a basic inkjet printer capable of printing decent-quality documents and photos. Though it lacks photo-oriented features such as media card readers and a PictBridge port (not surprising, considering the price), it does come with a comprehensive and easy-to-use software bundle that can help you create photo projects. We like this printer for home users with basic needs and a tight budget. We also like its print quality better than that of its low-cost competition, including the Lexmark Z845. Compared to the iP1700, the iP1800 offers a more complete software package and slightly faster photo prints, though the print quality is comparable.
The Canon Pixma iP1800 is a model of simplicity. Its all-black body measures 17.4 inches wide, 6 inches tall, and 9.3 inches deep, and weighs a feather-light 7.3 pounds. A simple paper support flap opens up from the top, and it features adjustable paper guides. Unfortunately, there is no output tray; printed pages are simply ejected from the front of the printer, so be sure to set the printer far back enough on your desk or table so that the pages don't go tumbling to the ground. This omission is puzzling, as a simple flap with a paper stop seems easy enough to add on. (Its predecessor, the Pixma iP1700 also lacked an output tray.) For example, on the Lexmark Z845, the output tray telescopes out from the body of the printer. Under the Canon Pixma iP1800 paper eject slot is a switch that you can adjust for the type of media you're using--keep it to the right for envelopes and t-shirt transfers, and to the left for all other types of media.
There's no control panel to speak of, just two buttons on top: power and paper feed. Despite the fact that this is a photo printer, it lacks media card slots and a PictBridge port, though this isn't surprising, considering the printer's low price.
The Pixma iP1800 uses a two-tank ink system: one black tank and one tricolor tank (cyan, yellow, magenta). Changing the tanks is an easy task: when you open the body of the printer, the print head slides into view. Simply pop out the depleted tanks and pop in fresh ones. Canon offers both regular- and high-capacity replacement tanks. The regular black tank costs $16 and the regular tricolor tank costs $20. The high-capacity versions of each cost $20 and $25, respectively. The lack of optional six-color printing and the printer's low purchase price mark this as a photo printer for casual snapshooters.
Canon estimates that an 8.5x11 page of black text will cost 7 cents and an 8.5x11 page of color graphics and text will cost about 11.5 cents. A standard 4x6 photo will cost roughly 28 cents. These numbers are a little higher than those from Lexmark, but are within the expected range for a low-cost inkjet printer.
The feature set for the iP1800 is very limited, due to the fact that it's a single-function printer. It's compatible with Windows Vista, Windows XP/2000, and Mac OS X v.10.2.8 to 10.4.x. It does come with three software suites: Canon My Printer, Easy-LayoutPrint, and Easy-PhotoPrint. Canon My Printer gives you quick access to printer settings, printer status, and troubleshooting. In the printer settings, you can specify media type and page layout, apply photo effects (for example, simulate illustration, monochrome effects, and photo noise reduction), set up profiles, or perform routine maintenance.
Easy-LayoutPrint provides step-by-step assistance in creating a number of photo-heavy projects, including albums, calendars, stickers, and regular layout prints. The program walks you through the steps, starting with choosing a project, deciding on layout, picking images, editing images and text, and changing print settings. It's a breeze to use and offers a variety of preset layouts and backgrounds. While it does offer a large selection of layouts, it doesn't allow you to manipulate and customize the layouts. For example, all of the inside pages in an album must use the same layout. To work around that, you could create multiple "albums" and collect all the prints into one album, but allowing users to edit layouts is a more user-friendly route.
Easy-PhotoPrint provides a tabbed interface for viewing all of the photos on your PC and printing them. With one button click, you can select all the photos in a folder and print. Or you can manually designate how many copies you want of each photo and make corrections or enhancements before printing. The corrections/enhancements tab allows you to make changes automatically or manually. If you choose the automatic red-eye correction, for example, the program will determine where red-eye occurs and correct it. If you'd rather do it manually, you can use your cursor to highlight the red-eye areas and apply the correction. Under enhancement, you can apply digital face smoothing and blemish remover tools. Both seem to generally blur the area you select, to provide an overall softer look. One feature we found really useful in the Easy-PhotoPrint software was the ability to compare the original photo to the corrected or enhanced photo side-by-side. Once you've saved your edits, you can choose the paper and a layout for your photo prints.
The Canon iP1800 performed as expected, considering its price. It printed text at a rate of 5.82 pages per minute, slightly slower than the Lexmark Z845's 6.85ppm. It was speedier than Lexmark at printing 4x6 photos, though: 0.72ppm vs. 0.48ppm from Lexmark.