The Pixma iP4000 is the flagship in Canon's new line of four-color printers. What does that mean for you and me? Direct printing from a Canon or PictBridge-compatible digital camera, good print quality across the board, fast print speeds, and best of all, a low price ($149 list).
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.Taking a page out of Epson's book, the Canon Pixma iP4000 eschews the bulging-belly design in favor of a rectangular bread-box look. Frankly, neither approach is terribly attractive or innovative, but in the iP4000's case, we appreciate that the top input guide and the front output tray fold into the body of the printer for a clean, uncluttered, "at rest" look. One unusual feature in a low-cost inkjet is the 150-sheet paper drawer that slides in and out of the bottom of the printer--generally found only on HP inkjets and higher-end laser printers. We also like the way the power button is embedded in the right-hand corner of the printer; it doesn't do anything special, but it looks cool. When you open the output tray, you'll see a button that lets you toggle between the top and bottom input trays. The change is indicated by LEDs much like those on a copy machine. There are also USB and parallel ports for connecting to your PC or Mac (no cables included) and a direct-print port for Canon cameras or any camera that supports the PictBridge direct-print standard. The Canon Pixma iP4000 is a four-color printer. This means that you get dye-based cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks plus a pigment-based black. You can replace cartridges individually, which saves money and reduces waste because you don't have to throw out the whole expensive color set every time one hue runs out. Inks run $12 for the four standard cartridges and $14 for the pigment black.
Canon includes a few photo-friendly apps on the installation CD, including PhotoRecord for making and personalizing a photo album; Easy-PhotoPrint for tasks such as quick, borderless printing and red-eye correction; and Easy-WebPrint, which ensures that you can print an entire Web page without cutting off the edges. Canon's drivers are extremely easy to use and offer enough advanced options to keep the family digital-photo geek busy. The drivers are organized into tabs. The Main tab lets you adjust print quality, paper type, and colors (including a manual option for regulating individual color levels and intensity). It also features the Print Advisor button, which asks questions about your intended print job and adjusts driver settings accordingly. Other tabs include Page Setup for paper size, borderless printing, and manual duplexing (printing on two sides); Stamp/Background for adding stamps and watermarks; Effects, which lets you create simulated illustrations and vivid photos; and Profiles, which saves your personal print settings. There's also a Maintenance tab for cleaning, tweaking printhead alignment, and setting the quiet-print mode.One thing we can say about Canon printers: they're almost always faster than the competition. The Pixma iP4000 manages a brisk 6.69 pages per minute (ppm) when printing text (4ppm to 5ppm is about average) and an extremely fast 1.82 minutes per page when printing an 8x10 photo, whereas many printers take more than 4 minutes to do this. Based on our calculations, you're looking at approximately 9 cents for a standard (20 percent coverage) letter-size page and 31 cents for an 8x10 photo with the BCI-3e black cartridge; with the BCI-6Bk cartridge, the totals will be 10 cents and 34 cents, respectively.
Competing printers typically ship with only a pigment-based tank and make a composite black for photo printing out of cyan, magenta, and yellow. In contrast, the iP4000 ships with a dye-based cartridge for photo printing and a pigment-based black for text files. The dye-based black does give the iP4000 a leg up on the competition, but the iP4000's output still has its problems.
Text looks nice and dark at arm's length, but close inspection by a trained eye reveals a lot of feathering around the edges of the letters. Still, the average consumer probably won't notice the text blips and in fact might prefer the dark text, even if it means sacrificing some crispness. When we printed a mixed text-and-graphics document on high-resolution paper with the driver set to standard-quality/high-resolution paper type, the output looked much better. Black text elements were crisp around the edges, with no feathering visible to the naked eye.