Canon Pixma iP5000
Automatic duplexing, dual paper trays with a combined 300-sheet capacity, tiny droplets, and decent speed make the Canon Pixma iP5000 a versatile inkjet option for home users who need both text and graphics output. As a four-color model, it lacks the cred and the quality to compete with real photo printers--despite Canon's Pixma marketing strategy--but its photo-printing quality surpasses that of most SOHO competitors, making it a great general-purpose choice. Pity it lacks built-in networking; we might have bumped up the rating into Editors' Choice territory. Setting up this printer mostly entails installing the printer drivers and the optional image-editing, organizing, and Web-page-printing software--a 10-minute chore at most. Physical setup involves little more than connecting the power cord, linking the printer to your computer through a USB 2.0 cable, and installing the printhead and the five ink tanks.
A sleek 16.5 by 11.2 by 6.7 inches (WDH) and about 15 pounds, the Canon Pixma iP5000 unfolds for use, with a flip-up 150-sheet autofeeder tray that needs no extra clearance behind the printer and a flip-down 50-sheet output tray that extends 6 inches in front. A second paper source, a 150-sheet cassette (20 sheets if using 4x6-inch paper), expands to accommodate letter-size sheets. There's also a cover on the back of the printer that opens to allow unsnarling paper jams; however, we didn't experience any jams during our tests, even when duplexing.
Like that of other Pixmas, this printer's operation is driver-centric. There's a large power switch in the upper-right corner, a PictBridge port, a paper-feed button, and a paper-input-source switch. The power LED flashes in cycles of two to nine bursts to indicate status and error conditions, but it's generally easier to monitor the software status monitor for updates.
Front-panel LEDs illuminate to show which paper tray has been selected, but the printer switches automatically from one source to the other, and the switch setting can be overridden from the printer driver.
The printer doesn't automatically know which size paper is loaded into each tray. As a result, we'd initially choose the wrong source when using two different sizes of stock, repeatedly printing 8.5x11-inch output onto 4x6-inch paper in the cassette or wasting a full-size sheet with snapshot-size prints. That's when we discovered the valuable Paper Allocation feature, which allows you to specify the type of paper loaded into the cassette. When the absentminded choose the wrong input source, the printer switches automatically from the cassette to the automatic sheet feeder. Used correctly, this feature simplifies working with multiple-size sheets simultaneously.The Canon Pixma iP5000 uses a 1,856-nozzle version of Canon's Full-Photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering (FINE) printhead, spitting 1-picoliter droplets of ink. Up to 32 droplets form a pixel, for an effective color resolution of 9,600x2,400dpi. Canon's ContrastPlus ink system uses four dye-based cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks for photos and a pigment-based black for text. It uses the same BCI-6 color tanks as several other Pixmas; refills cost about $12 per color. A BCI-3e black tank, which will run you around $14, handles text. An optical monitoring system tracks usage and offers a warning before each tank is completely depleted.
Compatible papers include Canon Photo Paper Pro, Photo Paper Plus, and other stocks in glossy, semigloss, and matte surfaces, plus transparencies, plain paper, envelopes, and other business-oriented papers. Retail prices range from $9.99 for 50 sheets of the matte photo paper to $15.99 for 10 sheets of a semigloss double-sided paper that lets you use the duplexing feature to print on both sides of sheets to bind into albums or presentations.
As with other Pixmas, Canon's printer driver divides key functions among six easy-to-navigate tabs. The main tab supplies drop-down lists for choosing paper type and input source. You can tell the printer to use the default source specified by the its feed switch, override the switch to use the top tray or the lower cassette, or choose continuous autofeed to switch automatically from one source to the other when the selected tray runs out. The Paper Allocation feature can be used to specify both the size and the surface type of paper loaded into the cassette.
The main tab's Print Quality settings include High, Standard, and Draft quality. A Custom setting lets you trade off between Fast/Coarse and Slow/Fine print quality and specify the type of halftoning applied to photo images. Automatic color adjustment can be tweaked manually with cyan, magenta, yellow, and black sliders. You can also use Windows' Image Color Management (ICM) for software-based color management or the sRGB color space for automatic color matching. There's a check box to select grayscale printing and a wizard-based print adviser to provide help for inexperienced users.