Take the minimalist design of the Canon Pixma MX330, add the functionality of the Canon Pixma MX7600, finish it off with built-in Wi-Fi, and you've got the Canon Pixma MX860. It's the only printer in the series that offers wireless while still maintaining all the features you need to print, scan, fax, and copy. Despite small missteps in output quality, the $199 Pixma MX860 is a worthwhile printer for shoppers who need a multifunctional printer at a very reasonable cost.
The Pixma MX860 retains the same shape as the MX330, measuring 18.1 inches wide by 16.2 inches deep by 7.8 inches tall with grooved handles on the bottom of the device that makes it easy to move around. The curved edges and integrated control panel both exude a very sleek, attractive appeal that will work just as well in the office as it will in the home. The large 2.5-inch LCD screen is fixed inside the neatly organized control panel; the left side houses the power button as well as shortcuts for copy, fax, and scanning, and the right side contains the usual fare of menu, settings, numerical keys, and navigation buttons. Canon also includes a few more buttons than the MX330 to justify the $90 price difference, including a dedicated Memory Card button for copying and printing images directly from the reader at the bottom and some smaller keys that automatically dial your preset fax numbers.
Canon offers three different options for paper input; the easiest method is through the 150-sheet tray that pulls out from underneath the folding output bay. You can throw another 150 sheets into the rear-loading cassette, and both trays have small plastic guides to fit a variety of sizes from 4-inch by 6-inch all the way up to legal-sized media and No. 10 envelopes. The versatility of the dual paper feeds gives the user the opportunity to store smaller photo paper in the rear tray and normal 8-inch by 10-inch sheets in the front. The driver also does a good job of automatically choosing the right tray and paper for any particular job. The third and final paper input tray is the auto-document feeder that sits on top of the unit and can hold up to 35 sheets of plain paper to copy or scan. Like most of the other trays that extend out, the ADF neatly tucks back into body of the printer.
The scanner bay is hidden in the middle of the printer, but you can also prop that open to reveal the MX860's five-ink cartridge bay that includes four dye-based inks in addition to a pigment-based ink for black text. We've always been big fans of separate ink cartridge bays because they save money, and the MX860 is no different. According to Canon's Web site, each color ink tank costs $12.99 for a replacement cartridge, while the pigment-based black tanks cost $14.90 each. Canon estimates a black-and-white document will cost $0.03, a full-color document $0.05, and $0.0529 per 4-inch-by-6-inch color photo; all average prices for today's typical photo printer.
We're also happy to see that the MX860 includes a dedicated, covered media card reader, especially since we dinged the MX330 for its omission. This one is located at the bottom of the printer to the right of the paper output tray and has slots for MS Duo, SD/MS, and Compact Flash cards. Once you plug in a card, the MX860 gives you two ways to print out the contents: you can either pick several pictures using the navigation pad to create a batch print, or you can view, edit, and print individual pictures directly on the LCD. Manual edits include red-eye reduction, color effects like sepia and black-and-white, noise reduction, image optimizer, and so on. There's a PictBridge USB port down there as well that lets you connect a compatible digital camera directly to the printer.
The Pixma MP860 prints, scans, and copies over a USB 2.0 connection by default, but you can also connect it to a wired network through the Ethernet port on the back or over a wireless network using Wi-Fi. Like many other wireless printers on the market, the software needs to establish a USB connection first to create an ad-hoc connection over a router. The setup assistant on the driver had us printing wirelessly in less than 5 minutes, and we were able to connect using both a Mac and PC.
The printer comes with a driver installation CD with a robust software suite that will definitely appeal to your creative side. The settings let you cycle between commonly used quality templates like standard, business, paper-saving, and photo printing that automatically adjusts paper size and orientation, paper, and output quality. The driver lets you dive deeper into photo editing with options for vivid photos, borderless, monochrome effects, and even manual color adjustments, while the pop-up status monitor gives you a heads up view of the job status, document name, printer status, and a rough idea of the current levels of ink. We much prefer the status monitor on the driver that comes with the MP860, especially as opposed to the MP330's that didn't show the print progress.
The MX860 driver also automatically installs Canon's Easy Photo Print EX software onto your computer that flaunts all the creative features of the MX330. It lets you print simple snapshot photos on the fly, create whole albums of artwork, print calendars with custom pictures, and custom stickers using Canon's proprietary sticker paper. The explorer window on the main page works just like a Windows Explorer pane, except we prefer HP's Solution Center layout that automatically scans and detects printable pictures on your hard drive for you. Canon's creative suite is incredibly easy to use, however, and even lets you make simple photo edits like red-eye correction, face sharpening, and blemish removal, which is great for users who don't want to deal with the hassle of third-party editing software like Adobe Photoshop.