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Canon CP-300 review: Canon CP-300

Fortunately, the drivers are very simple and easy to use. There are only three tabs on the interface to regulate paper size and orientation, color saturation and hue, and utilities. The printer also comes with ZoomBrowser EX and PhotoRecord software, Canon's basic image management software. These apps help you manage your photos, edit them, change print layouts, add a framelike border, and more. Canon's software is reasonably easy to use, but its interface is not quite as logicial as HP's, so you may have to refer to the on-CD user guide.

The Canon CP-300's setup is as easy as can be. The included printed setup pamphlet shows how to load the paper trays and change the ink cartridge. We appreciated the guide's helpful descriptions of what you can do with the CP-300, such as printing a picture directly from your camera, adding captions to photos, and even making business cards.

The Canon CP-300 differs from HP's Photosmart 145 and 245 in two ways. First, unlike HP, Canon uses dye-sublimation technology instead of inkjet technology. This means that instead of spraying tiny droplets of ink, the printer heats and applies wax to the photo paper in layers of color. Second, the CP-300 sucks the paper in and out a few times as it applies each layer, and the ink cartridge (actually a ribbon) looks like a tiny toner cartridge. Fortunately, the layering process doesn't slow the printing process: the CP-300 was quite speedy in CNET Labs tests, printing our test 4x6-inch photo at 1.5 minutes per page (mpp), compared to a sluggish 2.4mpp for the HP 245 and 2.7mpp for the HP 145.

The CP-300's print quality was also good in our tests. Because dye sublimation uses no droplets, you'll see no dithering whatsoever, making for very smooth skin tones and a waxy sheen that gives a filmlike look to photos. We did notice, however, that the CP-300's output was slightly darker overall than our control photo, which is what kept the printer from earning an excellent rating.

Given the high purchase price of the CP-300, we were a bit disappointed to discover that the included ink ribbon is good for only five prints. This means that you'll have to spend an extra $20 on a 36-print ribbon when you buy the printer. However, if Canon's estimates are correct, the cost of printing should run you about 56 cents per 4x6-inch printout, which is decent for a photo printer and about the same the cost of buying and developing a roll of film.

Inkjet color-photo speed test  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Canon CP-300
HP Photosmart 245
HP Photosmart 145
Note: Minutes per page.

Color-photo printer quality
•Poor   ••Fair   •••Good   ••••Excellent
 Printer  Coated-paper text  Coated-paper graphics  8.5x11 color image on photo paper
 Canon CP-300 ••• ••• •••
 HP Photosmart 245 ••• ••• •••
 HP Photosmart 145 •• •• ••

Canon backs the CP-300 with an industry-standard one-year warranty. Toll-free tech support is available for the life of the printer from Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to midnight and Saturday from 12 noon to 8 p.m. ET. Canon's Web site offers other good tech-support options, including e-mail support, driver downloads, a glossary of technical terms, and software instructions.

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