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Canon i860 review: Canon i860

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The Good Five-ink system; fast print speeds; 4x6-inch photo-paper tray; USB 2.0 port.

The Bad No LCD preview; lacks camera-card reader.

The Bottom Line The i860 is the rare photo printer that quickly prints both text and high-quality photos. For photo-printing frills, however, look to the i900D.

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7.9 Overall

Canon i860

Roughly about the size and shape of an old-fashioned bread box, the $149, silver-and-gray Canon i860 is an all-purpose desktop photo printer designed for printing both good-looking photos and sharp plain-paper text in a hurry. Anyone looking to buy a combination photo printer and fast text printer should look no further than the Canon i860. However, if fast text printing is not a big concern and you'd rather have photo features, such as a built-in camera-card memory slot and LCD photo previews, skip the i860 and check out the more expensive Canon i900D or the HP Photosmart 7960 instead.

The i860, like its pricier sibling, the Canon i900D, is both Windows and Mac compatible and comes equipped for either USB or parallel connection. The i860 also includes an extra paper tray to hold 4x6-inch photo paper. An additional front-panel, USB 2.0 direct-print port allows for direct-from-the-camera printing from PictBridge-compatible digital cameras and camcorders. (PictBridge is a direct-from-the-camera printing standard developed by Canon, which is expected to be implemented soon by HP, Epson, Fuji, Nikon, Olympus, and Sony.) Unfortunately, there are no camera-card memory slots on the i860.

Along with the printer drivers that Canon bundles on the installation CD, there are also several photo-enhancing software apps, including PhotoStitch, Easy-PhotoPrint, PhotoRecord (PC only), ZoomBrowserEX (PC only), Easy-WebPrint (PC with Internet Explorer 5.5 or 6.0 only), and ImageBrowser (Mac).

Unlike the six-color i900D, the i860 is a four-color printer that sports an extra black-ink cartridge for text printing. Canon calls this system Contrast Plus, a somewhat awkward name for a five-cartridge ink system that features four standard, dye-based photo-ink colors (CMYK) and an extra, pigment-based, black ink for plain- or coated-paper text printing. This is a nice feature for people who print photos and use their printer as a plain- or coated-paper, text-only inkjet.

The i860 blazed through CNET Labs speed tests, printing a letter-size photo on photo paper in 1.9 minutes. This is faster than the Canon i900D photo printer, which costs almost $100 more yet printed the same test photo in 2.7 minutes. The i860 hurled out plain-paper text at a rate of 6.3 pages per minute (ppm), faster than all other Canon photo printers except its older brother, the Canon i560, which managed 6.8ppm.

The i860 printed photos on photo paper and text on plain paper clearly and without printer-induced flaws, such as banding or dots, and it contained plenty of fine detail. However, the text was not as black and saturated as we'd like, and some skin tones in the test photographs had a yellowish cast to them.

Inkjet printer text speed  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Pages per minute  
Canon i560
Canon i860
Canon i475D

Inkjet color-photo speed test  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Minutes per page  
Canon i560
Canon i860
Canon i475D

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