The Canon iP3500's design is simple and straightforward. The black-and-silver printer stands 17.2 inches wide, 11.9 inches deep, and 5.7 inches tall, and it weighs 10.8 pounds. The control panel is basically nonexistent. The only features on the front of the printer are the power and cancel/feed buttons and a PictBridge-enabled USB port.
The printer has two input options. The rear input support folds out from the body of the printer, while the front input support extends out from the front face. The rear input holds as many as 150 sheets of plain paper and is good for all the acceptable paper types. The front input holds up to 100 sheets of plain paper and should be used only for plain paper. Because the path for paper fed through the front input requires the paper to bend around a roller, it's not recommended for any thick media, such as photo paper. The output area consists of a tray above the front input area. Many Canon printers offer a lever that you can use to change the distance between the print heads and the paper; normally, the lever is hidden away in the bowels of the front output area, but on the iP3500, Canon moved it to the face of the printer, making it easier to find.
The iP3500 uses a four-ink system with individual ink cartridges, a system we like because it reduces ink waste. The black tank costs $16.25 to replace and each of the color inks costs $14.25 to replace. Canon estimates the per-page costs for the Pixma iP3500 to be 3 cents for a black-and-white print and 5 cents for a full-color print. Both numbers are low and reasonable for a low-cost printer.
The feature set of the iP3500 is predictably simple. The only connection option is USB 2.0. It does serve up a PictBridge USB port for connecting PictBridge cameras and other devices, but it lacks memory card slots. Users who have IrDA-enabled devices can print wirelessly from smart phones and the like.
Because the printer lacks a control panel, any changes need to be made through the driver, which is comprehensive. You can specify the paper type, change the paper source (front or rear), perform manual duplex jobs, and even apply photo treatments such as monochrome effects (black-and-white, sepia, and so forth), noise reduction, and photo optimizer. You can even create profiles for your most common types of print jobs.
The Pixma iP3500 performed well against its similarly priced competition in terms of print speeds, even taking top honors on one test. It printed black text at a rate of 6.52 pages per minute (ppm), just shy of the Lexmark Z1420's score of 6.68ppm. The Canon produced color graphics prints at a rate of 2.07ppm, which trailed the HP Deskjet D4260 (2.26ppm) but was more than twice as fast as the Lexmark. The Canon was the fastest at printing 4x6 photos, just squeaking by the HP with a score of 1.09ppm.
Of the three, we preferred the print quality of the Pixma iP3500 overall. It did a good job with all the print tasks, though there's room for improvement. The black text print showed decent sharpness and legibility: we were able to easily read the text down to 2 points. The characters were nicely dark, too. Close inspection found some minor jagged edges, not particularly surprising for an inexpensive inkjet printer. The color graphics print revealed sharp details in photo elements, pleasing saturation, and good color reproduction. The color gradients had a bit of a faded quality to them, but generally we were quite pleased. The 4x6 photo also showed nice detail but was marred by a slight yellow cast over the whole picture. The colors should be warmer, particularly the flesh tones, and the image could stand to be a bit sharper. Overall, the print quality was good enough for general home use.
Service and support
Canon offers a standard one-year warranty for the Pixma iP3500. Toll-free phone support is available weekdays from 8 a.m. to midnight PT and on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. E-mail support is available 24-7 via a Web-based form. Canon's standard online support options include downloadable drivers and software, manuals, and FAQs.