You'll find more features available on competitors' similarly priced models, but if you value print quality and speed over extra bells and whistles then the Pixma iX6550 is definitely worth consideration.
Canon's Pixma iX6550 is one of an increasing number of medium-format printers on the market that allows you to print to A3 while remaining relatively affordable, as it can be bought online for around £160.
To be able to accept A3 sheets of paper, the Canon iX6550 obviously has to be larger than your average inkjet printer. It's certainly quite wide measuring 549mm, but it's not all that tall and deep, at least when the paper trays aren’t pulled out. With the trays, which can accept up to 150 sheets, fully extended for use with A3 sheets, the footprint does become quite large. However, the trays are telescopic so you don’t have to have them pulled all the way out if you're not using those larger sheets, which helps save a bit on space.
Like a lot of models targeted at home users, Canon has given the top of the printer a glossy finish, which initially looks quite appealing. Unfortunately, though, it really does show up fingerprints quite badly, so with a lot of use can quickly start to look a bit grubby. Around the sides, the chassis is finished in matte plastic, which is easier to keep clean.
This model doesn't have any networking support, so the only way to connect it to your computer is via USB. Unfortunately there's no other USB port, so the printer doesn't support PictBridge for direct printing from a digital camera. It also lacks memory card slots, which perhaps isn't surprising as there's no LCD screen either. In fact, the only controls on the front are a power button and a cancel button – all other settings are controlled via the printer's driver software on your computer.
Installing the printhead and cartridges is pretty straightforward, as when you lift the cover the mechanism moves to the centre to give you easy access. The iX6550 uses five cartridges. There's a standard black cartridge for black and white printing, along with individual cyan, magenta and yellow, plus an extra black cartridge to provide deeper more contrast-y black levels when printing photos.
The A3 printing is the key selling point of this model, but it can work with sheet sizes all the way down to 15x10 cm, with borderless printing supported across all sizes. The maximum print resolution is also high at 9,600 dpi.
When it comes to print speed the iX6550 isn’t a bad performer. Pre-processing, the time between clicking print on your computer and the printer actually kicking into life, was generally around 10 to 12 seconds for each document. It managed to print the ten pages of our black and white text document in one minute and four seconds and it took two minutes and 17 seconds to deliver our ten-page business presentation in colour. Printing ten copies of our colour graphics test document on the other hand took two minutes and 38 seconds. All these results are relatively fast speeds for an inkjet model. It was no slouch when it came to photo printing either, as it spewed out a single copy of our 4x6-inch test photo in one minute and three seconds.
Print quality is generally pretty good, although printed text did have a slight amount of bleed here and there and was not as clean as what you'll get from a laser printer. Where this model really excels, though, is in colour graphics and photo printing. Not only is it quick, but it also produces rich, clean colours with none of the speckling or banding that you sometimes see on lesser models.
Print costs for a black A4 page work out at about 3.59p including paper, which is a little on the high side, but a colour A4 page works out at around 9.34p per page which is slightly better than average.
If you need A3 printouts then the Canon Pixma iX6550 is a pretty decent option mainly due to its fairly speedy output and the high quality results it produces. However, given the lack of extras such as Wi-Fi and PictBridge support, it seems a bit pricey next to the competition. For example, the Brother DCP-6690CW offers more features, including a Wi-Fi, a touchscreen, PictBridge and memory cards slots for a similar outlay. That said, that model is a bit slow and doesn't produce as good results as the Canon.
Edited by Jennifer Whitehead