The $80 Canon Pixma MP210 is the lowest-priced model in Canon's all-in-one inkjet printer line. It lacks features that would make it either office-oriented or photo-oriented, so it's best for general use and light workloads. It's missing a lot of the features that comparably priced all-in-ones offer, such as memory card slots, advanced copy and scan options, and even e-fax capability. It's also not the fastest of the pack, but it shines at task quality. If you're looking for a feature-packed budget all-in-one, you're better off with something like the Lexmark X3550, but if you're after the best print and scan quality to be had for $80, the Pixma MP210 is your best bet.
Design-wise, the Pixma MP210 more closely resembles its more expensive brethren than last year's budget models (such as the Pixma MP160). The light-gray-and-black printer sits 17.7 inches wide, 13.9 inches deep, and 6.7 inches tall, and weighs a light 12.8 pounds. The scanner lid conceals an A4-size flatbed scanner, and the lid rears back a bit to accommodate thick originals (up to 1-inch thick). The MP210 offers a front-mounted USB port for connecting PictBridge devices (such as cameras and camera phones) for PC-free printing.
The control panel is basic, befitting the basic nature of this all-in-one. Instead of a graphical or text LCD, a single-digit LED shows the number of copies. You can also browse the maintenance options on the LED, though you'll need the decoder ring (i.e., the user guide) to translate the single-letter codes. One button lets you designate the type of paper you're copying on (plain letter, photo letter, or 4x6 photo), while another turns on the fit-to-page option for copying. The scan button launches the MP Navigator EX program on your PC. Finally, two start buttons (color and black), a stop button, and three lights to indicate a problem or low ink levels round out the control panel.
The paper handling is typical of Canons: The input paper support folds out from the rear and holds up to 100 sheets. A panel on the front folds down to serve as the output tray. Deep within the bowels of the output tray is a lever that changes the distance between the print head and the paper. For the majority of paper types, keep the lever to the left; for envelopes and T-shirt transfers, switch it to the right.
The Pixma MP210 is compatible with two sets of Canon inks. The standard capacity black costs $16 and the standard tricolor costs $20. The larger black tank costs $20 and the larger tricolor costs $25. Canon estimates that a black-only print costs about 4 cents per page while a full-color print costs about 12 cents per page. While these numbers seem high, they are in line with print costs from other budget all-in-ones.
The Pixma MP210 prints, scans, and copies over a USB 2.0 connection. Canon offers drivers for both Windows and Mac PCs, so both camps should be satisfied.
When copying, you can make 1 to 9 copies, or 20 copies--that's right, it jumps from 9 to 20. With one touch, you can do a fit-to-page copy, too. You can initiate a scan via the scan button on the printer or by launching the MP Navigator EX software from your PC (the scan button will launch the same software). In MP Navigator EX, you can specify the type of original, change resolution, choose a format in which to save the scan (TIFF, JPEG, PDF, BMP), and edit the resulting scans. Within the custom scan tab, you can do advanced actions such as scanning originals larger than the platen using stitch assist and scan into a software program (such as Excel or Word). You can also attach scans to e-mails or save them to your PC. Though the printer lacks an auto duplexer, the driver will assist you with manual duplex tasks.
The USB port can be used to connect PictBridge-compliant cameras, camcorders, and camera phones, but not USB storage devices. We'd like to see Canon support the latter feature, as we find it useful.
It's easy to write off the lack of features by pointing out the Pixma MP210's tiny price tag, but looking at comparably priced offerings from the competition, the MP210 seems lackluster. The $80 Lexmark X3550 offers memory card slots as well as a PictBridge port, the ability to make up to 99 copies at once, and advanced copy features such as resizing, image repeat, and N-up copies. You can even get an optional wireless adapter for networked printing. Similarly, the $100 Dell Photo 926 offers memory card slots, the ability to print a scannable photo index, and e-fax, as well. Further investigation shows that Canon spent its money on print performance rather than features, though (see Performance section).
When it comes to task speeds, the Canon Pixma MP210 wasn't the fastest at any task (save photo printing), but it wasn't terribly slow, either. It printed text at a rate of 6.13 pages per minute, behind only the Dell Photo 926. It printed color graphics at a rate of 1.45 pages per minute, the slowest of the pack. It really shined, though, when printing 4x6 photos, scoring a fast 1.05 pages per minute; none of the others came close. Finally, the Canon was middle of the pack in scanning: 4.53 pages per minute for grayscale and 4.39 pages per minute with color.
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The grayscale scan was sharp, clean, and detailed. It looked a tiny bit washed out, but nothing egregious. The color scan provided us with little to complain about: the colors were true and the details were sharp. The only problem it ran into was handling barcode patterns. Overall, we were very impressed with the quality of the Pixma MP210. It would've impressed us coming from an $80 printer, so it was even more impressive coming from an $80 all-in-one.
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