The Canon Pixma MP950 is Canon's top-of-the-line photo all-in-one printer for avid photo hobbyists and home users. It shares many of the features found on the Pixma MP800R--print, copy, scan, and no fax--but they're all bumped up. For example, the MP950 can scan up to 12 35mm negatives at once, whereas the MP800R can scan only 6 at a time. The MP950 lacks networking, a major omission at this price point; the MP800R is network-ready--both wired and wireless. Both printers cost $400, so the trade-off is features vs. quality--the MP950 is capable of higher-quality prints and scans, whereas the MP800R can be easily shared among the PCs networked in your office. If you're looking for an office-oriented all-in-one printer that includes fax capability and networking, check out the HP OfficeJet 7410. Or, if you want to stick to a photo-oriented all-in-one but need office-centric features such as faxing and networking, check out HP's comparably priced Photosmart 3310. The Canon Pixma MP950 is very similar in overall design to the MP800R. It uses the classic Pixma shiny-black and matte-silver body, though it's a bit boxier than the MP800R. Like the MP800R, it's big, so make sure you have the space for it: it's 18.5 inches wide, 16.5 inches deep, and 10 inches tall and weighs a hefty 28.2 pounds.
The scanner lid is sturdy and lifts smoothly and, like the MP800R's, detaches entirely so that you can copy or scan thick books or documents. On the inside of the scanner lid is the detachable platen protector and behind it is a spot to store the slide or negative scanner guides. Because the MP950 can scan up to 12 frames of 35mm film or up to eight mounted slides, the guides are larger than those on the MP800R, which can scan 6 35mm frames or four slides. With the MP800R, you can store both guides behind the platen protector; on the MP950, you have to choose just one to store in that spot and stash the other somewhere else. The platen itself can accommodate up to A4-size originals, which means you can't copy or scan legal-size documents.
Like the MP800R, the MP950 has a PictBridge USB port for PC-free printing from a PictBridge-enabled camera, an IrDA port for wireless printing from compatible devices, and a media card reader that takes all media card types (some media cards require adapters). You can also plug a Bluetooth adapter into the USB port for printing wirelessly from Bluetooth-enabled devices.
The MP950 has two input trays: one paper cassette that holds about 150 sheets of plain paper and an auto sheet feeder that folds out from the rear of the printer. The cassette is only large enough to handle A4-size paper, so anything longer needs to be fed from the auto sheet feeder. Both inputs have adjustable paper guides. The output tray folds out from the front of the printer with a touch of a button. It has a pull-out extension to keep long pages from flying to the floor.
One major difference between the MP800R and the MP950 is the placement of the control panel. Most of Canon's photo all-in-ones have the control panel mounted on a shelf that juts out from the front of the machine. Additionally, the photo preview LCD (if included) generally folds up from the "shelf," allowing for multiple viewing angles. On the MP950, the control panel is built into the scanner lid, and the LCD is mounted on the inside of the control panel's cover, which folds up to reveal the buttons. While we appreciate the enormous, 3.6-inch color LCD, the design requires the LCD to be at about eye level in order to see it; in most cases, this means you will have to be seated. Additionally, as there is essentially only one viewing angle, you can't adjust the LCD for different lighting conditions. Although this setup does make the printer more compact, we think it's a major design misstep.
The LCD aside, the control panel is standard for a Canon photo all-in-one: a feed switch to toggle between paper input locations; dedicated buttons to switch between functions; menu, settings, OK, back, and a four-way rocker to navigate the menus; a search button to search through photos on a media card; a trimming button that lets you crop photos; a photo index sheet button; and two start buttons (color and black), a stop/reset button, and an on/off button.
Setting up the printer is simple and straightforward: install the drivers and software from the included CD and connect the printer to your PC via USB cable when instructed. Unlike the MP800R, the necessary USB cable is not included (this is the norm for printers). The included installation and user guides should be able to answer any installation questions. Like the MP800R, the MP950 lacks both a fax function and an automatic document feeder (ADF). An ADF would allow you to set up a multipage scan or copy job and walk away from the machine. Instead, you'll have to manually change out each page. Both of these features, however, are more office oriented, and the MP950 is definitely a photo hobbyist printer. (If you need fax functionality, the similarly priced HP Photosmart 3310 offers that feature.) You can print photos without touching your PC from the media card reader, via the PictBridge and IrDA ports, and by scanning slides or negatives. In addition to printing, you can make adjustments to your photos, such as cropping, red-eye reduction, and image optimization, and you can and create borderless photos. Additionally, you can print a photo index sheet of all the images on a media card, mark on the index sheet the photos you want printed, and scan it in. The machine will automatically print only those photos, as well as make the adjustments that you indicate on the index. With the MP950, you can also print double-sided 5x7 and 8x10 photos using special double-sided photo paper, though we can't really think of a reason to do so.
The MP950 has all the same copy features as the MP800R: special copy, such as borderless or image repeat; shrinking or enlarging; fitting two or four pages on to a single sheet; and double-sided copying with the built-in duplexer. When it's scanning, you can save your scanned documents as JPEGs, TIFFs, bitmaps, or PDFs. You can scan into an application such as Photoshop or attach the file to an e-mail. With the included ScanSoft OmniPage SE, you can convert the scanned document to text using optical character recognition. In addition to scanning documents, the MP950 also scans up to 12 negatives and up to eight mounted slides at once. With slides and negatives, you can scan them to a PC or print them as photos.
The MP950 uses a seven-color ink system to produce high-quality photographs: dye-based black, pigment-based black, and five dye-based color inks (cyan, photo cyan, magenta, photo magenta, and yellow) in separate tanks. We like individual ink tanks because they mean less waste: you don't have to discard an entire tank when just one color runs dry. This printer uses the same ink for photo and other printing, so you don't have to change out tanks, which is convenient. The ink tanks are easy to change, too. Each tank has its own designated spot on the printhead, and the head is conveniently labeled so that you know where everything goes; if you insert an ink tank into the wrong spot, a light will blink to alert you. The light will also blink at varying speeds to tell you when the tank is running low and when it needs to be replaced. The pigment-based black ink costs $16.25 to replace and the dye-based inks, including the photo inks, cost $14.25 to replace. HP's similarly outfitted Photosmart 3310 ships with so-called "starter" cartridges, which are only partially full. Canon estimates the cost per page for a black and white document to be a low 3 cents and for a lightly covered color page to be 2 cents.The Canon Pixma MP950 won't win many awards for its speed, though it did beat the competition with fast text printing: 8.86 pages per minute (ppm). It slowed down to 0.7ppm for 4x6 photos, and lagged behind the Pixma competition in scans: 8.16ppm for grayscale and 4.40ppm for color. It made up for its speed in quality, though.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Copy speed||Color scan speed||Grayscale scan speed||Photo speed||Text speed|
The Canon MP800R and MP950 have no automatic document feeder, so we could not test the copy speed.
The Canon Pixma MP950 did a much better job on prints and scans than the MP800R and the rest of the competition in this price range, including the Photosmart 3310. This was especially apparent in the text-printing test, at which the MP950 excelled, especially for an inkjet printer. The text is clean and well formed, and it's legible down to even very small point sizes. We saw minimal jagginess in the text printed on plain photocopy paper, and the problem was mitigated when we printed the text on coated inkjet paper. The color graphics prints were also beautiful and sharply rendered, marred only by obvious banding in the color gradients. Aside from that problem, the colors were rich and saturated and not at all grainy. In the photo elements of the graphics page, skin tones were believable and the grays were devoid of color. The 4x6 photo print's colors were rich and saturated, and the details popped. Flesh tones were realistic, too. The grayscale and color scans showed good color handling and excellent detail, as well. Unless you really need a networkable printer, pick the MP950 over the MP800R if you're an avid photo hobbyist. You'll be happier with its output.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Color scan||Grayscale scan||Photo||Graphics on inkjet paper||Text on inkjet paper|