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Canon Pixma MP950 review: Canon Pixma MP950

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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.

CNET Labs' multifunction printer performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Copy speed  
Color scan speed  
Grayscale scan speed  
Photo speed  
Text speed  
Canon Pixma MP950*
N/A
4.4 
8.16 
0.7 
8.86 
Canon Pixma MP800R*
N/A
10.75 
11.88 
1.84 
7.97 
Canon Pixma MP830*
5.8 
10.75 
11.61 
1.83 
7.7 
HP OfficeJet 7410
1.79 
3.15 
3.02 
0.52 
7.06 
HP Photosmart 3310 AIO
2.17 
6.11 
6.22 
1.21 
5.26 
Note: *All three Canon printers' photo speeds were tested by printing a 4x6 photos. The HPs were tested by printing 8x10 photos.
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.

CNET Labs' multifunction printer quality
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Color scan  
Grayscale scan  
Photo  
Graphics on inkjet paper  
Text on inkjet paper  
Canon Pixma MP950
Excellent 
Excellent 
Excellent 
Good 
Excellent 
Canon Pixma MP830
Good 
Good 
Good 
Fair 
Good 
HP OfficeJet 7410
Fair 
Good 
Excellent 
Good 
Excellent 
HP Photosmart 3310 AIO
Good 
Good 
Good 
Fair 
Fair 
Canon Pixma MP800R
Good 
Good 
Good 
Good 
Fair 
Canon provides a one-year warranty for the Pixma MP800R all-in-one printer, which is standard. You can purchase an extended service plan for $95, which will cover your printer for three years. Toll-free phone support is available for the length of the warranty, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to midnight, and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. You can also e-mail tech support via an online form, though the form encourages you to try the step-by-step troubleshooting tool first. Canon says you should get a response to your e-mail within 24 hours. Other online support options include FAQs, downloadable drivers and software, and downloadable manuals. Additionally, the user guide on the CD covers all the features and gives instruction in exhaustive detail, as do the hard-copy installation guide and the user guide.

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