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Canon S830D review: Canon S830D

Canon S830D

Stephen Bigelow
5 min read

The Canon S830D is another in a long line of Bubble Jet printers geared toward the photo enthusiast. In essence, it's a standalone photo lab. With it, you can print photos directly from compatible cameras, a wide range of camera-memory media (including CompactFlash, SmartMedia, and Memory Stick), and, of course, a PC. Unfortunately, the text and graphics output from this pricey offering just don't measure up to the competition's. Unless you have a specific need to print directly from a camera without a PC, pass on the S830D and select a unit with far better output, such as our old standby, the Canon S900.


Canon S830D

The Good

Easy to set up; prints with or without PC; supports many cameras and camera media.

The Bad

Text quality looks merely fair; cluttered display/control area; photo prints could be better.

The Bottom Line

The S830D is adequate for printing images directly from a camera, but we expect better quality for this price.

USB port for easy setup.

The Canon S830D is designed to simplify photo printing from the PC or directly from a compatible camera. Accordingly, setup is straightforward. You simply connect power, install the printhead, insert the six ink cartridges, connect the USB 2.0-compliant port to your PC (USB cable purchased separately), and install the drivers and application software. Did that sound confusing? Don't worry--an included Start Here poster walks you through the entire process. For extra help, Canon also includes the 84-page Quick Start Guide and the 24-page Reference Guide. It's rare to see so much printed documentation with a Bubble Jet printer, but we're certainly not complaining.
This plain-looking printer isn't smashingly sleek or colorful, but it's sturdy where it counts. The single, front paper tray holds up to 100 sheets of standard paper and accommodates a wide variety of glossy, matte, and regular photo papers (the printer also handles banners comprising up to six connected sheets). The S830D's simple paper-handling system ejects paper at the rear of the printer, virtually eliminating bends or curls in the sheets.

Utilitarian design.

Ink cartridges are easy to load.

The S830D includes a versatile selection of drivers and software on CD, including drivers for Windows 98, 2000, Me, XP; Mac OS (8.6 to 9.x), and Mac OS X (native). You can acquire driver updates from the Canon technical-support Web site. The CD also contains a selection of applications, including Easy-PhotoPrint (photo editing/printing), PhotoRecord (copies photos to CD), and ZoomBrowser EX for Windows (image manager), along with ImageBrowser (image manager) and PhotoStitch (image editor) for the Mac. A PDF user guide and a photo application guide are also provided.

LCD screen for PC-free printing.

Accepts all major media cards.

A relatively large LCD located on the top of the printer lets you adjust settings and driver options without a computer. The LCD provides menu-driven operation and status messages with a minimum of buttons, such as Power, Mode, Cancel, and the cursors. But overall, the front panel seems too busy and confusing; left-handed users may find the layout particularly cumbersome. You'll need to have that documentation handy in order to configure the S830D.
The S830D's broad media support lets you print your files directly from media cards or devices. The printer accepts CompactFlash, SmartMedia, Memory Stick, IBM Microdrive, and Secure Digital (SD) card media to accommodate a wide variety of cameras (a CompactFlash PCMCIA adapter is included). The printer package also has an adapter for direct connections to supported cameras.

Ink costs you can live with.

Before you purchase a printer, no matter how many cool features it offers, you must consider not only its performance but also its total cost of ownership. With a list price of less than $400, the Canon S830D, like many of Canon's new photo printers, employs Canon's Think Tank ink system, which includes a series of six independent ink cartridges (black, photo cyan, photo magenta, and standard cyan, magenta, and yellow). The standard color cartridges are intended for ordinary, everyday graphic images, but you'd use the photo cartridges only when you set the printer to its highest 2,400x1,200dpi resolution. At $11.99 per cartridge, replacing a number of cartridges can seem like an expensive proposition, and the sheer number of cartridges may make the operation a little confusing. But just the fact that you don't have to replace all cartridges when one color runs out can save you a bundle. What's more, text costs 3.3 cents per page, which is less expensive than many other printers in the market (such as the sub-$100 Epson Stylus C60, at 6 cents per page). Color printing is also a reasonable 25 cents per page--half the price of the Canon i850 (another Think Tank-enabled printer), at 50 cents per page.
In CNET Labs' tests, the Canon S830D produced color photos at an average 0.43 pages per minute (ppm). That's faster than the Epson Stylus Photo 925 but also slower than other members of the Canon family, such as the S900 and i550). Color quality left a lot to be desired. Graphics on both plain and coated papers showed some noticeable banding, and colors seemed dull and bland. Our testers got better results when printing in photo-quality modes on photo paper, but the S900 also gives excellent results. Keep in mind, however, that in the eight months since we reviewed those printers, output quality for inkjets in general has improved.

Inkjet printer color photo speed
Minutes to print a color photograph (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Canon S900
Canon S830D
HP Photosmart 7550
Epson Stylus Photo 925

The S830D's text printing performance also disappoints. At only 2ppm, this printer placed in the lower third of printers tested. The iffy text quality doesn't help matters. Printing on plain paper shows some ink scatter; the lettering isn't as crisp and clean as it should be. Coated-paper printouts fared somewhat better, but other Canon models (such as the S820D) provide notably superior text results. Sure, we know that the S830D specializes in photo printing. But we think that at this price point, it should be able to churn out acceptable text and graphics as well. Otherwise, certain photographers or desktop publishers could end up buying three printers, one for each type of output.

Inkjet printer text speed
Pages per minute (longer bars indicate better performance)
HP Photosmart 7550
Canon S900
Canon S830D
Epson Stylus Photo 925
Inkjet printer quality
Plain paper Coated paper Plain paper Coated paper Photo paper 
 Canon S830D••••••••••••
 Canon S900•••••••••••••••••••
 Epson Stylus Photo 925•••••••••••
 HP Photosmart 7550•••••••••••••••••

Canon protects the S830D with a standard one-year limited warranty that includes an InstantExchange program; if the printer fails within the warranty period, you can get the unit repaired or replaced for free. The warranty period includes free telephone support (a toll call) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. ET, and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. For products no longer under warranty, it will cost you $9.99 per call. Business and SOHO types may spring for the Canon CarePAK Extended Service Plan (a $95 option) to give the printer a total of three years of toll-free phone support and InstantExchange eligibility.
If you'd prefer 24/7 support via the Internet, Canon's tech-support Web site for the S830D includes Mac and Windows driver updates, FAQs, e-mail links, and downloadable PDF-format user guides.


Canon S830D

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 6Support 7