The days of dropping 300 bones on an all-in-one printer are fading away, while $150 devices like the Canon Pixma MP560 are quickly taking their place on retail shelves. The MP560 looks great and offers useful features like an auto-document feeder and a bright 2-inch LCD display, but it can’t keep up with other multifunction printers like the Epson WorkForce 310 and Lexmark’s Impact S305. Canon technically gives you more features, but we suspect that the sub-$150 market is more invested in print quality and speed. That leads us to recommend the Lexmark Impact S305 instead, which gives you higher quality pictures and prints documents in half the time for $50 less than the Canon Pixma MP560.
Design and features
You’ll immediately notice that the Canon Pixma MP560 is similar in size, shape, and appearance to Canon printers of the past, most notably the Pixma MP560. It has the familiar glossy black and matte silver finish and sits unassumingly in your workspace at just 18 inches wide, 14.5 inches deep, and 6 inches tall. We should note that you have to extend the outbound paper tray in order to use the printer, which will add about 4 inches to the width. At the same time, we never expect a lot of design flair in these cheaper multifunctions, but Canon proves that creative shapes and a professional finish never go out of style.
The heads-up display is perhaps the most stylish and innovative facet on the printer. The control panel on the right flips up to reveal a beautiful color LCD with a comprehensive set of adjoining buttons that control application–switching, number of copies, start/stop functions, and Canon’s Easy Scroll Wheel in the middle that lets you navigate image albums and onscreen menus with minimal effort. While we wouldn’t necessary recommend a jog dial for a two-line LCD like we saw on the Epson WorkForce 310, the feature certainly proves its worth on the 2-inch screen.
Just underneath the display, you’ll find a smaller door that gives you access to the media card reader that supports Memory Stick, xD, SD, MMC, and microSD cards. There’s also a PictBridge compatible USB port at the bottom of the printer for direct-to-print accessibility.
Paper handling also mirrors the functionality of Canon’s older printer models, with a 150-sheet front control that slides out from underneath the device and another 150-sheet tray on the back for smaller photo paper and assorted paper sizes. We’re also surprised and impressed that Canon put an auto-duplexer on there for double-sided prints that can save you money on media while also saving trees and the environment.
The Pixma MP560 lets you connect the printer to a host computer via USB 2.0 or through the wireless print server built into the system, but flip it over and you’ll notice that there’s nowhere to connect an Ethernet cable for network accessibility, which means that business shoppers and IT professionals should definitely look elsewhere for these features. Again, we recommend the Lexmark Impact S305, a $100 multifunction with USB connectivity, Wi-Fi, and Ethernet networking. Head over to the review for the full story.
Networking omission notwithstanding, we’re always impressed by how easy it is to set up the wireless using Canon’s driver software. When you insert the CD, the software immediately prompts you to install the printer using either a USB 2.0 or a wireless 802.11b/g connection. From there, we simply entered our router information and the printer took care of the rest; the two devices shook hands in less than a minute.
The standard 8.5-inch-by-11-inch scanner bay sits directly above the ink bay that houses the internal print head and its corresponding inks. The printer ships with five separate ink cartridges for cyan, magenta, yellow, black, and a pigment black for photos. Using the advertised prices on the Canon Web site ($13 each for color and $15 for pigment black), you’ll pay approximately 3 cents per color page and 4 cents for a page of pigment black ink. Both costs are average for a printer at this price.
The copier on the MP980 has all the features you’d expect from a multifunction printer. You can enlarge the original up to 400 percent or simply fit the entire document to a page. Other special features include two-sided copying, borderless copying, exact duplication, cropped copy, and 2-on-1 and 4-on-1 photo collages.
Scanning is also typical, with save options that include sending the file straight to your PC, as an e-mail attachment, scanned as a PDF, or simply open it to an application. You can save all documents as TIFF, JPEG, bitmap, or PDF files, and the scanner now supports film and negatives as well. The scanner supports document sizes up to 8.5 inches by 11 inches, and the hinged cover makes it easy to stretch over thicker documents and books.
We put the Canon Pixma MP560 up against four other competitive printers in the same price range, and while we weren’t necessarily disappointed by the results, they didn’t blow us away. It registered mediocre results across all four of our test documents (presentation, 4-inch-by-6-inch photos, even allowing the Epson WorkForce 310 more than 2x gains at an underwhelming 6.74 vs. 13.11 pages of text per minute, respectively. We’ll still applaud Canon for generously giving you auto-duplexing and other features we don’t normally see in $150 printers, but the company still has a ways to go before it’s ready to compete with Epson and Lexmark’s advantages in print speeds.
Outbound photos and documents on the MP560 suffer from quality issues as well. Text quality looks decent with no standout jaggies or malformed lines, but photo snapshots and graphical documents like PowerPoint presentations appear to suffer from a print head misfire characterized by washed-out images and inaccurate flesh tones. Frankly, we were surprised to see these results from Canon since we’re used to top-notch quality in its higher-end products.