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Printing at the double

Printing at the double

The Canon Pixma iP4200 prints high-quality glossy photos quickly, but it's just as well suited for printing office documents with its strong black text, double-sided printing and dual paper trays. In our tests, it printed documents at breakneck speed but the quality of its plain-paper output barely improved on that of its predecessor, the iP4000.

The silver plastic case feels solid and looks less boxy than other recent Canon models. A direct-print port allows printing straight from a PictBridge-compatible digital camera, though - like most other inkjets these days - it doesn't have a media card slot.

Text printed at 6.9 pages per minute (ppm) - one of the fastest rates we've seen from an inkjet. And plain-paper graphics emerged at a very fast 2.5ppm. When printed at best-quality settings, our test photo emerged in just 56 seconds.

Along with the 150-sheet paper tray in the printer's base, there is an upright feeder at the back with an equivalent capacity; it's a convenient arrangement for those who frequently switch between two types of media, such as plain paper and photo paper, or between different sizes of photo stock. A switch on the front lets users select the default paper source, or they can select which one to use from the software driver. The built-in duplexer enables the creation of double-sided prints, but it means sacrificing speed for paper economy: The iP4200 waits about 15 seconds for the first side to dry before sucking it back in to print the other side. This model's print engine resembles its predecessor's, relying on five inks from individual cartridges - dye-based ink for the regular colours and for the black used in photos. The pigment-based black ink used for plain paper documents comes in a larger (and more economical) cartridge.

In our print quality tests, colour photos exhibited sharp details, even in areas of shadow, with plenty of contrast. Skin tones, however, appeared a little too vivid and had an orange cast. Our grayscale photo printed a little on the dark side, but showed good contrast and sharp details overall; skin tones in this print could have looked smoother. Because it's a printer with office-oriented features, we expected the iP4000 to produce top-notch print quality on plain paper, but it fell a little short of this. Though text appeared dark and solid, we noticed misaligned letters in rows generated from multiple sweeps of the print head. Similarly, vertical lines wavered in our line art test, and we also noticed some strange diagonal patterns in blocks of close horizontal lines. In colour graphics printed on plain paper, the posterisation looked very similar to what the cheaper Canon Pixma iP1600 printed.

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CANON PIXMA iP4200

Upshot: Delivers high-quality photos, snappy print speeds and useful office features, but print quality on plain paper could be better.

The product is available to resellers from Canon.

RRP: $249


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