Pros: High quality text and photo prints, excellent speed, dual paper trays
Cons: No parallel port, no USB cable included
The Canon PIXMA iP4200 replaces the iP4000 and iP3000 in Canons line of inkjet photo printers, but it does not include any revolutionary new features. What you will get with the iP4200 is a slightly less expensive printer with slightly better quality photo output over its predecessor. Currently retailing for about $130, I found it online for $130 - $30 mail-in-rebate. The features that make the iP4200 an attractive choice include dual paper trays, double-sided printing, and direct printing from your camera through the PictBridge port.
Since I dont do a whole lot of printing, and I dont have any real need for an all-in-one printer / scanner / copier / fax unit, I decided to stick with an inkjet model with the printing capabilities only. Based on my positive experience with Canons, and the relatively low cost I was able to find (with the main-in-rebate), I chose the iP4200 model. It has been in use for approximately 4 months now.
Basic information on Inkjet Technology
The first step in the printer purchasing decision is deciding what type of printing technology will work best for you. The two dominant types of printers available in the market today are inkjet and laser. Inkjet is the most common type used today by consumers, as it is ideal for most people who plan to use their printer for photos, text documents and the occasional slideshow / presentation.
Here are some of the basic advantages that make inkjet printers are so popular:
- Inexpensive --- Inkjet printers are almost always less expensive than laser printers.
- Color --- Almost all new inkjets offer the capability to print photos, presentations or other pictures in full color.
- Easy to use --- Almost all new inkjets are easy to setup and easy to use. With a CD-ROM drive and an available parallel or USB port, it should only take a few minutes to be up and running with an inkjet printer.
However, there are some disadvantages associated with inkjet printers:
- Quality --- Inkjet printers are closing the gap in quality, but laser printers still cannot be beat for crisp, crystal-clear text and images.
- Slower than laser --- Laser printers are typically used in office settings by multiple people, so their printing speed is almost always faster than what you will find with inkjet printers.
- Shorter life cycle --- Again, laser printers are typically used by multiple people and therefore need to be more heavy-duty. Laser printers will usually have a longer life cycle to accommodate the thousands of documents they are expected to print.
- Fewer printing options --- Laser printers often offer advanced features that are sometimes not found in inkjet printers. Examples of these features would be duplexing (printing on both sides of the page), additional paper drawers and capability to run in a networked environment.
Basic information on the iP4200
The iP4200 is block-shaped and fairly small (16.5" x 11.8" x 6.3" (W x D x H) without paper trays extended) and offers only one USB 2.0 interface. If you are still using a parallel port to connect your printer, youll need to upgrade to a USB cable in order to use this printer. It is rated at a speed of up to 29ppm for black and white text printing, and up to 20ppm for photos. Maximum resolution, in dots per inch, is rated at 9600 x 2400. It can print on all the various types of paper (Letter, legal, A4, A5, etc.) and can print border-free photos with sizes of 4" x 6", 5" x 7" and 8" x 10". The input paper tray in the base of the printer holds approximately 150 sheets of plain paper, and the input paper tray in the top of the printer holds 40-50 sheets of plain paper. The output paper tray holds approximately 40-50 sheets of plain paper. The output paper tray can be extended out to hold long sheets of paper (for example, legal size) and it can be flipped back up to a closed position when it is not in use. The buttons available on the printer are the On / Off button, the Resume / Cancel Print Job button and the Paper Feed Switch button. It is compatible with both Windows (98, ME, 2000 or XP) and Mac (OS X 10.2.1 or later). It includes a 1-year limited warranty.
Included in the box
1) PIXMA iP4200 printer with power cord and paper trays
2) 1 pigment-based black ink cartridge
3) 1 dye-based Black ink cartridge
4) 1 dye-based Magenta ink cartridge
5) 1 dye-based Yellow ink cartridge
6) 1 dye-based Cyan ink cartridge
7) Quick-installation instructions
8) CD-ROM with printer driver, setup software and users guide
Note that everything you need to get started is included in the box EXCEPT the cable. You will need a USB cable to connect the printer to your computer. If you need to purchase a USB cable, take note of the distance between where youll place your printer and the back of your computer. Youll need to know the approximate distance before you go shopping so that the USB cable you purchase is long enough.
Installation of the iP4200 was quick and uneventful. In about 10-15 minutes time I had unpacked the printer, installed the software, installed the ink cartridges in the printer, connected the printer to my PC with a USB cable and was ready to print. I chose not refer to the included installation instructions since there is no tricky part to installing a printer for just one PC. If I was going to try to use the printer as a network printer, then I would suggest reading through the installation instructions.
My Use of the iP4200 for Printing Text
The printer has been used to print a number of text documents using the black ink, and I have found the results to be quite good. Printing in standard quality mode produces a clear and easily readable text document. The letters were a solid black color without any inconsistencies in the level of blackness. The letters did not exhibit any jaggedness or unevenness in their display. Using the printer in draft mode resulted in a lighter black color that appeared closer to a gray color. This will help save ink if you are printing something that does not need to look great, but it certainly makes it more difficult to read and I would recommend just leaving the quality at the standard setting.
One area where the iP4200 really stands out is speed. Using the printer to print out our Christmas letters really highlighted how fast this printer can perform the result was nearly 7ppm! This is excellent for a $100 printer, and you will be hard pressed to find a printer in this price range that beats the iP4200 in text printing speed.
I have only used the double-sided printing feature once to test the functionality. This feature is of limited use to me, but it could be useful if you are printing any type of manual or you just want to save paper. The result was as expected and the text quality was no different than one-sided printing but beware, you will sacrifice some speed if you want to use both sides of the paper. The printer waits about 10-15 seconds to pull the paper back in to print on the second side. So, if you are printing a lot documents, this will add quite a lot of time to your print job. I am assuming the printer is allowing the ink to dry before it pulls the paper back in, but it is not explicitly explained in the user manual.
After about 4 months of use, the software shows that the black ink cartridge is a little over half full. This is helpful for knowing when to re-order ink cartridges. From my estimation on the number of pages Ive printed, I would say that the black ink is lasting longer than it did with my previous inkjet printer (an older model Epson C42UX). I have not yet had to replace any of the ink cartridges.
The noise level when printing text is a bit quieter than my old printer, and similar to other newer model inkjet printers that I have used. Canon rates the noise level at 34 dB, which is a bit quieter than the standard for consumer inkjet printers. It is by no means quiet, but it is not so loud that it distracts you from continuing to do other work on your computer.
My Use of the iP4200 for Printing Photos
Ive printed about a dozen pictures on the iP4200 using both plain paper and glossy photo paper. So far I am pleased with the quality of the resulting pictures. Printing on both plain paper and glossy photo paper, the smaller sized 4x6 pictures, as well as larger 5x7 and 8x10 pictures, had clear images that did not appear to have washed-out colors. The images did not appear grainy or include any other artifacts that would distract from the appearance of the image. The colors were consistently vivid and natural looking, and I am very happy with the results. Overall, the quality was excellent.
Again, I was impressed with the speed of the PIXMA iP4200. In the standard quality setting, it only took a little over 1 minute to print a 4 x 6 photo! Printing an 8x10 photo was also very fast, and I measured that it took about 3 and a half minutes to print. This is excellent for an inkjet printer in the $100 range, especially when considering the quality of the resulting photos.
I found the border-free print option to be useful for printing photos. This option allows you to print pictures in typical frame sizes - 4"x6", 5"x7" and 8"x10". Once you finish printing, the pictures can be easily framed or added to your photo album.
The noise level when printing photos is essentially the same as when printing text.
Unfortunately, I was not able to test the PictBridge function because my digital camera is not PictBridge compatible.
I found it useful and a time-saver to keep paper in the both of the paper trays. I used the lower tray - which has a higher capacity - to hold plain white paper for printing text and slides, and I used the upper tray to hold the glossy photo paper whenever I was printing photos. You do need to be careful when printing, however, to make sure you have the correct paper source selected before you print. You can set the default paper source with the Paper Feed Switch button on the front. Otherwise, if youre not paying attention to which source youre printing from, you can end up wasting some expensive glossy photo paper.
Overall, I am impressed with the Canon PIXMA iP4200. At a reasonable cost of $100, it provides a lot of bang for your buck. I found that it produces high quality text and photos with useful print options. It is quite speedy and keeps the noise level to a minimum while printing. I also liked the fact that it includes separate ink cartridges that allow you to purchase replacement ink only as needed.
If you do find yourself often switching between printing text and photos, the dual paper trays should be useful for you. If you do have a manual to print, or just like to save paper, the double-sided printing feature should be useful. I do not find any major drawbacks to the iP4200, and it has a lot going for it. Based on my experience using it, and the positive experience I have had with Canon products in the past, I highly recommend the PIXMA iP4200.
My other inkjet printer reviews:
- Canon PIXMA iP6210D Inkjet Printer
- Epson Stylus C88 Inkjet Printer