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Review: Canon Pixma MX850

At a Glance
  • Canon Pixma MX850

    Macworld Rating

The Pixma MX850 is Canon’s all-in-one scanner, copier, fax machine, and ink-jet printer built for the small office or home office. The MX850 prints impressively crisp, legible text that’s comparable to laser quality. Add to that speedy performance, solid print results, and extra perks, and you have a superb multifunction printer.

The MX850 is a bit bulky, at 31 pounds, but it sets up in a snap. The printer uses a five-color ink system, which includes the four traditional dye-based colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) and a special pigment-based black to achieve exceptional clarity. After assembling the print head and inserting the ink cartridges, you connect the device to your Mac via USB 2.0 or Ethernet and install the software drivers.

Copying, scanning, faxing, and photo printing are accessible through the MX850’s button-control panel, and menus are intuitive and easy to read on the printer’s 2.5-inch LCD. The photo-card reader, located behind a convenient door on the right side of the printer, supports the most commonly used memory cards used by digital cameras.

Canon Pixma MX850
The user-friendly Pixma MX850 uses five inks: dye-based cyan, magenta, yellow, and black; and a pigment-based black.

Since you can use most of the MX850’s features via the control panel, you’ll most likely be using the device with your Mac only when printing documents or scanning media, which the MX850 handles very well. Canon’s software for both printing and scanning is very straightforward and work smoothly with the Mac. I appreciated that the scanner driver provided advanced image options, offering flexible control over scans.

Copying on the MX850 is a pleasantly problem-free experience, especially when using the built-in automatic document feeder. Two large buttons allow you to choose between black-and-white or color copying; you use the arrow buttons for setting the number of copies and the copy quality.

The MX850 turned in exceptional text-printing results, earning a rating of Superior from a panel of Macworld experts. In our tests, the printer’s text appeared as crisp and legible as you could ever expect from an ink-jet printer. Photo prints were similarly impressive. Our test print of a picnic scene looked brighter and redder than our control photo, but overall it looked very clean and pleasing, earning a Very Good rating.

To test the MX850’s copier, we copied the cover of the December 2006 issue of Macworld. The copier did a good job reproducing the colors of the cover, and it captured surprisingly fine details, earning a Very Good rating.

Our jury found the scan quality to be the least impressive of the MX850’s output capabilities. In our test scan of a photo, reds looked muted, and some bright colors appeared intensified. I also tested the scanner’s clarity by scanning a line chart, and the lines were noticeably jagged and poorly distinguished. The scanner earned an overall rating of Good.

In a busy office environment, a printer’s speed is as important as its quality. The MX850 turned in very fast results. In our testing over a USB 2.0 connection, the Pixma MX850 took 1 minute and 17 seconds to print a ten-page Word document, 16 seconds to print a one-page Word document, 1 minute and 26 seconds to print a four-page PDF, and 59 seconds to print a 22MB Photoshop image. The MX850’s scanner was also very speedy, taking 28 seconds to scan an 8-by-10-inch photo at 600 dots per inch, and 37 seconds to scan a 4-by-6-inch photo at 1,200 dpi.

Timed Trials: Print

10-page Word test 1:17
1-page Word test 0:16
22MB Photoshop image 0:59
4-page PDF 1:26

Scale = Minutes: Seconds

Timed Trials: Scan

8-by-10-inch photo, 600 dpi scan 0:28
4-by-6-inch photo, 1,200 dpi scan 0:37

Scale = Minutes: Seconds

Jury Tests: Print

Graphics: Fine Lines and Gradients Very Good
22MB Photoshop image quality Very Good
Text Quality Superior

Scale = Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor

Jury Tests: Scan

Color Good
Clarity Good
Copy Very Good

Scale = Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor

How We Tested: How We Tested: We ran all tests with the ink-jet multifunction printer connected via USB 2.0 to a 2.66GHz Mac Pro with Mac OS X 10.5.2 installed and 1GB of RAM. We recorded the time it took the MFP to print a one-page Word document and a 10-page Word document, as well as the time it took to print a 22MB Photoshop image and a four-page PDF. We then recorded the time it took to scan an 8-by-10-inch photo at 600 dpi, as well as the time it took to scan a 4-by-6-inch photo at 1,200 dpi. A panel of experts examined sample output of the MFP to evaluate its print, scan, and copy quality as either Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair or Poor in comparison to the output of past color laser MFPs we’ve tested.—Macworld Lab Testing by Brian Chen

Specifications

Print Resolution 9,600 x 2,400 dpi (color); 600 x 600 dpi (black)
Scan Resolution: Optical 4,800 x 9,600 dpi
Max. scanning bit depth 48-bit
Connection USB 2.0; Ethernet
Paper Sizes A4, LTR, B5, A5, 2L, 4x6, L
Cost to Replace Ink $73.25 ($14.25 each for black, yellow, magenta and Cyan; $16.25 for pigment black)
Weight (in pounds) 30.7
Dimensions (height x depth x width in inches) 10.2 x 19 x 20
Paper Capacity 150 sheets
Special Features Duplexer; automatic document feeder

Macworld's buying advice

Canon touts the Pixma MX850 as a multifunction powerhouse, and it’s worthy of such a description. On top of being fast, easy to use, and excellent at outputting documents and photos, the MX850 includes features such as a duplexer and an automatic document feeder--making it an office-friendly printer. Despite its less-than-impressive scanner output, the Pixma MX850 is a stellar choice.

[Brian Chen is an associate editor at Macworld.]

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At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Includes duplexer and automatic document feeder
    • User-friendly
    • Speedy
    • Superior text quality comparable to lasers

    Cons

    • Some colors look muted in scan output
    • Scan resolution is slightly fuzzy and jagged
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