Canon Pixma MP495
The Canon Pixma MP495 color inkjet multifunction printer handles printing, copying, and scanning, and currently it costs just $10 more than its cousin, the Canon Pixma MP280. The Pixma MP495 adds wireless connectivity for easier sharing, and ditches the matte-black scanner lid for a shiny one. Otherwise, it has the same strengths and weaknesses as the MP280: extremely nice text and photos, but pricey black ink and minimal paper-handling options. For these reasons, it's best suited for light home or dorm use.
Aside from the integrated Wi-Fi connectivity (to complement the unit's USB capability), the Pixma MP495's features are spare. There's no automatic document feeder for the scanner. PC users get manual duplexing help, but Mac users are on their own. Paper input consists of a single rear, 100-sheet, vertical paper feed. Basic tasks are easy to perform via the top control panel, but the single-digit LED can be difficult to interpret. It shows the number of copies up to 9 clearly, then jumps to 20 by showing the letter F. Translating the obscure symbols and flash combinations that represent error codes and setup or maintenance functions requires a trip to the MFP's thorough and well-written HTML-based onscreen documentation.
The Pixma MP495's performance is acceptable. It printed plain-text pages at 5.7 pages per minute on both the PC and the Mac, while our consumer-grade PC photos printed at just over 2 ppm on plain paper and 1 ppm on photo paper. The professional Mac photo took just over 3 minutes to print. Scanning and copying speeds fell below the mean, but they're fast enough for occasional use.
All of Canon's new models offer exceptional output, and the Pixma MP495 is no exception. Text appears black and very smooth at default settings and superb at high quality. Color graphics have a slightly orange cast on plain paper, but this tinge disappears when you print the images on Canon's photo paper. Color copies looked very nice, though they suffered the same, slight orange shift.
The Canon Solution Menu EX software is capable and easy to use, providing support for both print layout tasks and scanning. A nice toolbar floats on the desktop, offering easy access to the most common functions. It's also a snap to install.
Unfortunately, the Pixma MP495's black ink is pricey. The standard-size, 220-page black costs $16, or 7.3 cents per page. The 224-page, unified three-color cartridge costs $21, or 9.4 cents per page. Combine those and you wind up with an above-average price per page of 16.6 cents for a four-color page. The high-yield cartridges lower these costs a tad: The 401-page black ($22) is 5.5 cents per page, and the 349-page tricolor ($27) costs 7.7 cents per page.
Macworld's buying advice
Though its high black-ink costs will eventually negate your initial savings, that's only with heavy use—something the Canon Pixma MP495 isn't designed for. What it does deliver is outstanding output quality for the price.