Canon Pixma iP4820
Canon's Pixma iP4820 color inkjet printer does just about everything well, does it fairly quickly, and does it quietly. Though you could spend less than its $100 price on a competitor, some of those cheaper models can disappoint in their performance or their ink costs. The Pixma iP4820 is a better-balanced choice for home and student users.
The USB-only Pixma iP4820 is easy to install, even on a Mac, where you usually have to open System Preferences and add the printer yourself. Canon's Solution Center software is similarly straightforward as it guides you through creative projects such as calendars and posters. The new Full HD Movie Print software lets you pull stills from high-definition movies created by select Canon EOS digital SLRs and PowerShot cameras.
The Pixma iP4820's design is simple. Its control panel has just a power button and a continue/cancel button. Its generous paper handling includes two 150-sheet paper trays: an undermounted drawer for plain paper, and a rear vertical feed for thicker media. An output area unfolds from the front automatically when you begin printing. Automatic duplexing (two-sided printing) saves paper, though it slows printing somewhat.
Performance in our tests was very good across the board. Printing mostly text with some simple monochrome graphics on plain paper, the Pixma iP4820 averaged just over 8 pages per minute on both Mac and PC. At default settings on plain paper, text looked a little feathery around the edges. When we switched to the Fine mode (which takes longer and uses more ink), the same text appeared impressively smooth. Snapshot-size photos averaged 2.4 ppm on the PC; a higher-res, full-page photo on the Mac took a little more than a minute to print. Photos on plain paper were passable for the odd newsletter or flyer, though they came out light and sometimes orangey (especially flesh tones). Canon's own photo paper solved all the problems. We also liked how quietly this printer operated, as some low-end competitors can be very noisy.
Ink costs are midrange. The separate ink tanks include a 341-page black for $16 (4.7 cents per page), and $14 cyan, magenta, and yellow ones that last 500 to 519 pages each (about 2.7 cents per page); a four-color page costs about 13 cents. A separate, photo-black cartridge costs $14 and lasts for about 665 images (or contributes a minuscule amount to a typical document).
Macworld's buying advice
You could find less-costly models than the Canon Pixma iP4820. Given its solid performance, however, it seems worth the slight premium.