capsule review

Canon BJC-8500

Hoping to stake a claim in the world of high-end desktop color printing and proofing, Canon released the BJC-8500 bubble-jet color printer. With its six-color ink tanks, 1,200-by-1,200-dpi resolution, support for paper sizes up to 13 by 19 inches, and $2,500 street price, the printer's spec sheet places it in the same class as Epson's Stylus Pro 5000. However, the BJC-8500 falls far short of the competition.

A Promising Start

Setup of the printer is straightforward and the paper handling impressive. Once the six separate ink tanks are installed, the unit's 250-page paper tray easily inserts into the front of the printer. In addition, the paper tray can be expanded to hold up to 600 sheets with the optional paper cassette. A top-loading feeder provides a straight-through paper path for heavier media and makes it possible to print on special media -- envelopes, postcards, T-shirt transfers -- without having to unload the paper tray.

Signs of Trouble

While serial and parallel ports are built in to the BJC-8500, establishing a USB connection requires an additional, optional accessory (the Canon USB Kit, $70). Because of this, USB connectivity definitely feels like something of an afterthought on Canon's part. On a similar note, Canon's driver software seems incomplete. While there are several preset options for printing different types of images (text, photos, line art), there aren't any manual controls for creating your own settings -- draft-quality text, for example. In addition, the driver does not support background printing.

The biggest problem: Canon's software is buggy. Draft printing consistently quit after outputting only a few pages, requiring the printer to be restarted for complete results. Plus, Photo mode often produced strange banding artifacts in the middle of images. The only way to eliminate artifacts is to reprint, which is inconvenient and time-consuming; the BJC-8500 is painfully slow, requiring typically three to five minutes to print a single 8-by-10-inch color photo.

Once the BJC-8500 actually prints, the results are impressive. Smooth color, little noise, and excellent resolution are produced on just about any type of media. Plus, a special waterproofing cartridge lays down a preliminary undercoat, enabling the BJC-8500 to deliver excellent results on plain paper. But these few high points are easily outweighed by the BJC-8500's many shortcomings.

Its image quality is impressive, but the BJC-8500's drawbacks are hard to ignore: buggy software, lack of built-in USB connectivity, limited driver software, and no Ethernet support. Added to the fact that its feature set feels two or three years old, the Canon BJC-8500 is a difficult printer to recommend.

Canon BJC-8500
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