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The Canon Pixma MX850 is a small, versatile multifunction printer suited to a small office looking for a cheap, do-it-all machine. It offers a broad range of features and reasonable document print quality, but don't expect top quality colour prints.
The design of multifunction printers seen to be a pretty standard affair these days, paper tray out back, print feed out the front and a lid that lifts to reveal a scanner. The top scanner tray felt a little flimsy with clunky hinges, but this is not uncommon in printers of this size and price.
At 51cm by 48cm by 26cm and weighing in at around 14 kilograms, the Canon Pixma MX850 isn't light or portable, but you should still be able to squeeze it onto your desk. It comes in a sleek black with grey finish. In all, for its level of functionality, the MX850 is a fairly compact printer.
If you can't find the compact flash and SD card readers, it's because they are hidden behind the little black door underneath the numerical console on the front. The USB port on the front on the machine was a poor design choice — it sits back inside a slot that none of the four USB sticks we tried were able to fit.
The display panel comes with a 2.5-inch colour LCD display which is bright and easy to read. When you move between different printer functions, the cute LCD helpfully shows the level of inks remaining in each tank. The display can also swivel to face forward or tilt down slightly — in case you're one and a half feet tall or have bizarrely put the printer above head-height.
The MX850 comes with five separate ink cartridges — a double-sized black for documents and four colour tanks for black, yellow, magenta and cyan. The ink cartridges are a breeze to install, just lift the lid and click into place, and a red light will come on.
The Pixma MX850 comes with a descriptive visual quick start guide, so we had no trouble installing the print head or the inks. Driver installation was equally quick and painless on our Windows XP SP2 machine. The printer also supports Max OS X versions later than 10.3.8.
The print manual is straightforward and clearly written, and the printer also comes with a handy digital manual with more details.
All inks for the MX850 have an RRP of AU$27. Using Canon's claimed yields, A4 black and white prints work out at about 5 cents a page. A4 colour pages come out at around 4 cents — quite reasonable.
When trying to connect the MX850, we came across a minor hitch: it's impossible with the box contents. While it's not usual for a printer to come supplied without a USB cable, if you don't have a spare lying around, make sure you pick one up with your printer purchase. Otherwise you might feel a bit like you'd bought a new car with no steering wheel.
The MX850 has a range of features associated with a multifunction printer — copying, multiple scanning, fax, as well as black-and-white and duplex printing.
The MX850 comes with a raft of software that we found to be intuitive, quick and helpful. These included an image manager, quick scanning software, album, sticker and calendar printing options, along with a digital manual. The printer also comes supplied with an Ethernet port, a handy addition that has the added bonus of a software network tool to help you network the printer should you so desire. Another useful extra is the inclusion of a 33.6 Kbps fax, although it only supports black and white documents when faxing directly from the machine.
Warranty on the MX850 is 12 months, which is pretty standard for a multifunction printer of this size. The warranty can be upgraded to 36 months for an additional AU$99.
Performance and Image quality
Canon claim that the MX850 can pump out 31 pages per minute (ppm) black and white; our tests came out at 13 ppm for a sparse document, less than half as fast as promised in standard configuration. In high speed printing mode, the MX850 managed 20 ppm, but print quality was noticeably degraded — blacks became grey and text became slightly grainy. None the less, 13 pages per minute is still a reasonable speed for a desktop multifunction.
Document duplex printing is slow on the MX850, expect between 1 and 2 ppm, but we like the fact that you can set the printer to automatically duplex — every tree you save is also a few cents you save.
Colour printing in standard quality came out at just over 3 ppm, and in fast mode managed a respectable 8 ppm, however this is only a third of Cannon's promised 24 ppm. In addition, the print quality at highest speed is appalling, with faded, grainy colours.
If you turn the quality setting up and asked the MX850 to delivery on print colour quality, it performs solidly. Most colours are reproduced faithfully, and if you're looking to print office documents, the MX850 should fit the bill just fine.
However, if you're looking to print photographs, perhaps look elsewhere. Lighter colours seem to come with a washed-out look, while oranges and yellows come out with a fluoro tinge. Black can come out slightly blue. High quality colour prints come out at a bit less than 2 ppm.
Scanning is quick and quality is excellent, for both colour and black and white — and this endears the MX850 to us as an office printer. Strangely, colours seemed to be reproduced more faithfully when images printed on the MX850 were colour photocopied. Colour photocopying also seems to be fast than straight colour printing.
For AU$449 including GST the Canon Pixma MX850 is a reliable and versatile office warrior, and would ideally suite the small office looking for broad functionality. If you're looking for speedy, high quality photo and documents prints without all the bells and whistles of the MX850, perhaps consider the Konica Minolta Magicolor 4650DN. If you like the look of the MX850, but want to save a few dollars, there is always its smaller cousin, the MX700.