- Fast text printing;
- low ink costs;
- excellent plain-paper graphics;
- photo-quality printing.
- Sluggish graphics print speeds;
- mediocre text quality.
Canon's S500 is an inexpensive inkjet printer featuring a somewhat potbellied design and a front cover that pops open to reveal the ink cartridges. It costs £135.32 (ex. VAT; £159 inc. VAT), and works with Macs or PCs on both USB and parallel ports (cables not included). The input tray holds 100 sheets of paper, which is usually plenty for a home/small business printer.
Setting up the S500 is as simple as popping the CD-ROM into your system and following the instructions. The CD's user guide walks you through everything from the various parts of the printer to how to maintain it and troubleshoot problems. The driver covers simple issues such as choosing print quality, as well as more complicated tasks like manual colour adjustment. A Print Advisor button brings up a wizard that walks you through choosing paper and appropriate print settings for different types of documents. There's also a maintenance tab that covers cleaning print nozzles, aligning print-heads and so on. With the S500, you also get Photo Record, a very basic software program that lets you arrange and create photo albums.
The S500 performed reasonably well in our Labs' tests. On average, the S500 printed text at 5.9ppm (pages per minute) -- slightly slower than its bigger brother the S600, but still among the fastest inkjets we've tested. As with the S600, the S500 was slow at printing graphics, averaging just 0.5ppm. But when printing a photograph at the best-quality setting, the S500 was actually the second-fastest inkjet we've tested so far, printing a full-colour page in 1.7 minutes.
The Canon S500's print quality also mirrored -- with slight distortion -- that of the S600. Text on plain paper was fuzzy around the edges of the letters at all point sizes. Text on Canon's High Resolution paper was much crisper and clearer, but the black ink was unfortunately imbued with a distinct reddish hue, making the text look somewhat purple in colour. The S500 really shone when printing graphics on plain paper. In spite of some colour-matching problems, which made purples, blues, and greens look slightly dark and dirty, the printer handled the line drawings, shading and photo elements of our test document very well. Our test photo, printed at 600 dots per inch (dpi) came out very well, with good skin tone and colour reproduction and a laudably smooth background.
Printing such gorgeous graphics won't cost you too much either, as the Canon S500 averaged 9.8 per page of colour ink. Black ink costs are also reasonable, at 2.5p per page. The Canon S500 takes four separate ink tanks (one for each CMY colour, plus black), which keeps ink waste down to a minimum.
The Canon S500 comes with a standard one-year parts and labour warranty which you can extend up to three years. Free phone support is available for the length of the warranty.
Canon's S500 is a good printer at a great price. But its similarly priced relative, the S600, is slightly faster and offers better print quality. Of course, if you can wait until the S500 drops in price and you plan on printing only colour graphics and photos, go with the S500. But if you'll be doing a lot of text printing, the S600 is the better buy.