Unpacking a new product can sometimes be like a voyage of discover. In the case of a PIXMA MP490 from Canon, I was convinced that the mains power lead and ink cartridges were missing – that is until I opened the paper output tray and discovered them packed inside. Thinking about it, this was a sensible arrangement as it keeps all the relevant components safely together.
Adopting a rounded cornered box-shape, this All-In-One device is decked out in reflective computer grey with black highlights. Taking into consideration the unit’s dimensions of 450 x 335 x 155mm and weighing 5.5kg, the MP490 is reassuringly sturdy without loosing out on easy transportation from one desk to another. Both the mains and USB sockets are situated in such a way that neither adds to the space required by this unit.
With the standard arrangement of a flatbed scanner sitting on top of an inkjet printer, this All-In-One device can print, scan and copy. Paper feed is from the back to the drop-down front output paper tray. Situated on the top of the unit in the right front corner is a control panel that features a 1.8-inch TFT LCD screen providing visual content feedback and buttons to turn the device on/off and select either monochrome or colour output. Just below this control panel is a swing door memory card compartment. Among the supported memory cards are CF, Microdrive, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick Duo Pro, SD, SDHC, MMC and xD formats which gives the user direct card printing capabilities. Images can be selected from the TFT screen.
While you can carry out some functions direct from the PIXMA MP490, such as the previously mentioned direct memory card printing plus printing a scanned image, for other tasks you will need to link to a computer and install the supplied drivers for printing and scanning documents. Also included on the media CD are a PDF version of the User Manual and two software applications. Canon MP Navigator EX enables you to scan items and access images whether they are stored on the computer or memory card. There is also 15 language OCR support. The second application, Canon Easy-PhotoPrint EX, brings together features for photo work and printing such items as calendars or photo albums. You get to select the paper type and size plus pick from various layouts and carry out some editing.
The unit’s inkjet printer makes use of Canon’s FINE (Full-photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering) technology which claims to deliver virtually grain-free photo-lab quality prints using 4800dpi cartridges with a 2pl drop size. Two cartridges are supplied – pigment black and dye-based cyan, magenta and yellow. The flatbed scanner module has an optical resolution of 1200 x 2400dpi increasing to 19200 x 19200dpi digital. The scanner is compatible with TWAIN / WIA and includes features such as Auto-Scan, scan to memory card and Stitch Assist with the aid of MP Navigator EX software.
Unlike most other printer / All-In-One devices I have looked at, Canon has used the ISO/IEC 24734 and 24735 speed measurement tests to give a more realistic real-world rating for this model. According to Canon the MP490 can produce copy at 8.4ipm in mono and 4.8ipm in colour with a 4 x 6 inch print taking 43 seconds. Running my normal series of tests produced figures that were generally at odds with those from Canon but, surprisingly, in Canon’s favour.
Printing a 102-word monochrome document in Fast, Standard and High quality modes produced 18, 16 and 6ppm. While there was a noticeable difference in quality, the Fast mode would be more than satisfactory for internal use with Standard or High being used for more professional type documents. Adding colour to the text and introducing a colour image resulted in 9.5, 5.5 and 2ppm. A borderless 10 x 15cm photo took 42 seconds while a borderless A4 print required 115 seconds. Opting for an A4 photocopy combining the scan and pint features was completed in 37 seconds. Image quality was acceptable in all instances.
Canon has priced the PIXMA MP490 at £79. Replacement cartridges are available from the Canon online store. A Black (PG-510) cartridge delivering 220 pages is priced at £10.99. A Colour (CL-511) cartridge is available at £14.99 with the capacity to produce 244 pages. The Canon PIXMA MP490 is compatible with Windows 2000 and later plus Mac OS X 10.3.9 to 10.5. Its combination of stylish looks, output speeds and feature set make it a suitable choice for home users.
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