Canon Pixma MP800

· technology ·

As I've mentioned once or twice before, our old Epson scanner died some time ago, without any possibility of resurrecting it. Mr. Bsag needs it for scanning his artwork, so it came to the point where we really couldn't do without one any more. Our inkjet printer (a Canon i250) was a very cheap and cheerful affair, and having seen a great review for the Canon Pixma MP800 in MacUser magazine, I thought it would be a good buy.

I managed to find one at a very good price on Pixmania, which was delivered last week. I've now had a chance to try out most of the features, though not all (it practically makes coffee for you as well as printing and scanning), so I thought it would be a good moment for a review.

Despite being quite a size, it's a good-looking machine, with a nice glossy black finish. It was really easy to set up following the quickstart guide, with nice touches like lights next to each ink cartridge to let you know that it is correctly inserted. You could actually do without the guide, because you get instructions on the integrated LCD screen for each of the steps. Once I'd got the hardware set up and the drivers installed, it was easy to print documents from any of the machines on the network (I used MacOS X's Printer Sharing feature, with the printer plugged into our iMac).

Scanning is similarly impressive. You can put a couple of 4x6 or 5x7 photographs on the scanning bed, press the button and the software automatically trims the output into two nice straight separate images. The quality of the scans was similarly impressive, even just using the default automatic settings. The MP800 has a transparency adapter too, for 35mm negatives or slides, but I haven't tested that out yet.

There's a dedicated 'Copy' button too, which you can use to scan and then print a document without the involvement of the computer, as if it was a photocopy machine. That's quick and very convenient for running off a couple of copies of documents.

The whole machine has pretty good build quality, and some lovely thoughtful touches. For example, the leading edge of the lower paper tray has a smoked plastic cover over it. From a distance it blends in with the rest of the glossy black front, but when you get closer, you realise that you can see how much paper is left in the tray without needing to open the tray. The output tray can be closed to save space and stop dust getting in, and is opened with a release button. But if you start printing without opening it, the door is automatically released before the paper emerges. The process reminds me of those sequences in Sci-Fi films when a UFO lands and ramp is lowered. Oh, and it also has an integrated card scanner, and when you insert a card, it's automatically mounted on the desktop of the connected machine.

Despite the fact that it's quite easy to use, the software also has some neat touches. I had to print a PDF form, sign it and then rescan the signed copy to email someone. Of course, each page of the form was scanned as a separate document (you can scan straight to PDF, by the way), but there was an option to re-order the documents and combine them to one PDF. I have a copy of PDFLab which could do the same thing, but it's nice to have an integrated solution.

In short, it's a really nice printer, with some genuinely useful features. It also saves a power socket and a USB port (two, if you count not needing to plug a card reader in) over having a separate scanner and printer, which is welcome in my increasingly crowded office.