Whether it's printing, scanning, copying or faxing that you're after, the Pixma has you covered.
The MX850 is an A4 colour inkjet multifunction device with print, scan, copy and fax capabilities. It can be connected to a computer via USB, or over an Ethernet network. Measuring 51 x 48 x 26cm, its charcoal and silver finish would complement many current PCs. At 2.5in, the LCD screen is on the small side but bright and clear.
Setup and installation is straightforward (there’s a convenient quick start guide), although the Windows software does span two CDs. Drivers are provided for Windows 2000, XP and Vista, and Mac OS X 10.3.9 and greater. In addition to various utilities, the Windows software bundle includes ScanSoft’s OmniPage SE (OCR) and Presto! Page Manager (document management).
Paper capacity is a nominal 300 sheets, and the provision of a cassette at the base of the printer as well as the conventional rear tray means two different types of media can be kept loaded, with selection via software or a button on the front panel. There’s also provision for printing on CDs and DVDs.
Nominal print speed is 31ppm for mono and 24ppm for colour. We recorded 21 seconds click-to-drop for the first colour A4 page, with the second page emerging in another 25 seconds or so, including a mysterious but fairly consistent mid-page pause. This seemed to be specific to our usual test document and the MX850 as we have not seen anything similar before. Printing a different PDF file saw the second page emerge 14 seconds after the first.
Print quality was good, with characters appearing dense and smoothly formed under a magnifying glass. Text in small point sizes was slightly above average when compared with other recently tested inkjet printers. Margins were between three and five millimetres, though the MX850 is also capable of borderless printing (not recommended on plain paper).
Business graphics were bright with smooth gradients, although the reds seemed slightly subdued and the greens a little brighter than with other printers we have tested recently. Solid black areas appeared over-inked on plain paper and took longer than usual to dry.
Duplex capability is always welcome as a paper-saving measure, though show-through is more noticeable on inkjet printers than with lasers.
Our test set of photos printed well, even at a large scale, with pleasing flesh tones and smooth gradients. We recorded a click-to-drop time of 70 seconds for the first 6 x 4in print. The MX850 uses Canon’s ChromaLife 100 five-ink (CYMK dye, plus pigment black) system, and we’ve always been partial to the results this gives.
The device can also be used for standalone printing from the usual range of memory cards including CF, xD, SD, SDHC, Memory Stick and MMC. As with earlier Canon MFDs, there’s the option of printing an index sheet that can be marked up and then scanned to produce the desired selection and quantity of prints.
PictBridge-compatible devices can be connected via the secondary USB port for direct printing, but it seems this does not extend to USB storage devices such as thumb drives. There is also an optional Bluetooth interface (not tested) for printing from phones and other devices.
The MX850 works much like a typical fax machine for sending and receiving, but there’s also the option of sending faxes via a network or USB connection from Windows but not from Mac OS X.
Copying business documents gave good results. While the result of copying our test A4 colour photo was nothing less than satisfactory, the sky tones were slightly more accurately rendered on plain paper than on Canon’s Photo Paper Plus Glossy paper, while the reverse was true for foliage shades.
Scanning gave good quality images, and like other Canon MFDs, the MX850 makes it easy to direct a scan to a particular computer on the network on a pull or push basis.
If photo output is important, the MX850 makes a desirable MFD for the SMB market, or for a small group of users in a larger organisation. Our main objections are the inability to route incoming faxes to a computer and the absence of Mac-based faxing.