Review: Canon Pixma MP830
Are you looking for a printer that outputs photos so good-looking you can sell them, quickly cranks out crisp business documents, and copies, scans, and faxes? Yeah, me too, but the combination doesn't exist. In this less-than-perfect world, we have to make compromises. In my quest for a multifunction printer with the fewest compromises, I previously reviewed the Epson RX700. Its six-color photo output was good for contact sheets and 4" x 6" examples of shots, and I liked some of its other features, such as the ability to print directly onto CDs and DVDs, and several of its standalone features that don't require a computer. But ultimately, I decided that I have to pair the RX700 with a dedicated printer for serious photo output. Recently Canon sent me its $299 Pixma MP830 multifunction device. It packs more functions than just about any other printer on the market, so I gave it a whirl.
I found that the MP830 is no match for a dedicated photo printer (or even the Epson RX700) when it comes to photo output quality. However, because the MP830 includes so many features, it might still save you some space in your office. The Specs Measuring roughly 20" x 19" x 11.5" and weighing 32 pounds, the MP830 provides the following features:
- A fast, four color inkjet printing engine
- Letter-size color and grayscale copying
- Scanning (reflective only, not transparency)
- A built-in auto document feeder
- 33.6 G3 black and white and color fax
- Stand-alone operation of all copying, scanning, and faxing features
- Direct printing from a media card or camera
Set-up Despite its plethora of features, setting up the MP830 is very simple. Just remove the packing material, plug it in, and turn it on. It includes a letter-size front loading paper tray and a rear-loading sheet feeder for legal size, envelopes, and a different kind of media from what you have in the paper tray. The manual feed path requires extra room both above and behind the printer. The handy front panel controls give you access to all the utility functions (selecting a paper source, and so forth) and let you drive the printer's functions without a computer. In the middle of the panel is a tilting 2.5-inch color LCD screen that displays the printer's well-designed menuing system, and previews images from media cards and cameras. The front of the printer is also where you'll find the MP830's media slots, which let you read directly from all popular flash card formats, including Compact Flash, SmartMedia, Memory Stick/Pro/Duo, SD, MMC, xD-Picture Card, and miniSD. For connecting to your computer, the MP830 has a single USB-2 port. Copying, Scanning and Faxing, Oh My! Using the MP830 as a copier is very straightforward. Place a document on the platen and hit either the color or black and white copy button. You can put up to 35 pages in the MP830's top-mounted auto-document feeder for automatic copying. The auto document feeder also lets you perform two-sided copying with a variety of options: single-sided to two-sided, two-sided to two-sided, two-sided to single-sided. The auto feeder lets you create collated or uncollated copies. Also impressive is the extensive range of copying functions. Zoom features enlarge or reduce your copies from 25 to 400%, and the 2-to-1 and 4-to-1 features easily copy two or four pages onto a single page. Sticker copy mode lets you copy a 4" x 6" photo onto a Canon sticker page (a letter-sized page full of small stickers). You can also use the MP830 to copy photos onto any supported page size. The MP830 automatically enlarges or reduces the photo to fit it onto your target size. The MP830's 2400 x 4800 scanner does a good job with basic document scanning and optical character recognition (OCR). Because it works with the auto document feeder, scanning multiple pages (or performing OCR on long documents) is a snap. For serious photo work, you'll want a higher quality dedicated scanner. For computer-less scanning, the scanner can be operated from the front panel and can scan directly to a memory card. If you don't have room to keep the unit near your computer, this gives you a simple remote scanning capability. Just scan to a card, and then take the card back to your computer. The fax feature works just as you'd expect it to and, as with scanning, the auto document feeder makes it much easier to fax long documents. You'll be hard-pressed to find a multifunction printer that has stronger copying features than the MP830. Scanning and faxing are also very good, though the scanner lacks any transparency feature. For simple office use, this shouldn't matter, and serious photographers will want a full-featured transparency scanner, anyway. Printing The first thing you'll notice when printing on the MP830 is its speed. Canon claims 30 pages per minute for black and white printing, and 24 pages per minute for color. These sorts of claims are always hard to verify because different pages require different print times. Overall, though, it's safe to say that, as with most Canon inkjets, the MP830 is much faster than its competition. Print quality is very good for basic document printing. Text is sharp and clear. But as you would expect from a four-color printer, photo printing is less than optimal. With its four-color engine, the MP830's photo prints are weak on reds and blues, and overall are weak in saturation and contrast. Portfolio and sample work aren't possible with this printer. As with scanning, you can print image files directly from a media card, which makes for an easy remote printing setup if you can't fit the printer near your computer. Using the LCD screen, you can easily sort through the images on a card to find the ones you want to print, or you can ask the printer to produce an Index Sheet, a printed page containing thumbnails of your images and a simple order form. Check the images you want printed, the sizes you want, and the quantity, then place the completed form back in the MP830. The printer will scan the page and output your prints. The MP830 supports PictBridge and DirectPrint for printing directly from your camera. The front-mounted USB port gives you a convenient way to attach your camera. The Bottom Line Due to its four-color printing engine, you won't be able to do much quality photo printing on the MP830, but the printer's other strengths make it an excellent replacement for a normal office printer, copier, fax machine, and possibly scanner. So, though it might not be a good single-machine solution for all of your needs, it might get you down to only two devices: a quality photo printer for your photo output, and the MP830 for everything else you might need to do.