Review: Canon Pixma MX7600 Office All-in-One

by Eric Grevstad

Invisible ink? Isn't that just for spies? Canon doesn't think so -- its $400 flagship inkjet all-in-one uses a special clear ink to give output on cheap plain paper laser-sharp quality. And in-house printing will never be the same.

Lately, we've been increasingly impressed by the capabilities of relatively small, relatively low-priced inkjet printer/scanner/copiers. Compared to such all-in-one compacts, Canon's Pixma MX7600 is a bruiser: It weighs a hefty 37 pounds, measures a bulky 20 by 21 by 13 inches, and will set you back $400.

So how does the MX7600 justify its price as a premium small-office paper-pusher? Well, it includes the often-overlooked fourth function: not only printing, copying, and scanning but faxing. It meets the requirement of an automatic document feeder (ADF) to save you the tedium of placing and flipping sheets for multipage copying and faxing jobs.

It offers an Ethernet as well as USB 2.0 interface for workgroup networking (but not wireless networking). It uses separate cyan, magenta, and yellow ink cartridges instead of a tricolor cartridge so you don't waste money replacing all the colors when only one has run dry. It has duplex (double-sided) printing as standard equipment. It's pretty fast -- usually (see caveat below).

But when it comes to the real reason to consider the costly Canon, we've got two words for you: Print quality. All right, five words: Print quality on plain paper.

Inkjet printers, as you know, spray liquid ink onto paper. When the latter is cheap copier paper, ink tends to seep or soak into the page a bit, leaving the fuzzy edges that often let you tell inkjet from laser printer output at a glance. Hence the rows and reams of higher-priced, specially coated inkjet paper available at your local Staples or Office Depot.

Canon Pixma MX7600 Office All-in-One Printer
The Canon Pixma MX7600 Office All-in-One Printer

But the Pixma MX7600 performs a nifty trick: It turns plain paper into coated, spraying a specially formulated clear ink onto the page before printing its text and graphics, using pigment-based cyan, magenta, yellow, and black as well as the usual dye-based black.

Yes, the phrase clear ink has an emperor's-new-clothes ring to it, and we lost track of Canon's technical explanation of its Pigment Reaction Technology once we got to the polyvalent metal ions. But we'll be deuced if it doesn't make a visible difference.

Nothing Fancy, Thanks

The first pages we printed with our test unit were 8 by 10-inch photos on W.B. Mason bargain-brand copier fodder, using the Canon's default (standard print quality) mode. The results provided two pleasant surprises: They arrived in only 27 seconds apiece, and were as bright and sharp as the slower-to-arrive images on inkjet paper we've seen from many test models, or at least those printers' much slower best-quality plain-paper pix.

Other tests yielded similar comparisons: The Canon's plain-paper output was comparable to that of rivals set for higher print quality or stepping up to coated paper or both. Higher-speed draft-mode text documents, for example, definitely surpassed the usual good-enough-for-in-house-use rating, coming close to (if still a little shy of) show-it-to-a-client quality.

For the most part, though, draft mode wasn't that much faster than normal mode, just as high-quality mode was wasn't that much better (though much slower). So we spent most of our time with the PX7600 printing in standard mode on plain paper -- interestingly, Canon's software driver doesn't even list inkjet paper as a choice on its menu of media types, skipping right from plain to glossy or matte photo paper.

Text was first-class, even as petite as 6-point Times New Roman, while small- and medium-sized solid-color areas showed almost no trace of banding. One torture test, a full-page PowerPoint slide with a solid purple background, did show some banding. That was almost reassuring. Until then, we were wondering if Canon had hidden a color laser engine somewhere under the hood.

A Silver Six-Shooter

Once you've wrestled it out of the box and removed fewer than 200 pieces of packing tape, setting up the MX7600 is a straightforward if slightly time-consuming process. After lifting the cover, which contains both the scanner and control panel, you drop the printhead into its slot at rear center and push a plastic tab to lock it in place then repeat the task for the row of five ink cartridges -- the pigment-based and larger regular black cartridges, followed by yellow, magenta, and cyan. In an adorably convenient feature, the quintet have LED lamps on their tails that light up to show that the cartridges are installed correctly.

After installing the sixth and largest ink cartridge --- the clear ink, which snaps into a carrier of its own at front left -- you can close the lid and get a cup of coffee while the Canon adjusts and aligns itself.

Replacement cartridges are priced at $18 for the clear ink and $15 for each of the other inks. Data on exact life expectancies are hard to come by, but we can tell you the non-pigment black cartridge was definitely the shortest-lived in our testing -- we'd estimate 600 pages tops. Judging by Canon's on-screen status gauge, the others' page counts should stretch into four figures, with the clear ink the longest-lasting.

A flip-open tray on top serves as the 35-page automatic document feeder, while a vertical sheet-feed tray at rear holds photo paper or other special media. Regular paper goes into a shallow (150 pages) drawer at bottom front center.

While it's intended for use as an office rather than digital-photo-lab accessory, the Pixma does follow modern printer practice by loading and printing images directly from flash-memory cards. Two slots for an assortment of CompactFlash, xD, Secure Digital, MultiMedia Card, and Memory Stick modules hide behind a door at the printer's right front, just above a PictBridge USB port for taking images directly from a camera.

One of Canon's provided software applications, Easy-PhotoPaint EX, combines previewing, selecting, and printing photos in various layouts with the usual rudimentary editing functions -- rotate, crop, and manual brightness, contrast, and sharpness adjustment -- plus automatic red-eye removal and face sharpening or smoothing for portraits.

Surprisingly, the photo printing functions available via the Canon's control-panel buttons and 1.8-inch LCD outstrip those of the bundled software -- the menu navigation is painstaking, but offers access to options such as noise reduction, RGB hue adjustment, and boosting blue and green for more vivid photos.

Following Instructions

Most of the MX7600's front-panel controls are intuitive, with LCD prompts steering you through jobs such as walk-up black-and-white or color copying and prominent copy, fax, scan, and memory-card buttons for sorting available functions by job type. The Canon's fax capabilities are extensive, including eight one-touch speed-dial buttons plus a directory of 100 other speed-dials, group dialing, and 250 pages' worth of transmission or reception memory.

The 48-bit flatbed scanner offers 4,800 by 9,600 dpi optical resolution (600 by 600 dpi for scanning single- or double-sided documents using the ADF), with the familiar options of scanning to an image or PDF file or e-mail attachment. Again, hardcore users can rely on LCD menus while a program called MP Navigator EX offers friendlier access to routine functions. NewSoft's Presto PageManager document management and Nuance's ScanSoft OmniPage SE optical character recognition software are part of the default software install.

As a copier, the Pixma MX7600 provides 25- to 400-percent zoom as well as options to fit to page, fit two or four pages to page, and copy single- or double-sided originals to double- or single-sided pages. One option can pep up faded colors in originals, while another erases the black or gray areas around a scanned page from a book.

Adapted from Hardwarecentral.com.

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This article was originally published on Wednesday Oct 29th 2008
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