For years now, we’ve been reviewing slightly different iterations of the same “MG”-family Pixmas from Canon. (The MG family is, or was, Canon’s consumer line of photo-centric Pixma printers.) Like most printer makers, each year Canon simply added a feature or two, up-ticked the number in the printer’s name (say, from Pixma MG7620 to Pixma MG7720), and then offered it as a new, or more precisely, an “updated” product.
Even though this is common practice among the printer set, reviewing more or less the same printer over and over can get monotonous. We’re happy to report that those days are, at least temporarily, over, where Canon’s Pixma MG-series photo printers are concerned.
Enter the imaging giant’s new Pixma TS series, the MG series’ replacement. The first round of TS Pixmas consists of four all-in-one (AIO) print/scan/copy models. From the least expensive, with the shortest list of features, to the most expensive and feature-rich, the new TS series AIOs are the Pixma TS5020 Wireless ($99.99 MSRP), the Pixma TS6020 Wireless ($149.99 MSRP), the Pixma TS8020 Wireless ($179.99), and the topic of this review, the flagship Pixma TS9020 Wireless. (Computer Shopper will be reviewing most or all of these models in the coming weeks.) The Pixma TS9020 lists for $199.99, though as we were writing this, we found it at Canon U.S.A. and various Canon resellers for $179.99.
The differences in features among the new models include smaller LCDs and paper capacities as you slide down the list. Today’s test unit, the top-dog Pixma TS9020, for example, has a 5-inch touch screen, while the Pixma TS8020’s display is 4.3 inches. This top-of-the-line model supports Ethernet and Near-Field Communication (NFC), but some of the less-expensive AIOs in the series do not. (Of the lot, only the Pixma TS9020 has Ethernet, and both the Pixma TS9020 and TS8020 support NFC.) The three top models have two paper trays, while the Pixma TS5020 has just one—you get the idea. The bottom line in all this is that the Pixma TS9020 is the best-equipped of the four.
While the MG series Pixmas had their issues (no printer is perfect, to be sure), they printed some of the best-looking photos among consumer photo printers. That was especially true of the six-ink Canon Pixma MG7720, the model that the Pixma TS9020 replaces. The Pixma TS9020, like that earlier model, uses six ink cartridges—the same six cartridges, in fact, which unfortunately translates to the same high per-page running costs. As we’ll get into later on, it’s not unusual for consumer-grade photo printers (or any grade of photo printer, for that matter) to have a high cost per page (CPP). Even so, this Pixma’s per-page ink cost carries over and diminishes its value as a document printer, especially if you print more than a couple of hundred document pages per month and are hoping to use this printer as a dual-purpose photo/text workhorse.
Even though the Pixma TS9020 is somewhat expensive to use with all kinds of output, it does offer the best of both worlds from a quality perspective, in that it prints high-quality documents and photos. In keeping with the light-use concept, though, like the MG-series Pixmas none of the models in this new series comes with an automatic document feeder (ADF). Not being able to send multipage documents to the scanner without user intervention will make this a key omission for some home and small offices.
In the end, we have to make the same general statement about this printer that we have about more than a few MG Pixmas in the past. We like the Pixma TS9020 as a photo printer, but the ability to print documents and perform limited scanning and copying should be considered add-ons, conveniences. If you need these features regularly, you’ll want to consider another photo-centric AIO, such as the Epson Expression Photo XP-860 Small-in-One or one of Epson’s other consumer photo AIOs. If printing photos is your primary concern, though, and you need quality prints, you can’t go wrong with the Pixma TS9020, so long as you can stomach the cost of its ink.
The Epson DS-1630 Flatbed Color Document Scanner ($299.99) is a low-volume document scanner designed for small and home-based offices. It combines the versatility of a flatbed and a sheet-feed scanner with an automatic document feeder (ADF), and supports automatic duplex scanning. But unlike many competing models, including the same-priced HP ScanJet Pro 2500 f1 Flatbed Scanner and the more expensive Editors’ Choice Canon imageFormula DR-2020U, the DS-1630 has only one sensor, making it slow at scanning two-sided pages. Even so, it’s buoyed by its generous software bundle and competitively accurate optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities.
Years from now, we’ll look back at the current era in inkjet printers, and call these times The “Big Ink” Years. Supplying bulk ink with your printer, or making it available in bulk, is definitely the in thing.
It took a while, but inkjet giant Canon finally responded to rival Epson’s “supertanker” EcoTank inkjet printers, and to a lesser degree, to Brother’s INKvestment models. These are two inkjet-printer lines with different ways of delivering bulk ink. The difference between the Epson and Brother approaches is that Epson’s EcoTank printers take their ink from relatively large reservoirs that you fill from bottles (or snap in as sealed bags), while Brother’s INKvestment models use ink cartridges that are inexpensive on a per-page basis, sometimes bundled in multiples with the printer.
The idea is that you pay more (often significantly more) for the printer up front, but the per-page running costs are much lower. From a printer-business standpoint, you lock in more of your profit with the purchase of the printer outright. That’s the idea with both the Brother and Epson approaches. And now with Canon’s G-series MegaTank machines, like the $399.99-list Pixma G4200 Wireless MegaTank All-in-One Printer we’re looking at today, another big inkjet name joins the trend.
When the printer manufacturer makes much of its profit from the sale of the machine itself, rather than on the subsequent sale of ink, you as a buyer need to be sure that the ostensibly lower ongoing cost of operation makes that initial purchase sensible. Like many of Epson’s EcoTank printers, Canon’s MegaTank machines deploy the filling-the-reservoirs-from-bottles method, as opposed to Brother’s inexpensive-cartridge approach. Brother, with its approach, is able to offer two versions of its INKvestment products, dubbed XL and non-XL. The less-expensive non-XL machines, such as the Brother MFC-J985DW, come with only one set of four ink tanks, and the relatively high-yield replacement cartridges come at a low per-page price. The more-costly XL models (the Brother MFC-J985DW XL$249.99 at Amazon, for instance), come with multiple sets of cartridges in the box, and the further replacement tanks are priced for competitively low running costs.
The bottles of ink that come with the EcoTank and MegaTank printers could last you up to a year, or even more, depending on what and how much you print. Epson, in fact, claims that its WorkForce ET-4550 EcoTank All-in-One$491.27 at Amazon (an AIO with a feature set similar to that of the Pixma G4200) and other EcoTank models come with two years’ worth of ink for the typical user of that model of printer, good for thousands of pages. In a similar vein, Canon claims that the Pixma G4200 and the other three G-series models ship with enough ink to print 6,000 monochrome pages or 7,000 color pages. As we’ll get into later on, these are document pages with a low percentage of overall ink coverage, not full-coverage photographs or pages laden with graphics.
The first round of Canon’s MegaTank machines consists of one stand-alone, print-only non-AIO model, the Pixma G1200 MegaTank, and three AIOs: the Pixma G2200 MegaTank All-in-One, the Pixma G3200 Wireless MegaTank All-in-One, and the flagship model we’re reviewng here, the Pixma G4200.
While they all use the same print engines and come with the same amount of ink, the differences in the feature sets among these four printers are major. The first two, for example, don’t offer Wi-Fi network connectivity or support for mobile devices, while the Pixma G4200 we are looking at here is the only one of the four with an automatic document feeder (ADF) for passing multipage documents to the scanner. And, of course, the least-expensive, non-AIO Pixma G1200 doesn’t even have a scanner. Even so, as we’ll get into near the end of this review, the Pixma G4200’s text and print quality is exceptional, and the G4200 (and its siblings) deliver some of the lowest running costs on the inkjet-printer market.
That last item is a key thing. For a low-volume printer designed for home offices, excellent print quality and low running costs are really the bottom line for us—so long as the machine has a reasonable feature set, too. The inclusion of an ADF on a bulk-ink model at this price is a huge plus. To get an ADF from an Epson EcoTank model, you’ll have to march up the Epson line to the $500 WorkForce ET-4550 EcoTank All-in-One model we mentioned earlier. Granted, that printer comes with more ink, but not enough to make up a $100 price difference.
That Epson model, too, is more geared toward small businesses, small offices, or workgroups, as the name implies. What we really like about the Pixma G4200 and the lessers in its line, though, is that they print photos very close in quality to Canon’s new photo-centric Pixma TS9020 and Pixma TS8020 models. But the ink costs a lot less, making the Pixma G4200 an exceptional choice for homes or home offices—and an Editors’ Choice pick.
The Canon Pixma G3200 Wireless MegaTank All-in-One Printer ($299.99) is a low-volume all-in-one printer (AIO) intended for small or home-based offices. Like the recently reviewed Pixma G1200, a standalone model, the G3200 is one of Canon’s MegaTank G-Series machines designed to compete directly with Epson’s EcoTank and Brother’s INKvestment printers, such as the Expression ET-2550 EcoTank All-in-One Printer and the MFC-J985DW XL, respectively. Like the G1200, the G3200 prints exceptionally well, especially photographs, and its running costs are highly competitive. It comes without an automatic document feeder (ADF) for sending multipage originals to the scanner—a feature that any $300 inkjet AIO should come with. That and a missing mobile connectivity feature or two, and its lack of fax capabilities, are just enough to keep it from replacing the Brother model as Editors’ Choice as an inkjet AIO for use in a small, home, or micro office.
The least-expensive all-in-one printer (AIO) in Canon’s new Pixma TS series, the Pixma TS5020 Wireless All-in-One Printer ($99.99), is a low-cost, low-volume model designed for home use. A primary difference between it and the pricier and more feature-rich TS9020 and TS8020 (the latter an Editors’ Choice) is that the TS5020 uses five inks rather than six. Unlike another Editors’ Choice, the Brother MFC-J985DW (an entry-level office-centric AIO), none of these Pixmas come with automatic document feeders (ADFs), making them less suitable for home-based office use. Like the TS8020, though, the TS5020’s text and photo output is very strong, but it did struggle some in testing when printing dark fills and backgrounds in Excel charts and PowerPoint handouts. Otherwise, it’s an inexpensive alternative to the TS8020 for low-volume printing of photos and documents for home users.
The Canon Maxify MB2120 Wireless Home Office Inkjet Printer ($179.99) is a one-drawer version of the Editors’ Choice Maxify MB2720 Wireless Home Office Inkjet Printer we reviewed a few months ago. In both performance and output quality, the MB2120, the MB2720, and the Canon Maxify MB5420 reviewed here recently, behaved much the same—fast enough for use as an entry-level home or home-based office all-in-one printer, with above-average print, scan, and copy quality. The MB2120’s paper capacity, only half that of those two printers, ensures that the MB5420 remains our Editors’ Choice. The Canon Maxify MB5120 is best as a low-cost alternative meant for lighter-duty use.
The Epson WorkForce Pro ET-16500 EcoTank Wide-Format All-in-One Supertank Printer ($999.99) is the first wide-format inkjet printer we’ve looked at in Epson’s EcoTank line, which uses ink tanks or bottles in place of cartridges. As such, it can print pages up to supertabloid size (13 by 19), as well as scan, copy, and fax tabloid (11-by-17) pages. Overall, the ET-16500 is a fine printer, but it performed slowly during some of our benchmark tests, and, at $1,000, it’s expensive to purchase. Its running costs, though, are low enough to take the sting out of the purchase price—as long as you use it frequently, that is.
Epson’s EcoTank printers promise very low running costs over time, at the expense of a higher purchase price, and the Epson Expression ET-3600 EcoTank All-in-One Supertank Printer ($399.99) is no exception. In terms of price, capacity, and features, it fits between two of the previous EcoTank inkjets we’ve reviewed, the Epson Expression ET-2550 EcoTank All-in-One Printer and the Epson WorkForce ET-4550 EcoTank All-in-One Printer. These printers makes sense only if you print enough to justify paying a significant additional up-front cost for the initial bottles of ink that come in the box—in this case, what Epson claims is two years’ worth, or enough to print 11,000 black-and-white and/or 8,500 color pages. But if you do print enough, the ET-3600 can be a terrific deal.
Today’s better near-dedicated photo printers, including the Epson SureColor P800, produce remarkably good, professional-quality prints. The P800 ($1,295) is similar in price, capacity, and print quality to the Canon imagePrograf PRO-1000, which recently became our Editors’ Choice C-size (17-inch paper width) professional photo printer. The P800 offers the option to print on paper rolls measuring either 13 or 17 inches wide and up to 10 feet long. For those who need it, that capability is significant enough for the P800 to edge out the PRO-1000 to earn Editors’ Choice honors as well.
Unlike Epson’s EcoTank models, which come with large ink reservoirs or saddlebags coupled to the sides of the chassis, or HP’s Instant Ink subscription service (or Canon’s soon-to-be-reviewed MegaTank Pixmas, also with built-in ink tanks of their own), INKvestment printers simply supply you with bundles of relatively high-capacity ink cartridges at low prices. Like Epson EcoTank and Canon MegaTank printers, though, to compensate for the manufacturers’ loss of income from ink sales, you pay more for the printer itself up front.
With INKvestment, how much more you pay for the printer depends on which version of the specific printer you choose. Take today’s review machine, the Brother MFC-J6535DW. It’s a small-business-minded inkjet that can handle tabloid-size (11×17-inch) paper and scan media. You can buy an MFC-J6535DW “XL” version of the product for a list price of $549.99, or the non-XL version (the model we’re reviewing here) for a $279.99 MSRP. Why that $270 difference?
With the MFC-J6535DW XL, you get five sets of relatively high-volume ink cartridges (that’s 20 total cartridges) that Brother claims should last you two years, while with the non-XL version you get only one set (four cartridges). Note that we say “relatively high-volume” because nowadays some printers, such as the HP PageWide Pro MFP 577dw, support cartridges that yield up to 17,000 pages. Brother’s ink tanks are only a fraction of that size.
As we’ll discuss later on, which version of this printer you should choose depends on your print and copy volume. In most cases, if you can afford the initial $550 outlay, the MFC-J6535DW XL will save you money in the long run, compared to non-INKvestment Brother inkjets and several other competing printers. With either version, you’ll realize some of the lowest per-page running costs in the business.
That said, while they’re certainly important, per-page ink costs are not the only consideration when buying a printer. Output quality matters, too, and the MFC-J6535DW prints well enough for most business applications. But its so-so graphics and image output could limit those possibilities for pickier home-office and small-office users. Also, the MFC-J6535DW’s automatic document feeder doesn’t support auto-duplexing—that is, automatic two-sided scanning for making copies or digital files.
One special perk of this printer, though, does involve duplexing of a different kind. The MFC-J6535DW does support not just printing but duplex printing of tabloid-size pages, and it can scan pages up to that size, too. And, as with most printers these days, you get a bushel of mobile- and cloud-connectivity options.
Also in the bundle is a two-year limited warranty. Brother printers are traditionally pretty hardy when it comes to build quality and longevity. That, combined with its highly competitive cost per page (CPP), makes the MFC-J6535DW and the ink-stacked MFC-J6535DW XL both good values. Which one you should choose, again, depends on how much you mean to print and copy, and what you can afford.