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.