Canon Pixma iP3600
thermal inkjet, 26ppm print speed, USB, 153x431x296mm
Canon's Pixma iP3600 is part of the same range as the Pixma iP4600. It lacks some of the iP4600's more advanced features, including automatic duplex printing, but it still manages to impress.
The iP3600 comes with a separate print head, which means that if its nozzles become clogged, you can simply replace the head rather than throwing away the entire printer. While this is a four-colour printer, it actually takes five separate ink cartridges, including both dye- and pigment-based black ink. The translucent dye creates rich tones on photo paper, while the pigment-based ink is designed to sink into standard paper and dry quickly to create sharp text with no smudges. Like the more expensive iP4600, this printer has both a rear paper tray that can take standard and photographic paper and a front-loading cartridge. The latter holds up to 150 sheets of standard A4 and has a protective cover to keep dust out.
Installation went smoothly. The final stage is manual print head alignment, which involves selecting the most solid-looking printed rectangles on a test print and then entering the numbers printed next to them into an onscreen interface. There are three pages of this, which can be rather tedious, but it's worth doing properly as it improves print quality significantly.
All our prints looked excellent. Even draft text was clear and easy to read, while lettering at normal quality was as sharp as that produced by the Canon LBP5050 laser printer and slightly darker. Fonts as small at 5pt were legible, although slightly fuzzy, at normal quality. Colour document prints looked great, with accurate tones and shading in our graphs and business graphics.
We were also impressed by the iP3600's photo printing capabilities. Even though the printer uses only four inks, the colour and shading of our photo prints was comparable to those of many six-ink printers we've reviewed. Skin tones looked natural, dark colours and low-contrast areas were well-defined and bright colours looked vibrant and exciting. The clarity and detail of our photos was among the best we've seen from a budget inkjet, without any jagged dithering, graininess or fuzzy edges.
The mono print speeds are quick at 6.7ppm at standard quality. Draft-quality prints are good enough to use for even formal documents, and printed at 9.3ppm. Mixed-colour documents took longer to print at just 2.2ppm, but this compares well with most inkjets. Mixed-colour prints are cheap at 6p, although mono costs of 2.3p per page are a little high.
If you need an inkjet for home use, the iP3600 combines excellent print quality, low mixed colour costs and a low price. It's a great buy and, unless you really need a duplexer, is better value than the iP4600.