Canon Pixma iP4600 review
Thermal inkjet, 26ppm print speed, , 431 x 296 x 153mm
If you need to print more than just postcards, then a traditional A4 inkjet is the most versatile choice.
Versatility is the key word for Canon's Pixma iP4600, which we first saw in What's New, Shopper 250. A paper cassette on its underside holds up to 150 sheets of A4 paper for day-to-day printing, while a fold-out tray at the rear can hold another 150 sheets of coated paper. Canon also includes an adaptor for printing on discs. All these fold-out flaps and telescopic trays make this already bulky printer take up more space when it's in use, though.
Single three-colour cartridges have mainly been supplanted in inkjets by four or more separate tanks that can be replaced individually. The iP4600 sticks with standard cyan, magenta and yellow for colour printing, but it has two black ink tanks: one for photos and a larger tank for text.
When it comes to printing text, the iP4600 is in a league of its own, not least because of the built-in duplexer. It's not the fastest inkjet, but when printing on ordinary photocopier paper, text output is razor sharp and jet black and all but indistinguishable from that of a laser printer. Photo print speed, both for postcard-size prints and full-page A4, is average, but again, print quality is impressive. Photos on glossy paper were natural-looking and only the usual inkjet dottiness in areas of very subtle shading gave the game away. Flesh tones were perfectly rendered, though.
Although all printer manufacturers offer a variety of papers for photo printing, Canon was the only company to supply more than one type. We used Photo Paper Plus Glossy II for our main tests, but also printed on Photo Paper Pro II and Pro Platinum paper. The difference in quality between each paper was imperceptible, and the only way we could tell the papers apart was by their thickness. Sticking with the cheapest paper is the sensible option.
The iP4600 doesn't have a display or card readers, although it does support PictBridge cameras for direct printing. As long as you're happy to print mainly from a PC, this is a superb choice.