Canon Pixma MP490 review
Canon's large, showy all-in-ones have made quite a name for themselves over the past few years, but mainly in the £100-£200 price band. At the cheaper end, a few corners have had to be cut, particularly with LCD displays, but the cheap-as-chips Pixma MP490 still has a screen, and several other useful features, too.
Featuring a gently curved, light grey and black case, the machine is a little smaller than its predecessors and all the better for that. The flatbed scanner lid fits neatly alongside the cover for the control panel which, when folded up, shows the LCD display in its lid with a simple and very clear set of controls underneath.
There are buttons for black and colour copies, and a further four navigation buttons around a ring with an OK button in the centre. The ring isn't a click-wheel, as it is in the more expensive Pixma models, but a simple, four-way menu navigation button.
A flip-open cover below the control panel reveals three memory card slots, for SD, MemoryStick, xD and CompactFlash cards. It's rather odd these days to have a CompactFlash slot, as there are so few cameras that use one, but the technology is still quite prevalent in Canon's own range of cameras, which ensures it a place. It's a shame there's no PictBridge or USB socket, instead, though.
The front panel folds down to make an output tray and the feed tray slides up and folds back at the rear. This single paper path caters for both plain and photo paper, and there's no separate, under-slung paper cassette as there is on the machine's more expensive siblings. At the back, a single USB socket is the only data connection.
Another feature of its design the Pixma MP490 doesn't share with its stablemates is individual ink cartridges: it uses a single black and a tri-colour consumable, instead. These clip into the printhead, which is reached by hinging up the scanner section.
As well as the driver, Canon provides the MP Navigator EX and Easy-PhotoPrint EX utilities, which cover most basic print, scan and copy needs, including OCR.
In our tests, the Pixma MP490 produced some respectable print times (see Print speed tests results, bottom right). We still saw our 10 page black text document complete in one minute 32 seconds, which is a very respectable 6.52ppm. The colour speed from our five-page text and graphics test was less impressive, at 1.86ppm.
Printing a single page copy from the flatbed scanner took 35 seconds, which is a very reasonable photocopy speed and 15cm x 10cm photo prints took one minute 30 seconds from our Mac and 56 seconds from an SD card. These photo speeds are fair, although they can be bettered by some of the machine's rivals.
Why you buy a printer is, of course, for its print quality and here, despite its low price, the Pixma MP490 excels. The results from our tests were excellent. Black text was clean and sharp, although very occasionally there was slight misalignment between one head pass and the next. Colour graphics were bright and gave good solid fills, and colour copies were better than from many rival all-in-ones, as the shades were unusually close to those of the original. Copy colours from low-cost all-in-ones are often a lot paler than in the pages from which they're copied.
Photo prints on any of Canon's recent photo papers were clean, well-detailed in light and dark areas of an image, and produced natural colours on both landscapes and portrait subjects. They really were some of the best quality images we'd seen from an inkjet printer costing less than £100.