All the ink efficiency of Canon’s MegaTank printers with vastly improved photo printing
- Great photo prints
- Low running costs
- Prints thousands of pages out of the box
- Slow speeds
- Manual duplex
- Mediocre copier/scanner quality
The Canon Pixma G650 is a new addition to Canon’s G-series, its MegaTank printers that use bottles of ink poured into large tanks, rather than more traditional cartridges.
Previously, when buying a Canon printer, you had to make a choice between the exceptionally affordable running costs of its MegaTanks, or the superb photo print quality of its cartridge-based printers. Not any more. The Canon Pixma G650 delivers both.
The G650 achieves this trick by adding two more inks (red and grey) to the usual quartet of black, cyan, magenta and yellow. The extra inks give the printer the ability to produce stunning-looking photos, while still churning out standard text and multipurpose graphics at a fraction of the cost of cartridge printers.
There are two six-colour MegaTank printers to choose from: the Canon Pixma G550 is the printer only, while the G650, which we’ve reviewed here, is a multifunction device that includes a copier/scanner.
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Canon Pixma G650 review: What do you get for the money?
For your £235 you’re getting a fairly chunky device, although at 445 x 340 x 167mm (WDH) and 6.6kg it’s a little squatter and lighter than previous ink tank models we’ve looked at.
That means it’s a touch more desk-friendly than before, but at the cost of some features. The Pixma G650 doesn’t come with a secondary paper tray – only a 100-sheet capacity rear paper feeder – and the copier is missing an automatic sheet feeder.
The control panel lives on top of the unit, so you can easily configure the printer while standing in front of it. This sits to the left of the scanner lid and has the standard two-line LCD display that all Canon’s MegaTank devices have.
There are two large copy buttons to manually initiate mono or colour copies, and a handful of buttons to help you navigate the built-in menus. It’s all easy enough to use, but you’ll probably rarely touch it since most of the time you’ll be controlling the printer from the device you’re printing from.
On that subject, you can connect the printer to a PC using its USB port, or add it to your wireless network if you want to be able to print from a phone or tablet. There’s no Ethernet port, though, and no option to print directly from a USB thumb drive or hard disk.
Canon Pixma G650 review: Is it easy to use?
Canon has taken a leaf out of Epson’s book when it comes to ink tank filling, improving usability significantly. On older models, you had to match the ink bottle to the correct tank, then squeeze the bottle to get the ink out, with nothing to prevent accidental colour mismatches.
This is the first of Canon’s attempts to eliminate potential error and now each bottle has a moulded and keyed neck, so it can only be poured into the correct tank. Once the bottle is in place, the ink slowly glugs out into the tank without being squeezed.
All of this is covered in Canon’s excellent step-by-step online installation guide. This is a website, where you type the name of your new printer and get an illustrated guide to the installation process, from removing the packing tape to setting up the Wi-Fi. If you want more detail, there are links to videos throughout to guide you further. It covers all bases without getting confident users clogged up in unwanted detail.
Once it’s up and running, the printer is a breeze to use. Printing from a PC is straightforward, linking seamlessly into Windows’ own print tools. If you want more, Canon’s printer controls are available, which let you access extra functions. There are also apps available for helping you print from your chosen mobile device, while Mac support is provided via AirPrint.
One area that lets it down slightly is duplex printing. Although the option to print double-sided is present in Canon’s printer software, the printer doesn’t do this automatically. Instead, when you choose the option, the printer churns through the first side of the pages, then asks you to feed the output back into the rear paper tray. While there’s plenty of guidance on which way round to stick the paper back in, it’s not as straightforward as it is with a printer that can perform this standard task automatically.
Canon Pixma G650 review: What’s the print quality like?
This is the big question: do the two additional ink colours improve the print quality? The answer is a resounding yes. Printing photos onto standard glossy photo paper produced phenomenal results.
Pulling out the same photos printed on the cartridge-based Canon Pixma TS8350 from our library of test prints, you can barely see the difference without a magnifying glass. The colours are bold and bright, while black and dark tones are truly inky. Compared with the same photos printed on a Pixma G7050 – the previous-generation four-colour tank printer – the Pixma G650 is light years ahead. As you might expect, it also did a solid job of printing text and presentation graphics.
Where it doesn’t hold up is in the quality of copies. Colour copies, in particular, I found were severely washed out. This appears to be down to the built-in scanner, which has dropped in scan resolution over previous models, offering only 600 x 1,200ppi compared with 1,200 x 2,400ppi on the older G7050 and TS8350 models. Standard photo scans were okay but not as detailed as the scans produced on these older models. If scanning photos is more important to you than printing them, choose a different printer.
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Canon Pixma G650 review: What are speeds and running costs like?
Canon provides one bottle of each of the six colours needed with this printer. According to Canon’s quoted yields, that should be enough to print 3,700 mono pages or 8,000 in colour.
With replacement bottles of the same size costing £14 each, additional mono prints work out to 0.4p each, while colour prints cost 1p. This is a bit more expensive than the cost of printing from a four-colour MegaTank, such as the G7050, where mono prints cost 0.2p and colour costs 0.4p. However, it’s still a much lower running cost than cartridges – for reference, the TS8350’s mono prints cost 3.4p each, while colour prints cost 6.2p.
The addition of two extra inks appears to have put a dampener on any attempt the G650 might have made to win a medal for its speed, however. It took over 30 seconds to print the first page of our test documents, from when we pressed the Print button to the moment it landed in the output tray.
Printing multiple pages doesn’t do much to speed it up, with mono prints arriving at a relatively glacial pace of 3.4ppm (compared with the 10.4ppm you’ll get from a G7050), while colour prints arrive at a rate of 2.2ppm. This isn’t quite so far behind, with the G7050 only getting to 2.4ppm.
Ironically, despite it being a fiddle, duplex printing turned out to be competitively fast, because it isn’t waiting for each page to dry before printing the next one. The G650 printed both sides of a colour document at 1.7ppm, including the mid-point fumble of re-feeding the paper, while the automatic G7050 only gets to 1.5ppm.
Canon Pixma G650 review: Should you buy it?
The Canon Pixma G650 isn’t completely without its faults, but it’s a solid step in the right direction for Canon’s MegaTank range. The main reason for buying one is to reduce the high levels of cost and waste that’s baked into cartridge-based inkjet printers and, while this new six-colour system doesn’t quite match the very low price per page of Canon’s four-colour MegaTanks, it’s still much cheaper than regular cartridges.
The compromise has previously been speed and print quality. Canon has done nothing to improve the speed of this model – in fact, it’s slower than other MegaTank models. However, for the average home user, the rate of page churn is likely to be less of a concern than the quality of printing and, in this area, the G650 is a triumph. The quality of photo printing on this model has gone through the roof, going a long way towards matching the vibrance and quality of photo prints previously only seen on its cartridge printers.