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By Hanleigh Daniels 25 July 2011

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Japanese imaging and optical products manufacturer Canon fires off its latest all-in-one (AIO) printer, the PIXMA MX870, aimed squarely at small office and home users. This capable office workhorse will bring its print, copy and scanning facilities to the SME environment, along with other productivity boosters such as Wi-Fi connectivity as well as a fully integrated Auto Document Feeder (ADF).

Design

Canon’s PIXMA MX870 looks virtually identical to the PIXMA MX884, measuring 491 x 437 x 226 mm and weighing in at around 11.8 kg. Its two-tone (grey and black) design is very elegant, but not nearly as flattering as that of other modern AIO’s such as Lexmark’s GENESIS S815. This isn’t such a big issue though as the unit’s target home and small office users will hopefully favour its functionality above its form.

The printer makes use of a conventional button-based input method for the settings and controls, as opposed to the touch-screens that a lot of its contemporaries are employing at the moment. These controls are easy to use and clearly laid out, with the front panel also sporting a 2.5" colour LCD at the centre that can be employed to check your images before sending them to be printed.

Printing performance

The latter is especially useful when printing photos off a flash drive or memory card such as a SD, MS (Memory Stick), MS DUO and CF card, for which there are all slots at the front of the unit. When you do make use of this option you have access some additional features such as in-device red-eye reduction for photographs and printing the date onto photos (can also be done for documents). You can choose between automatic and manual photo fix. Manual photo fix basically enables you to select from amongst an impressive list of fixing options that need to be applied ranging from noise reduction, as well as brightness and contrast levels, through to face brightener.

There’s a direct print port for cameras, which enables photographers to print directly from PictBridge supporting digital cameras and camcorders. This port also doubles as a USB connectivity port for flash drives.

AIO functionality

Adding to the usefulness of the multitude of connectivity options is the very handy Automatic Document Feeder (ADF), located at the top of this AIO. It can be loaded with up to 35 pages and is very useful when you want to make copies or scan in a larger number of pages in one go. Duplex copying and scanning can be done with the ADF, which allows you to scan in single sided pages and make double-sided copies of these or vice-versa. Duplex (double-sided) printing can also be done automatically on plain paper in A4, B5, A5 as well as Letter sizes.

Scanning jobs are completed at the very good resolution of up to 2400 x 4800 dpi when utilising the flatbed scanner and up to 600 x 600 dpi when employing the ADF. Jobs can be saved, as PDF documents, image files JPEG or editable OCR documents, to the PC, or directly on your memory stick or memory card.

Canon PIXMA MX870

Print quality

Printing quality is an area where Canon shines, with the PIXMA MX870 no exception, offering an excellent print (and copy) resolution of up to 9600 x 2400 dpi (same as the MX884). This allows for a high level of detail for images, especially noticeable on high-resolution photographs. One piece of bother - if you print high-resolution images onto A4 plain paper, these do tend to come out a little damp. These soon dry out so it isn’t too much of a hassle, especially since the damp images don’t tend to smudge when pages land on top of each other on the output tray.

In terms of printing performance, it isn’t merely the quality that is important but the printing speed as well. The MX870 performed admirably in this regard on both the Standard Print Quality and High Quality settings. However these printing speed figures were a lot slower than its bigger stablemate, the MX884, managed. Printing out high resolution photographs onto A4-sized photo paper for instance, took an average of about three minutes and 45 seconds, which is more than double the average speed for the newer MX884 (1 minute 54 seconds).

This AIO can print onto a variety of paper formats including plain paper and photo paper (glossy, matte and semi-glossy).
 
Paper handling

Besides print quality and pace, the last crucial element of printing performance is the amount of pages that one can load the printer with. The MX870 can be loaded with a grand total of 300 pages, as there’s a rear sheet feeder at the back of this printer being able to handle a maximum of 150 A4 sheets as well as an internal cassette, located at the front of the printer (pull-out tray), taking on another 150 sheets.

Both input trays feature rulers that enable you to set them to the size of the paper you’re loading the MX870 with. One important thing we did notice about the two trays though, is that when the rear sheet feeder was empty, the printer stopped the job that it was busy with and didn’t automatically switch over to the internal cassette, which still had enough pages in to complete that printing job. This basically means that even though the printer can be loaded with a total of 300 pages, its actual printing page capacity remains at 150 pages.  

You can load the sheet feeder with the most paper sizes including A4, B5, A5, Letter, Legal, Envelopes, 10 x 15cm, 13 x 18cm, and 20 x 25cm. The cassette at the front of the printer though only takes A4, B5, A5, and Letter sizes. Prints land on the MX870’s output tray that boasts a liftable plastic extender, so that the larger sized prints can land more neatly onto this tray. The MX870’s output tray also flips open automatically in the even that you are printing and forget to pull it down.
 
Other features

Canon provides its easy-to-use Easy-PhotoPrint EX software on the installation disk. This is one of the more simple printing packages to use and is a great improvement over the usual Windows setup. You can connect to the home- or office network via Wi-Fi IEEE802.11 n to enable wireless printing. Setup for this is really easy.

Final word

Canon’s PIXMA MX840 offers a good printing pace and excellent printing quality. It features a useful automatic document feeder which also supports duplex printing to save you paper. The MX870 can be utilised across the home or office network via the easy-to-setup Wi-Fi connection, while many different types of portable storage connections are available. This capable office workhorse can boost your home or small office’s productivity for a recommended retail price of R1799.

Pro

An assortment of memory stick slots for printing off of portable storage devices, printing quality, 35-sheet ADF, duplex printing, in-device photo editing features and Canon’s included software solution.  

Con

High resolution documents come out a little damp on plain paper, printing doesn’t automatically switch between paper trays when one is empty, not as fast at printing photos as its bigger brother in the MX series.

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PROS
An assortment of memory stick slots for printing off of portable storage devices, printing quality, 35-sheet ADF, duplex printing, in-device photo editing features and Canon's included software solution.
CONS
High resolution documents come out a little damp on plain paper, printing doesnt automatically switch between paper trays when one is empty, not as fast at printing photos as its bigger brother in the MX series.
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