Canon Pixma iP4600 Performance and Conclusion

February 11, 2009 by Sarah Meyer Reads (27,032)

Printer Performance

Canon claims the iP4600, with all driver settings optimized for speed, is good for 26 ppm printing in black-and-white. As is usually the case, these results seem a bit optimistic compared to “real world” performance and fail to encompass this iP’s almost unnaturally slow startup times – even for a consumer inkjet.

With the printer already warmed up, best times for printing a full 8.5” x 11” sheet of text from Microsoft Word at normal quality ran 33 seconds from the time I clicked print until the page landed on the document sorter. Text-only prints come quickly after the first one, but even with low quality/high speed settings, the Pixma takes about five seconds per page start to finish – although Canon’s claim of 2.3 seconds per page of actual printing time seems about right. And for the first run of the day, expect the iP4600 to take more like two minutes before beginning to print.

This is balanced by photo printing speed that comes very close to claims. Canon notes that this iP is capable of producing 4” x 6” prints in as little as 20 seconds and this claim isn’t far out of line if you don’t insist on maximum possible print quality,

Pushed to the maximum, the iP4600 took 1 minute, 40 seconds to print a high-res 8.5” x 11” image on its highest print quality setting. Add on another 1:03 to spool the job out of Photoshop and you get a very respectable click-to-print time of 2:43.

Print quality all around is good to excellent on the iP4600. Interestingly, the printer is slightly subpar when it comes to reproducing plain text, with clean-edged fonts looking a little “hairy” even at 12 point.  It’s no laser replacement, but colors in graphics and pictures on standard paper are bold without looking too ink-heavy. And this iP only gets better when you switch it over to photo stock, spitting out great looking prints with crisp lines, excellent detail, and accurate colors.

Canon’s ink choice for the iP4600 is the practical definition of “double-edged sword.” On the one hand, I certainly can’t complain about the print quality – even the high-res photo print quality – we saw from this budget bomber. Canon’s five-ink (CMY plus dual black) setup mirrors the system used in the manufacturer’s higher-end devices. It provides vibrant colors, blacks, and grays that are as deep and rich as those from any consumer inkjet (if outclassed only a bit by larger photo-centric devices). In short, lots of things about the iP4600 would make it a poor choice for demanding photo printers, but the print quality – and the printer’s deft handling of a wide range of stock weights and finishes – isn’t one of them.

But then those ominous on-screen messages start their low ink song and dance. Ink-experimenting photo enthusiasts won’t even flinch at the prices of the iP4600’s individual tanks, but general consumers may be appalled to discover that this model’s five tanks run about $15 apiece. Assuming you landed a good sale price on your iP, it’s not inconceivable that a full ink replacement might run you as much as you paid for the printer itself. Ouch!

Having said that, the iP4600’s individual ink tanks are more efficient than a multi-color cartridge, allowing you to replace only the color(s) you need at one time. Even spreading the per-tank cost out over time, the cost of keeping the iP4600 in consumables may be a turn-off for some.

Pros:

  • Handsome, reasonably compact exterior
  • Great photo printer handles lots of paper types
  • Setup couldn’t be much easier
  • Fantastic price

Cons:

  • Slower than most competitors, especially on startup
  • Flimsy build quality
  • No built-in networking option

Conclusion

The iP4600 is a fine machine, and the print quality – especially for photo use – exceeded expectations given this single-function unit’s sub-$100 price tag.  Since it lacks the versatility of a multi-function device, there’s some justification for the argument that print performance should be uniformly superb. We’ve been willing to forgive slow startup and print speeds on all-in-ones, but, if a device only does one thing, it better do it well.

The iP4600’s most persuasive feature is certainly its price. Amateur photographers and those who need to print the occasional work document or paper for class will like that this iP will barely deplete the wallets of even cash-strapped college students – though those up-front cost savings may cause some regret the first time inks need replacement. Even so, the iP4600 remains a fine choice if $100 is your limit and an even better one if you’re interested in taking advantage of its versatility for printing photos.

Pricing and Availability

The Canon Pixma iP4600 is available now on the Canon website for $99.99.

Individual color ink tanks run $12.99 a piece and a pigmented black ink tank is $14.99. 

50 sheets of Canon Photo Pro II 4″ x 6″ paper starts at $19.99; 20 sheets of Canon Photo Pro II 8.5″ x 11″ paper is also $19.99.


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