Performance

June 23, 2009 by Sarah Meyer Reads (82,402)

PERFORMANCE

Set Up
We loved the Pro9500 for its straightforward setup process, and in this case as well, installation of both the printhead and ink tanks is, quite literally, a snap: both printhead and tanks are keyed and color-coded, making it nearly impossible to misstep in getting the device set up initially. Ultimately, it took me well under ten minutes to unbox the Pro9000 Mark II, get it plugged in (connection is via USB only) and powered up, and install the printheads and inks ? and I didn’t even have to resort to Canon’s supplied quick-start guide for advice.

For the most streamlined possible installation, install the Pro9000 driver only, print the machine’s auto printhead alignment pages, and you’re ready to go. If you want to dig in more on the software side, though, the Pro9000 comes with an array of tools and plug-ins that, depending on your experience level and the kinds of printing you do, may or may not be useful to you. If you’re looking for ease of use, Canon’s Easy PhotoPrint EX software is included as both a standalone application for Mac and Windows users, and as a Photoshop plug-in. In standalone mode, the tool offers a lot of basic image editing and photo correction functions, as well as progressive levels of control (depending on how deep you dig) over the Pro9000 print output.

Canon has also incorporated Ambient Light Correction technology into both the plug-in and standalone versions of Easy PhotoPrint EX. The tool allows users to subtly color-correct prints to compensate for color casts caused by different kinds of ambient light: if you know your prints are going to be viewed under incandescent light, for instance, a simple preset selection is all it takes to make the correction automatically. And as with our Pro9500 experience, the software’s balancing capabilities are quite accurate ? even under difficult conditions.

The Photoshop plug-in version of Easy PhotoPrint EX is more down-to-business, providing the same measure of control over the printer’s output options in an interface that will be more familiar to dedicated Adobe users. Users can still opt for features like Ambient Light Correction using the plug-in version, and I especially like the plug-in’s ability to assist in setting up multiple prints on a single page. And even if you’re not currently a Photoshop user, Canon’s inclusion of Photoshop Elements 6 with the Pro9000 gives you the option to compare standalone versus plug-in workflow.

All in all, testing the Pro9000 on both a Windows XP/Adobe CS3 and a Mac OSX/Adobe CS2 setups this time around, we found the Pixma to be about as simple to setup and get printing with as any device in this class.

Ease of Use
Having put the recently reviewed Pro9500 through its paces with a variety of image editing software packages the last time around, I generally confined my testing of the Pro9000 to outputting images from Photoshop using the plug-in. As before, using the plug-in or standalone Easy PhotoPrint tools definitely affords some options that you can’t get when working through the driver directly in other applications. In terms of color accuracy, we had no problem managing colors in Photoshop using both home-built profiles from our in-office profiling system and those supplied by paper manufacturers.

Likewise, driver support for different media types is comprehensive and consistent, and we had no problems getting the output, in terms of size and quality, we were looking for ? both in Photoshop and beyond.

At the end of the day, Canon’s walkthroughs for specific tasks (loading paper through the flat feeder, for instance) are clear and easy to follow, and without loads of extraneous to get bogged down in, the Pro9000’s logical hardware and well-designed but unobtrusive software make it one of the most accessible high-end graphics printers we’ve ever used. Pros and serious amateurs will appreciate Canon’s “get out of the way” approach to drivers and software, but for novices just learning the ropes on the print side, there’s more than enough guidance within the supplied software should you need it.

Performance Tests
Canon has improved some behind-the-scenes technologies for the Mark II version of the Pro9000 that it claims should improve print speeds, but since we didn’t review the original Pro9000 for comparison, we’re largely left to take their word for it. In the same vein, we weren’t particularly impressed with the Pro9500 Mark II’s speed, and while speed is certainly secondary to print quality for a serious graphics tool like the Pixma Pro, this left us wondering how the very similar Pro9000 would stack up.

If you push it to its limits, the answer ? in short ? is, “about the same.” Printing from a “cold start” using our Mac test setup, the Pro9000 took nearly nine minutes to produce a high-res 13×19 print on semi-gloss photo paper. This shows slight improvements over our initial times from the Pro9500, but some of the difference may be attributable to different computer hardware used in the tests. Nonetheless, it’s certainly a respectable ? if not blazing fast ? output time for a high-quality large format print.

Similarly, we were able to get close to Canon’s claimed 1:23 when printing a color 11×14 on 13×19 paper ? assuming you’re willing to reduce the quality settings, you warm the printer up, and you don’t count spooling time. Grayscale prints at this size ran roughly the same ? between two and three minutes total ? assuming you don’t check the “grayscale” option in the driver console: using the black-only grayscale print mode helps keep color casts for black-and-white shots in check, but nearly tripled our print times in some cases.

For more moderate prints ? standard-quality borderless 8x10s, for instance ? the Pro9000’s minute and a half to two minutes are in keeping with times from other class leaders we’ve looked at, and as fast or faster than the Pro9500.

Ink usage was similar to what we’ve experienced with other Pixma Pros, with the Pro9000 capable of burning through somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 13x19s before the low ink warnings start popping up. Of course, what you print can skew this number pretty markedly. Based on our experience, though, performance is in keeping with other printers in this class, and the Pro9000’s relatively low cost of consumables make it preferable to some other wide-format printing options.

And like the Pro9500, the Pro9000 is one of the quietest wide-format printers we’ve ever used. Were it not for the fact that it takes up so much desk space, you’d never even know it was there ? office white noise easily overpowers this model’s sub-40db operation volume most of the time, making the Pro9000 a very livable print companion if your home studio doubles as living space.

Print Quality
When I reviewed the Pro9500, I couldn’t find enough good things to say about its monochrome print quality. I liked the color prints as well, for sure, but with a high price tag (when thinking from the perspective of a hobbyist, at least) and a fairly hefty per-print consumables outlay, the color prints just never seemed to have the kind of very subtle but very real punch I was hoping for.

Maybe the value equation is skewing my eye (though I had some impartial observers confirm my evaluations…), but the Pro9000’s color prints succeed in capturing just that: punch, sparkle, and clarity. Using the same workflow, the differences between the same prints from Pro9000 and Pro9500 are nuanced but obvious, with slightly improved saturation, deeper blues and reds, and vibrant yellows all working in the dye-ink model’s favor in reproducing color shots. If the Pro9500 scored an eight out of ten for color accuracy, the Pro9000 bests it with a nine.

While the Pro9000’s prints are a little brighter and more saturated when working from the same workflow, the less expensive model definitely can’t keep with its pigment-ink partner when it comes to making monochrome prints. Black and whites are as expected from a high-end inkjet, though certainly not the exceptional pieces produced by the Pro9500. But seemingly regardless of the substrate we used, the Pro9000 delivered thick, deep color ? not to mention truly superb fine details ? that are nearly impossible to find fault with. The Pro9000 may be the “prosumer” model of this lineup, but the color output is unquestionably pro-grade.


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