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My previous printer was a Canon i850 - not a bad little printer - but it gave up recently so I started shopping around for a replacement. I half-heartedly looked at other makes, but the price and quality of the Canon printers, together with the price of their cartridges, always drew me back to them. They have a large range that I considered - the IP4200 was the cheapest at around £60, then the IP5200 and I also considered the MP500, an "all-in-one" printer.
The specs I looked at were: IP4200 - price around £60, resolution 9600x2400 at 1pl (picolitre - very fine drops of ink), DVD/CD direct printing, one paper tray and one paper feeder. IP5200 - price around £82 and everything else much the same as above, but it had two paper trays. MP500 - price around £120, printer the same as above, but with a scanner/copier working at 1200x2400 resolution.
I decided to discount the MP500 - I already had a scanner that worked okay and I'm sure that if I was to buy another one, I'd be able to get one with a better resolution. (plus, if part of the MP500 broke, I'd have to replace it all!).
So then it was between the two normal printers. In the end I plumped for the IP4200 because I really couldn't see the need for two paper trays.
Right - after all that waffle - what's it like?
First off, you need a USB cable, preferably USB2 compliant - you don't get one with the printer.
On the plus side (which is fairly hefty) - you DO get a full set (5 tanks) of ink cartridges - and not these cut down ones you sometimes get with new printers. Nope, these are proper, full sized, full ones. You get the usual Cyan, Magenta and Yellow, then two blacks - one for photos and one for normal text. You also get the printhead in a seperate sealed bag, which is very easy to install. Ink cartridges generally cost between £8-£10 each - but note that, at the time of writing, there are no compatibles out there for this machine.
Set up was fairly easy - it comes with a step by step guide, although it may be worthwhile reading it through once before starting. The first thing that impressed me was the printhead alignment - on my previous printers, you print out a sheet of paper then you have to go through some routine of choosing which blocks of colour are best. This printer does all that by itself, automatically. Very cool. It seems to print a bit out, then go back and "look at it" then print the next line, etc, etc.
The printer comes with 5 sheets of 6x4 Canon Photo Paper Pro, so you can get started and I have to say, I wasn't greatly impressed when I printed out a couple of photos that I'd taken with my Kodak 3.1MP camera. But I did wonder if it was the actual photos that were the problem, rather than the printer, so I downloaded a high quality, high resolution photo off the internet and printed that out. WOW!!!! I have to say, it was just a picture of a cat, but I cannot stop looking at it. I was so impressed. I cannot believe that something of that quality can come off a printer. A printer costing £60 no less. The quality was amazing - but unfortunately shows that either myself or my camera aren't really up to the printer's standards!! (Although I did discover a couple of mucky fingerprints on my camera lense afterwards, so that probably didn't help!).
As far as the paper tray/feeder goes - it took me a while to work out how to put A4 paper into the tray (I gave in and had a look at the manual - one downside - the manual is on the CD - I much prefer paper ones). Note that, if you put A4 paper in the tray, it sticks out of the bottom of the printer by a good 2-3 inches - however, it comes with a cover and, with the output tray down, it "disappears".
There is a button on the front of the printer to manually select which input you want - tray or sheet feeder - however, you can also set it to automatically use the tray for certain types of paper - for example, I have set it to automatically use the tray whenever I select A4 plain paper, regardless of what is selected on the button. This way it keeps the printer looking much more streamlined as I can keep the top feeder shut, and reduces the amount of dust inside.
As far as the design goes - it looks like a box with the corners rounded - not particularly pretty, but very handy with its flat top. On the front are the on/off button (although I don't use that, I have it set up to come on automatically when a print job it sent, then switch off when it has been idle for a while); the resume button and the paper tray selector. There is also a socket on the front to directly connect "Pictbridge" compatible cameras.
It also comes with a DVD/CD tray - you insert your printable CD/DVD into the tray and then slide that into the printer to the front for printing directly onto the DVD/CD. I haven't tried this facility yet as I need to buy some special discs, but the printer comes with plenty of software - easy to use but not too "automatic" - including software to help print onto the discs.
All in all, a very impressive piece of kit for the price - I really can't see how you could get any better than this as far as print quality goes.