Sunday, April 10, 2011

Canon Pixma MX410

Review:

The Canon Pixma MX410 is a worthwhile all-in-one solution for people who need an output solution for intermittent monthly use to print out boarding passes, office documents, or occasional snapshot photos. Its dual-ink cartridge bay limits its output performance so we don't recommend it for photo-specific use, but you'll certainly be satisfied with the Pixma's graphic and text quality. Add extra features like wireless connectivity, an auto-document feeder, and Canon's exclusive HD Movie Print that lets you pull and print still photos out of Canon compatible HD video cameras, and this $100 device is more than ... Expand full review

The Canon Pixma MX410 is a worthwhile all-in-one solution for people who need an output solution for intermittent monthly use to print out boarding passes, office documents, or occasional snapshot photos. Its dual-ink cartridge bay limits its output performance so we don't recommend it for photo-specific use, but you'll certainly be satisfied with the Pixma's graphic and text quality. Add extra features like wireless connectivity, an auto-document feeder, and Canon's exclusive HD Movie Print that lets you pull and print still photos out of Canon compatible HD video cameras, and this $100 device is more than worth its price.

Design and features
The design of the Pixma MX410 is streamlined so that every drawer, tray, and port folds up flush into the self-contained body. The result is a very sleek matte black exterior with all of the buttons you need to adjust the settings placed conveniently on the front panel. Since the default function is to print, the rest of the hot keys (copy, fax, scan) are the largest on the panel along with backlit power and start buttons and a blinking alarm for low ink and paper jams.

Last year's Pixma MX330 is no longer offered on the Canon Web site, but you can still spend the same amount and benefit from a dedicated 1.8-inch LCD display. The MX410 is simpler with only a two-line dot-matrix graphic display in the middle of the control panel, and although it's not as fancy as a color LCD, it's still adequate for all the day-to-day print, scan, and fax functionality.

Most AIOs don't typically include auto-document feeders (ADFs) with printers at this price point, so we're happy to see that Canon includes one to make it much easier to scan or copy stacks of documents. The ADF can only handle up to 30 pages at a time, so the majority of your blank media goes through the rear input tray that holds 100 pages, and a plastic guide folds out of the rear tray to corral larger media.

Output, on the other hand, is a much more simplified process: all outbound prints just pop out of the front drawer onto an angled lip that folds out of the main body. We're disappointed to see that the MX410 doesn't include a multimedia card reader for direct prints, but you can hook up a digital camera directly to the printer through the PictBridge USB port on the bottom of the unit.

The top of the printer lifts open to reveal the standard 8.5-inch-by-11-inch scanner bay, but you can also pop that open and access the two-ink cartridge bay below. To keep costs low, the MX410 only uses two inks: one for black and one for tricolors. While we prefer five or sometimes even six separate cartridge tanks to cut down on the cost of consumables, it makes sense that a printer at this accessible price only has two tanks. If you plan to use your printer for more snapshot photo prints or graphical documents, a printer with separate ink cartridge bays like the Canon Pixma MX870 will prove more economical.

The package includes a driver CD with all the installation files you need to customize your prints. Within those settings, you can choose between commonly used templates like standard, business, paper saving, and photo printing that adjust the type of media, paper size, and source.

Additionally, the driver provides you with adjustments for borderless printing, vivid photos, gray scale prints, and even manual color intensities by numeral increments. It also features a pop-up print status monitor that shows the current job, document name, device owner, status, and a graphical representation of the ink cartridge levels. Conveniently, this pop-up automatically disappears once the job in queue is finished printing, but we prefer status monitors that show us the page and progress of the print.

The driver also automatically installs Canon's Easy Photo Print EX software onto your computer that flaunts all the creative features of the MX410. It allows you to print simple snapshot photos on the fly, create whole albums of artwork, and print calendars with custom pictures, as well as custom stickers using Canon's proprietary sticker paper.

The explorer window on the main page works just like a Windows Explorer pane, except we prefer HP's Solution Center layout that automatically scans and detects printable pictures on your hard drive for you. Canon's creative suite is incredibly easy to use and even lets you make simple photo edits like red-eye correction, face sharpening, and blemish removal, which is great for people who don't want to deal with the hassle of third-party editing software like Adobe Photoshop.

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The copy functions on the MX410 are relatively standard for a multifunction: you can make up to 99 copies at once and easily adjust the contrast and magnification of a document from 25 to 400 percent, all directly through the settings on the LCD menus. The scanner gives you two options to scan either single photos and documents or a stack of documents using the ADF.

You also have several choices in terms of where you want to send a scanned document, such as directly to a PC as a JPEG, TIFF, or BMP file, to a PDF file, or you can attach it to an e-mail with the option to scan and convert to text using optical character recognition (OCR). All scanned files are placed into your custom "My Box" directory, which displays all scanned and imported images as well as recently saved images onto the hard drive for future projects.

Finally, the MX 410 is also one of the first Canon image devices to include its new HD Movie Print feature that rewards adopters of the Canon hardware ecosystem with the ability to pull still snapshots out of videos shot with compatible HD video cameras. We tested the printer with a Canon Powershot S95 top-flight handheld camera, and were impressed with the Canon Solution Menu EX software's step-by-step walkthrough instructions.

The software allows you to edit video images to prepare a clip for capture--grabbing still shots from the video is as simple as selecting a video snippet and either capturing a group of 10 frames or hitting the "capture" button to select single images. Once that's finished, you can also edit the image to reduce noise and sharpen images. Of course, the SD95 is only capable of 720p video resolution, so you'll see better performance out of a true 1080p digital SLR like the Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

Performance
As you can tell from the benchmarks below, the MX410 demonstrates only average output speeds. It lags behind the competition in the graphics speed test at just 2.03 pages per minute (PPM), although the difference between the scores is so slight that you won't likely notice it unless you're printing stacks of documents at a time. Since this isn't a full-blown photo printer, we can forgive the MX410 for hot-dogging the photo print test, since the rest of the scores are close enough to the competition.

Speed tests
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

We also have several complaints about the output quality of the MX410. We printed all photo and graphical documents on the paper that Canon provided and we were still largely dissatisfied with the results. Black text on standard 20 pound paper appears nicely darkened, but a closer inspection reveals characters with jagged edges and step-downs, fuzziness in small font sizes, and harsh contrasts in color blends.

In addition, our color graphics prints came out grainy with a dull hue marring the images. Luckily, our 3-inch-by-5-inch photo turned out OK with sharper lines and an even saturation, but the skin tones in the portrait shots still couldn't shake the dreary palette. As stated, the MX410 will definitely satisfy households where cost and robust features are more of an issue than just output quality, but dedicated shooters should seek out a more capable machine to bring their photos to life.

Service and support
Canon offers a limited one-year warranty with the Pixma MX410. The company also offers toll-free phone support and 24-7 e-mail support, should you run into any problems. Extra features including online manuals, drivers, FAQs, and ink cartridge order forms can be found on Canon's Web site.

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