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Printing Speed

Canon, HP's Xmas Ink-Jet Printer Fleet
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One small unpleasant surprise is that the Pixma iP5200 takes a long time to start up and to come out of standby mode - the process of putting the printing head into position takes almost a full minute. But once everything is in position, the printer delivers very high speed. Whereas some inkjet printers require more than 90 seconds to spit out a 4" x 6" photo, the Pixma iP5200 is capable of producing an A4 photo at maximum resolution in 101 seconds. Only the Pixma iP8500, the super top-of-the-line, 8-color model from the same manufacturer, can rival that time. For a borderless 4" x 6" photo, it took barely 40 seconds, which is quite impressive.

Text mode and graphics mode don't lag behind, either. We clocked 13 pages per minute in draft - the quality of which has improved greatly over last year, incidentally - and pages combining text and images printed in normal mode at a rate of 8.5 pages per minute (ppm). And that's counting the pauses for ink drying that the driver makes from time to time. On the other hand, the high-quality text mode was extremely slow, and isn't really justified since the difference in the sharpness of the text compared to normal mode is miniscule.

Print Quality

As on all midrange models from Canon, the Pixma iP5200 uses a combination of five separate cartridges - two black, one cyan, one magenta, and one yellow. Like the Pixma iP4200, the second black cartridge is there to improve contrast and provide better shading. The nozzles produce 1-picoliter droplets, which brings the native resolution to 9,600 x 4,800 pixels, and the results show that it's worthwhile. It's true that you do notice a very slight darkening of the final result due to the lack of light cyan and light magenta cartridges, but the overall impression is excellent. In fact, the darkening mostly affects black-and-white prints, which are a little lower in quality than what the Photosmart 8250 puts out. The high resolution also produces very good text - as good as on a laser printer, even with a very small font.

Cost Per Page

It came as no surprise that the Pixma iP5200 delivered a very good cost per page, making its $200 purchase price much less of a concern. The cartridges - which now have an electronic device built in to limit the possibilities for using generics - have a very high capacity, and while their price has increased slightly, the yield is excellent. A 4" x 6" photo cost less than 30 cents with standard photo paper, though that cost will be higher if you use Canon's best paper.

Conclusion

Again, there's been no revolution, but the value of using printing heads capable of producing 1-picoliter droplets has been proven. Printing speed has greatly improved - it had to, in order to set this model apart from the Pixma iP4200 - and the quality is still there. Add in excellent cost per page and a very good software bundle, and you can see why HP had to make some big changes in order to keep up with their most serious competitor.

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