If a manufacturer makes two products, one designated as a ‘495’ and the other as a ‘280’, how much better would you think the 495 would be? We're used to considering model numbers on cars where a 400 series would probably be bigger, faster and more expensive than a 200 series. This doesn't seem to be the case with Canon all-in-ones.
The Canon PIXMA MP280 is a budget all-in-one, part of the company's range launched in autumn 2010. It bears a remarkable similarity to the MP495, tested a couple of weeks back, but is around 20 per cent cheaper, as it has no wireless networking support and is said to be slower.
It's a modestly sized machine, with a matt black lid to its scanner and a conventional paper path running from a near vertical, 100-sheet tray at the rear through to a horizontal one at the front, formed by folding down the front cover. The cover automatically drops down, if you forget to open it before starting to print, and has a flip-over extension to fully support printed documents.
The control panel has a surprising number of indicators and buttons, though there's no LCD panel to show menus or image thumbnails. It doesn't need the latter, as there's no memory card or USB drive slot on the machine, either. There's a single-character LED display to select up to nine copies at a time and the segments cycle round to show when the printer is busy.
Single LEDs are used to indicate paper jams and low ink, and there are others for paper type and size. At the front of the control panel are six buttons for starting and cancelling black and colour print jobs, as well as ones for scan, settings and to fit an image to the page. This last function is unusual in a machine at this price.
At the back of the right-hand side panel is a single USB socket, which is the only data connection to the machine. Once you've installed the software, which is pretty painless from the supplied CD, you plug in a USB cable and slot in the two ink cartridges, before you start using the machine.
The cartridges are what Canon calls a hybrid system, in that the black cartridge uses pigmented ink, for denser, quicker-drying text pages, while the tri-colour cartridge uses dye inks for brighter colours in photos.