If you're buying an entry-level all-in-one, you might expect a lot lower spec than when buying in the mid or high price ranges, but in many cases the core functions, like printing and scanning, will be much the same from machine to machine and it's only the feature set which differs. Canon's PIXMA MP490 is one of these.
Over recent launches Canon has reduced the size of its machines, so they look less like harmoniums and more like oversize jewellery boxes. The PIXMA MP490 is cased in high-gloss light grey and black and very smart it looks too, when closed.
Pull up the paper tray support from the back and open the front cover, which becomes the output tray, and it doesn't look quite as neat, but is still very practical. There's no separate paper tray underneath the machine, but the rear tray works for plain and photo paper.
The Contact Image Sensor (CIS) scanner is a single-sheet device, but is both quiet and quick in use and produces surprisingly good images. It's also used in the automatic printhead alignment process, to scan back a test print.
Flip up the cover to the control panel, which is to the right of the scanner cover, and you'll find it's fitted with a 45mm LCD display. This is a bright little unit, good enough for photo thumbnails as well as displaying menus and status messages - its main function. The control panel looks very similar to those on the machine's bigger siblings, except that the ‘ring' control is a four-way switch and not a click-wheel.
Another flip-open cover in the right-hand front corner of the case reveals three memory card slots, including CompactFlash and Microdrive, though oddly there's no PictBridge/USB socket. It seems a strange choice to continue support for a card format largely abandoned by consumer devices, while excluding a connection which works with almost any digital camera. DSLR users might appreciate the thought, but then they're unlikely to print straight from a memory card.
The only socket at the rear of the machine is for a USB cable, though Canon continues to offer a direct mains power connection, so avoiding the cumbersome external blocks HP, its main rival, continues to use.
This is a twin-cartridge printer, with single black and tri-colour cartridges, both of which clip into place in the head carrier, with a minimum of effort. The usual comprehensive set of applets for basic scanning, printing and OCR are provided and there's a useful Web applet to squeeze Web pages onto an A4 sheet.