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After initial alignment of the print head and cartridges, which takes about six minutes, the printer is set up to print. Black text print uses the pigmented PGI-5BK cartridge and produces crisp, clean text with very little sign of spatter or feathering into the paper nap. Colour graphics are also generally good, though occasional white speckles in areas of solid colour show that some paper fibres are not getting fully covered. Colours in a copy, using the machine’s scanner, come out noticeably lighter than in the original.
Photo prints, as we've come to expect from Canon inkjets, are of very high quality. There's plenty of detail in darker areas of the test image and variation in colour, as in skies, is well handled, though with some slight stippling. Foreground detail is sometimes a little less sharp than with some other machines, though this varies between images.
Print speeds are closer to Canon's claims than with most machines of this type, because Canon quotes speeds in normal mode, as well as draft. The company is to be applauded for its honesty and where it claims 14.8ppm for black print, we saw 9.1ppm. Our colour test speed of 4.7ppm, against Canon's claim of the 11.6ppm, wasn't quite so good, though.
The PIXMA MP600 includes a duplex facility, but this slows printing dramatically. A 20-side duplex document took 8 minutes 42 seconds to complete, over four times as long as a similar, single-sided document would take. Part of this was down to an inexplicable nine second pause before printing the second side of each sheet.
There are five inks in the PIXMA MP600, with pigmented black used on monochrome pages and dye-based black on colour ones, including photos. Canon’s page-yield estimate for black ink is 360 pages and we managed 400 under test. The colour ink estimate, however, is 420 pages and we managed 750 – quite a margin of error, but on the positive side. In both cases the printer prevented us printing before there was any noticeable drop-off in print quality. This is annoying, as the printer only estimates the ink used and there may well be some wastage.
The page costs work out at 1.95p for a five pre cent black page and 25.2p for a 20 per cent colour one. This is a good result, particularly for the black text page, coming out lower than either the MP160 or the MP830, both tested recently.
While the speed results may not be close to Canon's claim for this machine, in most other respects it does very well. Print quality is good, page costs are commendably low and the flexibility of the PIXMA MP600 – with its dual paper sources, duplexing and innovative control method – make it good value at just over £100.