Back in October 2007, we reviewed Canon's PIXMA MP610 all-in-one and the PIXMA MP970, reviewed here, has many of the same features. The main difference is the price, with the MP610 costing around £115 and this top-of-the-range model coming in at just under £200. So what does the MP970 have that makes it worth the extra £85?
It could be the amount of plastic, as the case of this machine is massive and much taller than its cheaper siblings, though the reason isn't clear. The machine's layout is conventional for Canon, with a 150-sheet paper tray at the rear and a paper cassette, with the same capacity, slotting in from the front. Either source can be used for paper or photo blanks.
At first glance the MP970 appears to have no control panel, but it's actually set into the lid of the scanner. A panel flips up to reveal an 88mm LCD display, 20mm bigger across the diagonal than the MP610's. We're not convinced about the positioning of the controls, because if you lift the scanner lid with the control panel open it can be cumbersome.
The lid of the scanner has a removable underside, which reveals an illuminated strip for scanning transparencies. There's a transparency and film holder in there, too, which you can lay on the flatbed to help with these high resolution scans. This is something the MP610 doesn't have, though the maximum scan resolution is the same on both machines.
Main controls make use of Canon's innovative Easy-Scroll wheel and a similar, elliptical display of icons appears on the LCD. The silver-coloured, right-hand panel on the front of the printer hinges open to reveal twin memory card slots, for all the common types, though the PictBridge socket is below the door and you don't need to open the panel to use it.
The front output tray is neat, as sheets feeding from the printer don't protrude much from the front. However, it also means 15 x 10cm photos are slightly more awkward to retrieve and sit awkwardly on one of the raised runners designed to keep A4 sheets in order. Also awkward is the slot to take the CD and DVD carrier for direct disc printing. This is so deep inside the all-black interior of the printer, making it hard to locate the carrier in its guide slots.
Joining the USB socket at the back is an Ethernet port, included as standard, which partly explains the higher pricing. Software provided with the PIXMA MP970 includes OmniPage SE and Presto! PageManager, as well as a suite of Canon's own applications including a useful CD/DVD print utility for direct and network printing.
There are seven inks in this all-in-one, two more than in the MP610, with both dye and pigment-based blacks, and photo cyan and photo magenta to supplement the standard CMY set. All the cartridges clip easily into Canon's permanent print heads and useful red LED indicators on the cartridge carrier show any inks that need replacing.