Canon is honest enough to quote print speeds for normal print as well as draft mode. Even though its figures of 15ppm for black print and 9.9ppm for colour are still optimistic, they're not as outlandish as some of its competitors', as we managed to print our five-page text document in 33 seconds and the colour text and graphics in 1 minute 19 seconds. These times give real-world speeds of 9.1ppm and 3.4ppm, respectively.
There's a duplexer built into this machine and like the one in its cheaper sibling, it's incredibly slow. Our 20-side text document took 9 minutes 57 seconds to complete and it would be much quicker to print the first 10 sides, turn the pages over by hand and then print the second ones. The main delay is an eight second wait between completing the first side and starting the second.
The print mechanism in the PIXMA MP970 can produce a one picolitre ink drop, the smallest size of any consumer printer. This should enable a high level of detail in photographic prints and on examining our samples we saw very smooth gradations of colour and a high level of detail, both in lit and shadowed areas of shots. Print on glossy paper gave a uniformly lustrous finish, too, unlike some ink-jet output, where a lot of reliance is placed on the white of the paper and can give a matte finish to very light shades.
Text print is clean and dense and even small characters are well formed. Business graphics are fair, though areas of solid colour fill are not as smooth as we expected. A colour photocopy showed some lightening of tints, though in general reproduction was well above average.
As usual, the cost of running a device like this depends very much on the price you can find for its ink cartridges. We found some good deals in our price scans, which produced an ISO black page cost of 1.88p and a colour cost of 3.88p. Both these figures use Canon's page yield figures, which we found conservative in comparison with our own yield test results. The costs are good for an inkjet printer, with the colour cost being half that of some rivals.
So, the extra £85 you pay for the PIXMA MP970 over the PIXMA MP610 brings you a finer minimum drop size, a built-in transparency scanner, a bigger LCD screen, six-colour print and network connectivity. The machine is at the top of Canon's range and has the best spec and the best print quality of just about any all-in-one printer on the market. If you ignore its hopeless duplex print speed, it's an excellent piece of printing, scanning and copying technology.