When you're already making one of the best ranges of all-in-one printers, it may be hard to think of ways to improve. With the PIXMA MP980, Canon has decided to look at the inks, offering a different colour mix for those who want to print black and white as well as colour photos.
This is a bulky printer, like its predecessors, but the silver and black lines are clean and unfussy. A panel inset into the top surface of the scanner swings up to reveal the device's controls and a large 88mm LCD screen. Canon has always been good at control panels; the continued use of its rotating click-wheel for selecting menu options is here supplemented by two context-sensitive buttons, as well as a range of others, including separate ones for colour and black copies.
As before, there are two paper sources for this printer, but Canon has restricted the media for each. In this machine, the 150-sheet paper cassette at the front is the only place you should put plain paper, while the rear tray, which can take photo paper from 15 x 10cm up to A4, is designed specifically for photos.
Its A4 flatbed scanner has a resolution of 4,800 x 9,600ppi and a conventional CCD scanner head, which gives better results than a cheaper Contact Image Sensor would. There's a transparency adapter built into the lid, too, so you can scan slides and negatives.
Pulling down the front panel makes an output tray and an interior cover gives access to a separate slot for CD and DVD printing - a carrier is supplied. On the curved right-hand corner of the machine, a rather flimsy cover swings out to reveal three memory card slots, which between them take all the common formats, including MicroDrive. There's a PictBridge socket below these.
At the back of the machine there's a single USB socket, but a Wi-Fi connection is another standard option. Wireless installations can be good or bad. On a printer aimed at the home market, you'd expect things to be as simple as possible and Canon has done really well. You need to connect a USB cable temporarily during setup, but the process is then pretty much automatic. You don't need to enter IP addresses or MAC numbers, though you may need to provide a WEP or WPA code if you're wireless network is protected.
Setting the machine up physically is a little awkward, as there's not much room under the raised scanner section to reach the head carrier. Once you've plugged the six ink tanks in and run through the priming cycle, though, the printer is ready to go.
Canon supplies a good range of its own support software, including OCR, as well as ArcSoft PhotoStudio 5.5 and an Adobe RGB plug-in. The driver includes support for automatic duplexing, which is a standard feature on the PIXMA 980.