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Setup is straightforward, thanks to the neat little head carrier. You plug the lifetime head into the carrier and plug each of the five cartridges into the head. When they're correctly inserted, a red LED shines up through the translucent clip for a useful bit of positive feedback. When ink is low, the corresponding LED flashes, too.
Canon provides capable software with the PIXMA MX850, including Nuance OmniPage for OCR and Presto! PageManager for document management. As well as that there's a surprisingly well-featured CD/DVD label utility, which is well tailored to the printer's direct disc printing.
Canon has taken to quoting both normal and draft mode print speeds, which is a very honest approach and something other manufacturers could copy, to customers' benefit. It rates the PIXMA MX850 at 14.9ppm for black print and 11.7ppm for colour. Our tests rated the machine at 7.1ppm and 4.2ppm, respectively, so there are still some differences in the way we measure speeds.
Single-sided printing is quick enough, compared with other machines at a similar price point, but one of the key selling features of the Canon machine is that it has both duplex print and duplex scanning. Other PIXMA multifunction machines - such as the MP610 and MP970 - offer duplex print, but no others offer double-sided scanning as well.
Unfortunately, all three machines share a very slow duplex print speed, mainly because of a nine second pause between finishing the first side of each page and starting the second. Our 20-page test file took 8:55 to complete and a 20-page duplex copy extended this time to 9:42. As well as the slowness of duplex copying, a collated source document ends up uncollated, which is annoying for a large job.