Although all-in-one printer sales outstrip single-function printer sales several times over, there are still plenty of situations where a conventional printer is the right choice and you can save money, if you don't need the scanning and copying functions. Canon's PIXMA iP4580 is slightly more than a single-function printer, as it can print on plain paper, photo paper and directly onto coated CDs and DVDs.
It’s another of Canon's high gloss, piano black boxes, with a silver band around its chamfered top edge. You'll need to keep a clean duster to hand if you want the printer to maintain its pristine looks.
There are two main paper paths, from a telescopic, fold and lift tray at the rear and a paper cassette that pushes in and projects from the front. Both these sources can take 150 sheets of plain paper, though Canon suggests you leave the rear tray for photo paper. This makes sense, as you can then leave the rear tray closed most of the time, which helps keep dust out of its mechanism. The output tray is another telescopic support, formed from the inside of the fold-down front cover.
The only controls are set into the heavily curved right, front edge of the machine and consist of two buttons, each with inset, coloured LEDs. One is for power and the other for paper feed. Below the buttons is a PictBridge socket, so you can print from most digital cameras, using the camera display to select images.
The only data connection to the PIXMA iP4850 is a single USB socket at the rear and the suite of Windows software includes Easy PhotoPrint and CD LabelPrint, with equivalents for Mac owners, too.
The CD/DVD print software is particularly easy to use and works much like a simple desktop publishing application for importing and positioning images and text. Flip down an internal cover just behind the printer's front cover and it provides a support for the CD/DVD carrier, which can take regular and mini discs, as well as the smaller, credit-card sized ones.
The machine uses five individual ink tanks in a semi-permanent print head, with two black inks for text on plain paper and photos. They all snap easily into place and are equipped with Canon's handy LED indicators, which show when the cartridges are properly located and flash when ink is low, so you can tell at a glance which need replacing.