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At first glance Canon’s Pixma iP 8500 looks suspiciously like the iP 5000, which we reviewed back in December 2004. So what extras does the Pixma iP 8500 have over its stable mate, which justify the extra £100? There’s just one; a unique eight-colour print system.
This involves a wide, lifetime print head and eight ink tanks, adding photo magenta, photo cyan, red and green to the standard cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK). The print heads use Canon's Full-photolithographic Inkjet Nozzle Engineering (FINE) technology and deliver two picolitre drops at a very fine resolution of 2,400 by 4,800dpi. This is ideal for photographic reproduction, but could slow day-to-day plain paper prints.
Looking like some oriental lacquer-work writing chest, the Pixma iP 8500 can be used self-contained, by filling the 150 sheet paper cassette sitting under the printer, or by lifting a flap on its top surface you can feed a further 150 sheets from a conventional, near-vertical tray at the rear. This combination is ideal if you want to load both A4 and, say 10cm by 15cm print paper at the same time.
All paper feeds out to a telescopic tray which unfolds from the front. When open you can also pull down an internal flap which provides a third feed option, for printing directly to CD or DVD blanks. To the right of the output tray is a USB socket for PictBridge-enabled cameras, though there’s no support for camera memory cards, which is a pity.
There are two PC connections to the printer, one USB and the other a fast USB 2.0. The only controls are for sheet feed and to select the paper source.
Printer drivers and two Canon utilities are easily installed from the supplied CD. The driver is well designed, with a useful Print Advisor which automatically sets up the machine for typical printing tasks. Easy Photo-Print and Easy-Toolbox combine to handle quick prints for a variety of paper sizes, a photo album and onto CD.
We noted the same problem with this printer as with the Pixma iP 5000, in that the status monitor refused to show ink usage correctly, even when we replaced empty cartridges with full ones. We used a high spec, USB 2.0 cable to connect the printer and can't see why these levels aren't correctly updated.