If you're after an inkjet printer which does the lot, Canon's new Pixma iP5000 has to be a serious contender. Designed to cope with most home and many home-office tasks, it also boasts the first use of one picolitre (1pl) ink drops, for a very fine gradation of tones in photographic output.
Looking something like a large, Chinese lacquer-work box, the Pixma iP5000 is unusually finished in high-gloss, black plastic, with broad silver highlights along all edges. It's a substantial machine for an inkjet, standing slightly higher than a typical desktop PC case and with a similar footprint.
At the very least, you need to click open the front panel and extend the telescopic paper tray before you can start printing. You don't, however, have to raise the paper feed tray from the printer's top surface, as there's also a multi-size, 150 sheet cassette which slides in under the body of the machine.
For day-to-day A4 printing, you can rely on the cassette and leave the printer closed up. Paradoxically, you can alternatively use this cassette for glossy film stock, for the occasions when you need to print photographs, leaving the top feed for plain paper. Since both forms of paper feed can take a variety of different sizes and shapes of media, the combinations are many and you can set up the printer to best suit your requirements.
A third method of feed involves folding down a secondary tray from the front of the printer. This is a specialist use, as the printer then accepts a CD tray for direct printing on CD or DVD media, or even on the credit card-sized CDs sold for marketing or business card use.
But we haven't finished with the convenience features of the iP5000 yet, as it includes an integrated duplexing unit, so the printer can print on both sides of the paper in a single job. There's also a USB socket to the right of the paper out tray which can be used to connect a digital camera. If that camera conforms to the PictBridge specification, you can print directly from it, without the intervention of a PC. The only obvious omission from the feature set is memory card slots – there’s no way to transfer images directly from cameras without PictBridge.
At the back of the Pixma are mains and USB sockets, and once you've set up the driver and status software, the printer installs without problem. Canon's printer driver is well laid out, with a tabbed dialogue offering simple control of watermarks, overprints and page imposition.
The ability to print a number of different impositions, such as two and four pages to the sheet, can produce good economies on internal drafts and help with assessing page layouts in longer documents.