Canon, like most of its competitors, has managed to design several all-in-one printers based on the same print engine and to differentiate the models based on feature set. The PIXMA MP540 uses the same five-ink print system as in the £100 MP620, but this machine costs 25 percent less, so something has to go.
Looking a bit like earlier Canon all-in-ones, with gloss black piping and highlights reminiscent of an oriental lacquer box, this machine looks clean and well-proportioned, when closed.
A hinged support at the rear lifts up to provide a paper support for plain or photo paper, while an output tray at the front uses a novel pair of raised arms to support each sheet with a slight curve, so that it doesn't flop about. Under the output tray is a paper cassette, which can also hold 150-sheets of plain paper.
The A4 scanner is available once you lift the silver and black lid and to the right of this a flip-up cover has a 48mm LCD display set into its underside and reveals a normal Canon control panel, including a click-wheel for menu selection. A flip-open cover below the control panel reveals three memory card slots, which handle all the common types, and below that is a PictBridge socket.
At the rear there are sockets for just the mains cable and USB. There's no Ethernet or Wi-Fi option on this machine and other things missing in comparison with models further up the range include CD/DVD print, an Automatic Document Feeder and duplexing.
Physical set up involves plugging the five cartridges into their holders in the print head. There are two black cartridges: a pigmented one for printing text and a dye-based one for photos. The print heads are capable of producing ink drops down to an impressive 1pl.
The software bundle supplied with the machine is pretty similar to that included with others PIXMAs in the range, and includes document handling and OCR software, as well as an applet for printing Web pages. Drivers are provided for all recent versions of Windows and for Mac OSX 10.3.9 and newer.