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Canon's speed claims are not nearly as outlandish as they used to be, as the company now quotes ISO print speeds for normal mode printing. Even so, the headline figures on the PIXMA MP640 are 9.2ppm for black print and 8.1ppm for colour.
Our five-page black text print returned a speed of 5.66ppm and the longer, 20-page document increased this to 6.56ppm. Our five-page black text and colour graphics print gave 3.95ppm. These speeds are unspectacular, but are in the middle of the range for an inkjet all-in-one in this price range.
Duplex print speeds are better than before, as the paper rests for only a second or so between sides, where some of the machine's competitors wait as long as 15 seconds before printing the second sides. Our 20-side, 10-page document still took 5:52 to complete, though, giving the machine a real-world duplex speed of 3.41 sides per minute.
An A4, colour copy took 37 seconds, which is about average for a sub-£150 device. Its appearance was very good in comparison with a direct print, with colours coming out very close to the original. Areas of solid colour are a little mottled, but then they are in the original prints, too and there are no signs of banding. Colours are bright and clear. Black text is dense and generally sharp, though there is occasional feathering of ink into the paper fibres, giving a more fussy appearance.
Photo prints are still among the best we've seen from any SOHO machine. Colour blends are smooth and clean and shadow detail is much better than from some rivals. Colours are natural and correspond well to those in original images and foreground detail is sharp and precise. These are some of the best four-colour photo prints you'll see from a mass-market machine.
The five cartridges are the only consumables in the PIXMA MP640 and they're all priced reasonably, giving costs of 3.14p for an ISO black page and 8.11p for an ISO colour one, each including 0.7p for paper. These are competitive with machines such as the HP Photosmart Premium C309g, tested recently, but roughly a penny per page higher than for any of the new Kodak ESP machines.
What you get if you choose the Canon PIXMA MP640 is a versatile, well-designed, easy-to-use all-in-one. It may not be the cheapest to run, but you do get high quality photo prints, better than average plain paper prints and the facility to set up plain and photo paper simultaneously. You also get the facilities to print on CDs and DVDs and to duplex pages with less speed overhead than from most of its rivals. It doesn't quite do enough to secure an award, but it won't disappoint if you do pick one up.