- Review Price: £38.00
All-in-one machines are getting cheaper all the time, but the new PIXMA MP160, launched at the start of September, sets some sort of record for Canon, with a street price of under £45. Even with this low asking price, you’re getting a serviceable device, based on a four-colour print engine.
This is a substantial machine for an entry-level multifunction. It’s also soundly designed, from its pull-up paper support at the rear, to its fold-down paper output tray at the front. It needs no telescopic section to this tray, as the print mechanism is set well back into the all-in-one.
The small, neatly set out control panel has only a few functions, but these are well chosen. On the right, there are black & white and colour copy buttons, as well as one to cancel jobs, while simple Scan and Fit to Page buttons complement them on the left. Three indicators show paper jam and low ink in black and colour cartridges and in the centre of the panel is a single-digit, bright orange LCD display and a column of three indicators for paper size and type.
The single-character display is cleverly used, not just to show the number of copies selected – between one and nine – but also to indicate busy, head alignment and camera connected conditions. While it may not be as clear as a 16-character LCD display, it’s one of the few concessions to the machine’s low price.
There are no memory card slots, but since there is no LCD display this is hardly surprising. There is a PictBridge socket, though, so you can still print from a digital camera. A single USB socket at the rear is the only connection to a PC.
Lift the surprisingly small scanner section of the machine and it rises on a blue ‘bonnet support’ strut to provide access to the print cartridges. The machine uses a single black and a tri-colour cartridge and you can buy these in standard or high yield versions. You slide them back into the print head and push up to click them into position.
Software bundled with the PIXMA MP-160 covers all aspects of its operation, with OCR for text scanning from the Contact Image Sensor (CIS) scanner, Canon’s own Easy Photo and Easy Web Print and photo editing with ArcSoft’s PhotoStudio.
One of the very attractive features of this machine is its print quality. Not only are black text pages reasonably well reproduced – though there’s a little feathering – but colour graphics are clean, well delineated and not full of unsightly dither patterns. Although the colours in our test photocopy are slightly lighter than the originals, the quality is still very reasonable.
When you get to photographic prints, the colours are good, though in places slightly overemphasised, and fairly smooth in graduated areas, such as skies. Reds and blues look particularly natural, though greens have a tendency towards yellow.
Canon claims the PIXMA MP-160 can produce a 15 x 10cm ‘photo lab’ quality print in 52 seconds, but we couldn’t quite match that. Printing from a PC in top quality mode took one minute 50 seconds and in standard mode from a camera, via PictBridge, it still clocked one minute three seconds. This, in itself, is not a bad time and is considerably quicker than, for example, the latest budget all-in-ones from Lexmark. When printing from a camera, pressing Fit to page gives you a borderless print.
Printing on plain paper is also reasonably quick with the long print swath of the black head covering the page quickly. We completed our five-page test print in 55 seconds, giving a real world print speed of just over 5ppm. The mixed text and graphics print took more than twice as long, though, coming out at two minutes four seconds. Finally, a single page colour copy took 54 seconds, within a smidgen of the 53 seconds claimed by Canon.
You can expect to pay more for your consumables on a low-cost printer than a high-cost one – it’s the equation that manufacturers use to balance out their overall income. Even if you buy the two high-yield cartridges for the PIXMA MP-160, the 41 black and the 51 colour, you still come out with page costs of 4.45p for five per cent black and 37.7p for 20 per cent colour.
These are at the high end of the range for ink-jet all-in-ones, though not the highest we’ve recorded. The colour figure also depends heavily on the price of Canon’s glossy photo paper, though half is still the cost of the ink.
All in all, you have to say that Canon has the entry-level all-in-one market well covered with this machine and its siblings. By cutting back on the LCD display, it has managed to include a good, four-colour print engine and has combined this with a capable scanner and a good software package. Worth £45 of most people’s money.
Score in detail
Print Speed 8
Print Quality 8