Technology

Canon's Cantankerous All-in-One Printer


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Editor's Rating: star rating

The ImageClass MF8050Cn is a color laser printer with some high-quality features, but its glitches can make printing a hassle

When Canon (CAJ) unveiled the Color ImageClass MF8050Cn, it billed the color laser printer as a device that could fit the needs of small businesses and home offices looking for a quality all-in-one printing device.

A $499 device that incorporates printing, copying, scanning, and faxing into a 52-pound design, the ImageClass boasts some features that might please both groups of users, but its advantages are overshadowed by a series of glitches that make printing a hassle.

To its credit, the ImageClass can print and copy in color at a respectable 6 to 7 pages a minute—though Canon puts the number at 8. For black-and-white, the ImageClass handles 12 pages a minute. It also includes a built-in Ethernet port that lets you network several office computers, and a 50-sheet auto document feeder and a 150-sheet paper tray.

My tests were plagued by paper jams and an inability to wake the device from its sleep state for a quick printout. It lacks wireless connectivity and it's unwieldy, particularly in a home office setting. At 17 in. wide, 19.1 in. deep, and 16.9 in. high, it's a beast just to get out of the box. And make sure you know where you're going to place it once you do; there's no easy handhold or other way to get a good grip, especially in tight spaces.

Printing Problems

The printer works with most of the Microsoft (MSFT) Windows and latest Apple (AAPL) Mac operating systems. Still, I discovered after hooking it up to an older Dell (DELL) Windows Media Center PC with a USB printer cable that the device driver software had a terrible time recognizing the printer each time I tried to print something.

The problem persisted, albeit less frequently, after I hooked the printer up using the same method to a Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) TouchSmart PC that uses the new Windows 7 operating system. It was easily remedied by unplugging the USB connection and plugging it back in, but was a hassle nonetheless.

The possible cause: I turn off my computers when I'm not using them. As part of Canon's commitment to lowering the energy consumption of its devices, the printer enters a very low-power energy-saving mode when not in use. Since the issue occurs only after I turn my computer on, it's possible the printer isn't recognized in that low-power state. Still, neither a Canon engineer nor a spokeswoman had heard of similar issues.

Life with the MF8050Cn wasn't all bad. The built-in scanner uses high-quality optics and offers a large flat platen capable of accommodating 8.5-by-11-in. sheets. Scanning directly to the computer, it works well with Photoshop and can store in JPEG, PDF, TIFF, and bitmap file formats. Color reproduction also looks excellent. The images are vibrant and crisp, though you'll have to wait on average about 23 seconds from the time you send the print command for the first page to come out.

Still, there's no picture preview screen or other goodies such as touchscreens that are becoming increasingly popular on consumer-bound devices from rivals such as Hewlett-Packard and even Canon's own ink-jet printer lineup—all selling for much lower prices before you factor in the ink costs. The ImageClass makes do with a five-line LCD that is difficult to read in tight spaces and low-light situations.

The ImageClass MF8050Cn might seem like a good idea for those looking to be green and save money by choosing laser printing over ink-jet technology. But this Canon model is all work, too much of it unnecessary and annoying.

Edwards is a correspondent in Bloomberg BusinessWeek's San Francisco bureau.

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