The Pixma iX6550 looks the part of a multifunction printer, but this is solely a printing device, not a scanner, fax or photocopier. What it does hide within its body is a deceptively small A3 printer. That's not to say that the Pixma iX6550 is particularly tiny; at 549x299x159mm this is still a large printer. It's just that compared to most A3 printers, however, it's small for what it does.
The finish is in glossy piano black, which naturally means that even unpacking the Pixma iX6550 makes it look something like a recently dusted crime scene, awash with fingerprints. It's a relatively hollow printer (as most printer bodies are), but the increased size of the Pixma iX6550 exacerbates this, and makes actions like flipping up the paper tray reverberate with a hollow and cheap plastic sound.
The Pixma iX6550 is, as noted, an A3 colour inkjet printer with a surprisingly simple feature set. There's no multifunction ability, there's no card or USB reading facility. There's no networking on board, be it cabled Ethernet or Wi-Fi. This is a USB-only connected printer, and for those small offices that need a networked A3 printer for, say, proofing purposes, this has implications, as you'll have to leave it tethered to an always-on PC or Mac in order to share its printing abilities.
The other office supply you'll need to pinch to get the Pixma iX6550 working is a USB cable. If you're moving from another printer chances are that you'll have a cable handy, but if not, it's worth noting that your AU$399 doesn't extend to Canon supplying you with a cable in the box. Given it's required for set-up, it's a particularly irksome omission.
In line with Canon's approach to stating print speed figures, the iX6550 states lower than industry standard image per minute (ipm) figures, rather than page per minute (ppm) figures. The difference that we've seen in real-world tests is that the ipm figures quoted tend to be more realistic for actual documents, where ppm ratings tend to be best-case scenarios that far too often fall short. The iX6550's ratings for print speeds are for approximately 11.3ipm in black and white for an A4 page, 8.8ipm for a colour A4 and 36 seconds for a single 10x15cm colour photo. No A3 print estimates are given, which we found mildly curious. Who exactly is going to buy an A3-capable printer and then not print A3 pages on it?
In terms of ink consumption, the Pixma iX6550 uses the same confusing ink tank arrangement as the recently reviewed Canon Pixma MX885, with single cyan, magenta and yellow colour ink tanks alongside dye and pigment black ink tanks. This leads to the same confusing scenario as with the MX885 where one black ink tank acts as a "supplemental" tank to the other black one, making approximating page yields in terms of costs near impossible. For the record, Canon states the breakdown of ink tank usage as follows:
- Borderless 10x15cm photo: PGI-525BK (approx 2835 pages), CLI-526C (approx 202 pages), CLI-526M (approx 204 pages), CLI-526Y (approx 202 pages); CLI-526BK (approx 615 pages)
- Plain paper A4: PGI-525BK (approx 335 pages), CLI-526C (approx 530 pages), CLI-526M (approx 495 pages), CLI-526Y (approx 515 pages); CLI-526BK (approx 3160 pages)
Aside from scrounging up a spare USB cable, installation of the iX6550 was a simple affair with no particular problems. Once we'd installed it, we ran our normal print tests through it, as well as expanding them to include a number of A3 prints to test printing speed.
As we've noticed, Canon's own ipm figures tend to trend more closely to what we get in our lab tests, and the iX6550 was no exception. Canon states an average of 11.3ipm, and we managed 10.3 pages per minute on full saturation black-and-white text. A 10x15cm photo should take 36 seconds according to Canon; this was a little more laid back in our tests where it took 51 seconds. As noted, Canon curiously doesn't extend that printing speed estimate to include A3 printing, and after printing a number of test shots, we're really not sure why. While a 10x15cm photo took 51 seconds, expanding the same image out to A3 it took two minutes and 51 seconds to print. That's not racing off the printer, but for a print that size, it's quite impressive.
The only real market for an A3 printer should be folks who regularly need to print at up to A3 size. For anyone else a number of multifunction printers, including several of Canon's own would serve their purposes better, with perhaps a trip to the local photo shop for any special A3 orders. For those who need A3 printing on a regular basis, the iX6550 makes fair sense, although we were left wishing it included some kind of networking option.