You wouldn't buy a printer based on its design, but none the less, Canon's latest iteration of its Pixma range is well-built and quite nice looking with its silver and black styling. The front and rear paper trays, front corner card slot compartment and the control panel can all be neatly concealed when the printer is not in use. At 450x468x176mm, the footprint of the MP630 is smaller than multifunction printers of old, a bonus if you are cramped for desk space.
The control panel features a flip-up 2.5-inch colour TFT screen which is handy for previewing photos before printing directly from a memory card or USB. Navigation keys and a scroll wheel beneath the screen provide quick and easy ways to get to the tasks you want to undertake without needing to drill down through lots of sub menus. The scroll wheel is particularly useful when you want to print one specific image buried among hundreds of others on a memory card. Another nice touch on the control panel is a button that immediately shows the level of ink remaining in the various colour tanks.
The Pixma MP630 is Canon's "hero" mid-range multifunction printer. You'd have to step up to dearer models if wireless connectivity or scanning negatives is important to you, but the MP630 does feature automatic double-sided printing and direct printing to CDs and DVDs. These features help the MP630 to stand out somewhat from its direct competitors at this price point from HP and Epson.
For those wanting to print without loading images onto a PC, the MP630 has a PictBridge port, one USB port and card slots for MemoryStick Duo, SD, xD and CompactFlash memory cards. This is all pretty standard on multifunction printers these days, but these features are often left off many of the budget printers now flooding the market.
Setting up the MP630 for the first time will take at least 30 minutes, as it uses five individual ink tanks and the printer needs some time to align the print head. Canon provides special paper for this process, but we're not sure where you'd get it when you subsequently need to change cartridges down the track. There's a quick set-up poster, but no printer manual per se; the software you load will install four short-cuts to the manual and application guides on your desktop. (We used parts of the desktop manual for our print tests and found out that the whole thing is a whopping 850 pages long. Canon is either kindly preserving our paper forests or hoping you'll use up lots of ink printing your own manual.)
For most home and school printing tasks, the MP630 should shoot A4 text pages in less than 15 seconds per page. One 21-page section of the manual, which contained a mix of black and colour text as well as many complex images and diagrams, took four minutes 28 seconds to print — an average of 12 seconds per page.
If you'd like to conserve paper and use its double-sided printing abilities, you'll have to be more patient. Duplexing 16 pages of the manual took seven minutes 15 seconds, or an average of 27 seconds per page. The print quality on all tests was sharp, clean and easy to read, even small font sizes.
The MP630 allows you to make borderless photo prints in a range of sizes: 6x4, 5x7, 8x10 and A4. Standard 6x4-inch (10x15cm) photos took between 44 and 75 seconds, not quite the 20 seconds touted in Canon's marketing spiel. Print times varied depending on whether we were printing from a PC (slower) or card slot (faster) and the quality options selected. The print quality is clean and accurate, but colours appear slightly under-saturated. We didn't notice significant differences changing from Auto/Standard to the High Quality option, other than the (quicker) standard quality prints were a bit warmer, with a slightly yellow tint. If you want more accurate colour reproduction, it's probably worth spending another 30 seconds and a bit more ink to get a truer image.
Colour copies took between 18 and 29 seconds per page, depending on the document. Scanning documents is also a relatively quick process — we scanned a colour document to automatically attach to an email as a PDF in 19 seconds. You can scan a document or images as a JPG or PDF and you may also choose to save it to a PC, USB or memory card.
Using the included DVD/CD tray, it was easy enough to print our test image onto a DVD. The image was passable, if a little washed out. We found the sample on the printer instructions easier to get the hang of than the PC interfaces for both DVD printing and scanning.
Two final things we like about the MP630 are its Quick Start feature and its quiet operation. Although this printer drains just 2.1W of power in Standby mode, the green-minded of you will be happy to keep it off when not in use, as it's ready to print virtually as soon as the power is turned on.
It's also a bit quieter than other home multifunctions we've looked at lately. While not exactly silent, its relatively quiet operation could come in handy for small home office situations where you need to be on the phone while the printer is in operation.
At AU$19.95 each, buying refills for the MP630's five ink tanks is no small outlay. After moderate usage during our testing period, the two black and the yellow ink tanks were still pretty full, but the magenta and cyan inks were down to about 60 per cent.