The Pixma MP990 is, in essence, a beefed up version of the Pixma MP560 we've already reviewed, so it shouldn't be surprising that both printers share a pretty similar design outlook. For a start, they're both multifunction printers, and until clever scientist types come up with a new way to do document scanning that doesn't involve a big glass plate, they're all going to look big and boxy, no matter who the vendor actually is. The MP990 is particularly big and boxy, measuring in at 470x385x199mm, and even slightly larger when all of its trays are extended. Like the MP560, controls centre around a scroll wheel, although the MP990 uses a larger wheel and larger 3.8-inch TFT LCD to display its rotary controls, which are mounted at the centre rather than the side.
The MP990's feature set encompasses print, copy and scan. Sorry business types, no faxing here, although at an AU$449 price point it might be reasonably expected to be included. This is instead a printer for those wanting quality image printing, and with the inclusion of CD printing and film/slide scanning, it's pitched at the creative crowd.
Canon rates the MP990 at up to 11.9 images per minute (ipm) for black text, up to 9.1ipm for colour and approximately 20 seconds for a borderless 10x15cm photo print. If those figures feel on the low side to you, bear in mind that Canon's using the ISO 24734 ipm standard rather than the rather shakier old pages per minute speed ratings. Ipm should be more accurate to real life usage, which means our tests should be fairly similar to those in real testing.
The scanner is a CCD type with a scanning resolution of 4800x9600dpi, and it's capable of scanning film and slides in with provided adapters for up to six film frames and four slides at a time. On the connection front, the MP990 connects via USB, wired Ethernet or wireless. It's technically Bluetooth capable, but you'd have to lay out extra cash for a Bluetooth adapter to make this happen.
Installing the MP990 was a fairly leisurely affair. Which is the nice way of saying that it was rather slow, not so much on the physical installation side, but on the software side. The default installation is very slow, mainly due to all the additional printer utility packages Canon presumes you want. We'd advise opting for the custom install and ticking off the bits you actually need, unless you need a lot of thinking time.
Printing out text pages, the MP990 managed a single page within nine seconds, and an average of 10 pages per minute in normal black coverage. We noticed while timing it that the printer tended to take rather long pauses between some printed pages. Possibly it's re-adjusting to avoid a paper jam, or its buffer was full. We're not sure, but the effect was definitely slower overall print times, as switching to draft speed saw only the mildest of increases to an average eight seconds for a single draft page and 11 pages printed in a one-minute span. Print quality was very good in normal, and predictably light in draft mode. Given Canon only rates the printer at around 11.9ipm, 10 pages for a real-world document isn't too bad. It's not terribly fast, of course, but it's at least not disappointing.
We were more disappointed with the Pixma MP990's photo print speed. Where Canon claims a 10x15cm photo in "approx 20 seconds", we averaged more like 40 seconds. The wait was worth it though, with good crisp colour reproduction and prints that came out sticky to the touch, but not actually damp. Like the MP560, photo media loads in from a large tray at the back, and having this extended makes this large printer take up even more desk space.
There's always a trade-off between speed and quality when it comes to inkjet printing. The Pixma MP990 straddles the edge of it; compared to many printers rated as "photo capable" it's a rather sedate printer in pure speed terms, but few printers would match its photo chops quite as well.