New printers are far more capable: Canon iP4300

Our several year old ink jet printer died the other day. It was an Epson Stylus Pro 5000. I knew it was on its way out, so I had been researching printers a little recently. I knew that printer quality and features had been growing substantially in recent years.

I found a review by M. David Stone of the Canon iP4300 InkJet printer and was intrigued, but a little skeptical. Upon seeing it at the local office supply store, I wasn’t impressed. How good can a $100 printer be?

I told my wife I was considering it, and upon learning the price she immediately said not to get it: she wanted a really good quality printer.

Here are some features I really like

  • 2 paper trays. I can keep photo paper in the cassette, and plain paper in the auto sheet feed. When I choose a paper type, the paper source is chosen automatically.
  • Automatic switching of paper trays based on paper type
  • Automatic power on when a print job is requested.
  • Automatic power off after n minutes of inactivity
  • Quiet operation (our old printer was as big as a tank and sounded like one too.)
  • The photo printing seemed very high quality and very fast.

Sure, the light plastic frame didn’t seem as solid as the Epson, but it functions well. I easily added the Canon as a shared printer to the several home computers on our home network.

One bug I found: the printer driver itself has a print preview feature (in addition to any preview that client application software might have), but it seemed to be disabled from any shared printer. I pushed the “Help” button on that dialog, which only described that the button would allow a preview. How do I figure out what makes the button disabled?

Another bug: the automatic paper tray switching based on paper type seemed only to work on the machine the printer was attached to. On other network machines, I had to choose the paper source manually.

Our old printer had a feature that would mirror an image, for iron on transfer sheets. I couldn’t find such a feature on the Canon, but then realized that choosing “T-Shirt transfers” would do it.

I took some Fox program code and printed it out in color. It looked really good.

I logged onto my home web server from my office at Microsoft, chose a photo, printed it. I got a warning picture indicating that the paper output tray needed to be opened (kids). So when I got home, I opened the tray and the picture printed.

The printer cost less than the accessories that I bought along with the printer: more ink cartridges and a USB cable, but it was still a small fraction of the price of our old printer.