It says a great deal about the quality of Canon’s printers that, barely halfway through testing the MP520, it was already clear that its only real cause for concern was the fact that the price was too close to that of the Labs-winning Canon Pixma MP610 (page 80).
The two share a similar design, with a flat top and a control panel that can be flipped up when needed and tucked away when not. The controls are identical to those of the MP610, although they are laid out in a slightly different way.
The major difference is in the number of cartridges. While the MP610 has separate pigment and dye-based blacks, the MP520 sticks to the pigmented one. This means text is just as thick, solid and legible, but the MP520 can’t quite match the quality of photo prints. In our tests we could just make out a difference in the darker areas of images, with less convincing edges and depth to the prints.
It fights back, though, with a superior scanner. Text isn’t up there with the better scanners from Epson, but photos were sharp and had a good colour tone, putting them behind only the HP in the scores from our judges. The MP520 did produce slightly better text copies than the MP610, but in most cases, results from each were indistinguishable.
Speed is impressive, clear of the chasing pack but not as quick as the MP610. Text comes out at 8.1ppm in mono and 3.3ppm for colour, and a 6 x 4in photo took just over a minute. The individual inks also make the Canon a cheap printer to run – just 10.8c per A4 page, and our rundown test gave us 178 photos before the first of the four tanks failed.
So why should you choose the MP610 over this unit? The prices are close – there’s just a $55 difference – and that small premium gets you a duplex unit, the ability to print on CDs, and that all-important extra black cartridge. But the Pixma MP520 is also just about to be replaced by the MP540, so it’s possible that its price might drop – if so, it could become a very compelling bargain buy.
This Review appeared in the November, 2008 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine