Canon's $100 (as of August 23, 2011) Pixma iP4920 has several things going for it: good speed for a simple color inkjet printer, above-average paper handling, and the ability to print on specially coated CD/DVD media. Its lack of ethernet and Wi-Fi limits it to student or home use, but this printer’s solid basics and CD/DVD-printing make it one of the better units we’ve tested.
Though Canon bills the Pixma iP4920 as a photo printer, the machine is designed for general-purpose use. It has two 150-sheet input trays: an under-mounted drawer for letter-size plain paper, and a rear vertical feed for all other media. Having two inputs enables the Pixma iP4920 to offer better paper handling than most inkjet printers in the same price class do, and you also get automatic duplexing. The one puzzling omission is media-card slots, though you do get a front USB/PictBridge port.
CD/DVD printing is the Pixma iP4920's standout talent. Canon provides a disc caddy for normal 120mm discs with an adapter for 80mm (3.15-inch) media. The caddy fits into a special feeder on the front of the unit. It sounds simple, but take it slowly the first time, as the on-screen instructions and directions on the CD tray are inadequate. Hint: Getting the caddy into place involves pressing the icon-labeled button for form-feed (and canceling print jobs); the form-feed button is located below the power button. The HTML-based documentation of the process is thorough but disjointed—explaining how to load the media in one place, and how to print on it in another.
The Pixma iP4920 is a good performer. In our tests, text pages emerged from the unit at a brisk rate of 8.9 pages per minute; the average rate for its class is currently 7.5 ppm. Snapshot-size photos printed on plain paper emerged in just 17 seconds (3.5 ppm), and in a mere 30 seconds (2 ppm) when we used Canon’s own photo paper. Full-page photos printed on the Mac take about 2 minutes (0.5 ppm), an average speed.
The Pixma iP4920's print quality is good for an inkjet. On plain paper, black text printed at default settings looks nicely dark and just a little feathery around the edges. If you select the higher-quality Fine mode in the driver, the text achieves laser-printer crispness (but it also uses more ink and take a little longer to print). Photos look washed-out and orangey on plain paper, but if you switch to Canon’s own photo paper, they look very detailed and realistic.
Ink costs for the Pixma iP4920 are reasonable. The five separate cartridges consist of a $16, 339-page black cartridge (4.7 cents per page); $14 cyan, magenta, and yellow cartridges that last for between 486 and 530 pages (2.6 to 2.9 cents per page); and a dedicated photo black, also $14, which lasts for about 555 photo images (2.5 cents per page). A four-color page costs about 13 cents to print.
If you're looking for good print quality and speed for a moderate volume of output, with the emphasis on photo prints, the Canon Pixma iP4920 will fit the bill better than most alternatives--assuming, of course, that you don't need network connectivity. If you'd like something faster and networkable, check out the Epson Workforce 60; it’s a bit more expensive to operate, however.