Without access to the kind of imaging equipment normally available to CERN scientists it's hard to verify Canon's claim that the print heads on the Pixma iP4600 can hit a spot a mere 1/9,600th of an inch in diameter with just a single picolitre of ink.

Still, this doesn’t really matter when you consider that the photos it produces are best in class by a margin, and indistiguishable from professional prints to the naked eye.

Punchy pics

Despite the fact that its photo engine uses just four colour cartridges, the dye-based inks produce rich, hyper-real pictures with deep blacks and punchy, bright reds that flatter the skills of even the most amateur photogapher.

If there's a criticism, it's that occasionally the bundled driver can oversaturate a shot, giving rosy-cheeked children the kind of skin tone usually seen in the alcoholic atmosphere of old gentlemen's clubs.

That's easily tuned out, though, and if you throw in the fact that a test 6x4 print can be produced in around 30 seconds or less, without too much in the way of background noise, and you have a worthy successor to Canon's previous flagship model, the iP4500.

Also good at text

Text may not be sexy, but it is unusually sharp on the iP4600, thanks to a second, pigment-based black cartridge. Running costs, too, are quite reasonable – we got 80 images before the photo black had to be replaced, while the cyan, magenta and yellow tanks lasted between four and five times that length. Each cartridge costs around £8.

There's only one reason not to pick the Pixma, and that's the fact that tethering a printer to a single PC is starting to feel quite old fashioned. The iP4600 has just one additional USB port for printing from a standalone camera, unsupplemented by even a built-in card reader, let alone network sharing options.

An emphasis on photos, not flexibility, is getting the priority right: we just hope that this excellent print engine is matched to a fully networked model soon – it's an odd hole in Canon's current line up.


Stuff says... 

Canon Pixma iP4600 review

Punchy pics and a quick output speed, the iP4600 is close to the perfect photo printer