Canon's top-of-the-range dedicated photo printer takes aim at your shots with its picolitre perfect pixels. Does it fire duds or bullseyes?
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.
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.
Canon Pixma iP4600 review
Punchy pics and a quick output speed, the iP4600 is close to the perfect photo printer