One thing we can say about Canon printers: they're almost always faster than the competition. The Pixma iP4000 manages a brisk 6.69 pages per minute (ppm) when printing text (4ppm to 5ppm is about average) and an extremely fast 1.82 minutes per page when printing a 200x250mm photo, whereas many printers take more than 4 minutes to do this.
Competing printers typically come with a pigment-based cartridge and make a composite black for photo printing out of cyan, magenta, and yellow. In contrast, the iP4000 comes with a dye-based cartridge for photo printing and a pigment-based black for text files. The dye-based black does give the iP4000 an advantage over the competition, but the iP4000's output could still be a problem.
Text looks nice and dark at arm's length, but close inspection by a trained eye reveals a lot of feathering around the edges of the letters. Still, the average consumer probably won't notice the text blips and in fact might prefer the dark text, even if it means sacrificing some crispness. When we printed a mixed text-and-graphics document on high-resolution paper with the driver set to standard-quality/high-resolution paper type, the output looked much better. Black text elements were crisp around the edges, with no feathering visible to the naked eye.
In our test photos, the iP4000 did a good job of capturing tricky details such as the illustration on a postage stamp and the rivets in a robot suit, but we saw slightly more dithering and banding in the background than we'd like. Also, we saw visible dots throughout our test photos, which seriously affected the smoothness of skin tones. For truly excellent photo printing, check out the HP Photosmart 7960 or the Epson Stylus R800.
CNET Labs' project leader Dong Ngo contributed to this section of the review.
Service and support
You can find free, well-written tutorials, FAQs, and downloadable manuals online. Canon provides e-mail support, but we got only automated responses to a few general questions. The Q&A troubleshooter helped to isolate our problem, though Canon could stand to expand the multiple-choice options. Overall, Canon's support site is useful and easy to navigate.
Addtional editing by Tom Espiner