The Canon Pixma iP4950 is a straightforward photo-orientated inkjet printer that offers automatic two-sided printing. It also has an adaptor tray that lets you print directly to CD or DVD discs.
It uses five ink cartridges for better photo printing performance and can be bought online for around £65.
The iP4950 is quite an attractive-looking printer. The glossy piano-black finish used on all of its surfaces gives it a more upmarket feel than a lot of competing products. We also like the way Canon has curved the edges, as it stops this model from just looking like a big, black rectangular box.
When closed up it's quite petite. As you fold out the paper trays its footprint starts to sprawl. The cassette-style tray at the bottom extends 85mm out of the chassis, while the vertical feeder tray at the back needs around 120mm of clearance.
Both of these trays can accept up to 150 sheets at a time and it's good to see dual trays on a model with such a modest asking price.
The printer can automatically sense what type of paper is in each tray. This is handy as you can keep A4 paper in one, while using the other for photo paper. The software driver will automatically select between them.
In the box you'll find a special plastic adaptor that you can load your CDs and DVDs onto for direct printing. Once your media is in place, the tray slides into a slot found behind the door on the front of the machine.
Sadly there's no screen. The only two controls are the power and cancel buttons. It also lacks a memory card reader. Thankfully it does have a PictBridge-compatible USB port, so you can print photos directly from cameras.
The iP4950 is slightly unusual in that it doesn't have any network support at all. Instead, the only way to connect it to your computer is via the USB port at the rear. This makes setting up very straightforward. It's just a matter of loading the drivers onto your computer from the supplied CD-Rom and plugging in the USB cable when you're instructed to.
The cartridges are very easy to install. They're accessed via a flip-up lid on the front and each one clicks easily into place. There's a red LED light to indicate when they're properly connected.
Speed, quality and cost
The iP4950 certainly doesn't hang around when it comes to print speed. Black and white text performance is faster than the company's previous generation of printers for both single and double-sided printing. It completed our 10-page text document in 1 minute and 2 seconds, and took 2 minutes and 55 seconds to produce five double-sided pages of the same document. That's pretty speedy for a printer at this price.
Colour printing performance is also very good. Our 10-page graphics test took 2 minutes and 40 seconds, while our 10-page business presentation took 2 minutes and 14 seconds. It also rocketed off a 4x6-inch snap in just 33 seconds.
It's not just the speed that impresses. The print quality is also first class. Text is sharp and clean, while colours are bright and perky. It managed to avoid banding on blocks of colour in our presentation, while trickier areas of our graphics sheet were handled with aplomb. Snaps look ace too, with rich colour hues and impressive levels of detail.
This model's print engine relies on five ink cartridges -- three colour ones, one black for text printing and another black for photo printing. These cartridges certainly aren't the cheapest around, but if you want high-quality print-outs then you may feel that the extra expense is justified.
A black and white page will set you back 3.6p per page, while a colour sheet works out at 9.3p. Both of these include 0.7p for paper costs. In comparison, Kodak's latest range of printers, which are the cheapest inkjets to run, work out at around 2.5p and 4p per page for black and white and colour respectively, but their print quality isn't as good.
Overall, it's hard to find much wrong with the iP4950. It pumps out documents and photos at a rapid pace, produces excellent quality results, has dual paper trays and has the advantage of offering direct CD/DVD printing. At this price, you couldn't really ask for more.