Automatic duplexing (printing on both sides), dual paper trays with a combined 300-sheet capacity, tiny droplets and decent speed make the Canon Pixma iP5000 a versatile inkjet option for home users who need both text and graphics output. As a four-colour model, it lacks the cred and the quality to compete with real photo printers -- despite Canon's Pixma marketing strategy -- but its photo-printing quality surpasses that of most SOHO competitors, making it a great general-purpose choice. Sadly, it lacks built-in networking.
Setting up this printer mostly entails installing the printer drivers and the optional image-editing, organising, and Web-page-printing software -- a 10-minute chore at most. Physical setup involves little more than connecting the power cord, linking the printer to your computer through a USB 2.0 cable, and installing the printhead and the five ink tanks.
A sleek 419 by 170 by 287mm and 6.8kg, the Canon Pixma iP5000 unfolds for use, with a flip-up 150-sheet autofeeder tray that needs no extra clearance behind the printer and a flip-down 50-sheet output tray that extends 150mm in front. A second paper source, a 150-sheet cassette (20 sheets if using 100x150mm paper), expands to accommodate A4 sheets. There's also a cover on the back of the printer that opens to allow unsnarling of paper jams. However, we didn't experience any jams during our tests, even when duplexing.
Like that of other Pixmas, this printer's operation is driver-centric. There's a large power switch in the upper-right corner, a PictBridge port, a paper-feed button, and a paper-input-source switch. The power LED flashes in cycles of two to nine bursts to indicate status and error conditions, but it's generally easier to monitor the software status monitor for updates.
Front-panel LEDs illuminate to show which paper tray has been selected, but the printer switches automatically from one source to the other, and the switch setting can be overridden from the printer driver.
The printer doesn't automatically know which size paper is loaded into each tray. As a result, we'd initially choose the wrong source when using two different sizes of stock, repeatedly printing 215x280mm output onto 100x150mm paper in the cassette or wasting a full-size sheet with snapshot-size prints. That's when we discovered the valuable Paper Allocation feature, which allows you to specify the type of paper loaded into the cassette. When the absentminded choose the wrong input source, the printer switches automatically from the cassette to the automatic sheet feeder. Used correctly, this feature simplifies working with multiple-size sheets simultaneously.
The Canon Pixma iP5000 uses a 1,856-nozzle version of Canon's Full-Photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering (FINE) printhead, spitting 1-picolitre droplets of ink. Up to 32 droplets form a pixel, for an effective colour resolution of 9,600x2,400dpi. Canon's ContrastPlus ink system uses four dye-based cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks for photos and a pigment-based black for text. It uses the same BCI-6 colour tanks as several other Pixmas; refills cost about £9 per colour. A BCI-3e black tank, which will set you back around £8.50, handles text. An optical monitoring system tracks usage and offers a warning before each tank is completely depleted.
Compatible papers include Canon Photo Paper Pro, Photo Paper Plus, and other stocks in glossy, semigloss and matte surfaces, plus transparencies, plain paper, envelopes and other business-oriented papers. Retail prices range from £6.95 for 50 sheets of the matte photo paper to £9.99 for 25 sheets of a semigloss double-sided paper that lets you use the duplexing feature to print on both sides of sheets to bind into albums or presentations.