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Canon imageClass MF654cdw review: a low-cost, high-quality color laser printer

Canon's imageClass MF654cdw is a large, sturdy printer.
Canon imageClass MF654cdw
MSRP $399.99
“The Canon imageClass MF654cdw is a solid bargain on a great color laser printer for home offices.”
Pros
  • Bargain price
  • Great print quality
  • Fast performance
  • Good photo quality
  • Media tray for easy envelope printing
Cons
  • No duplex scanning
  • High color toner cost

Canon’s imageClass MF654cdw is an all-in-one color laser printer at a low cost. Canon is one of the best printer brands available so the quality and support should be great.

We’ll take a look at the performance and features you can expect from such an affordable color laser printer, and how the value adds up in the long term.

Design

The imageClass MF654cdw has a main paper tray and a media tray.
The imageClass MF654cdw has a main paper tray and a media tray. Photo by Tracey Truly / Digital Trends

Canon launched the imageClass MF654cdw in 2023, at the same time as the imageClass MF656cdw that’s featured in our guide to the best color laser printers. Like its sibling, the imageClass MF654cdw has a modern design with a large, adjustable, 5-inch color touchscreen reaching out at the top right. A central black output bin divides the white printer and scanner components.

It’s a large and heavy printer with a 17.8-by-18.2-inch footprint that’s only a bit bigger than normal. It stands 16.3 inches high, though, and weighs 48.5 pounds. I got some help with the unboxing since the shipping weight is 64 pounds. On the plus side, a heavy printer is usually a sturdy printer, so the imageClass MF654cdw should last for many years.

The main paper tray holds 250 sheets. A media tray makes it easy to print envelopes and specialty paper without removing and replacing a stack of pages for a single print. The automatic document feeder (ADF) can take up to 50 sheets.

Canon placed a thumb drive port on front, to the left of the output bin. That provides easy access for walk up printing and scanning. On the back, Ethernet and USB-B ports allow direct connection to a computer, but Wi-Fi is more convenient.

Printing performance

Canon's imageClass MF654cdw handles color documents well.
Canon’s imageClass MF654cdw handles color documents well. Photo by Tracey Truly / Digital Trends

Canon’s imageClass MF654cdw is a fast printer rolling out the first page in as little as 10 seconds if it’s already warmed up. Sustained print speeds are fairly standard for a laser printer, reaching up to 22 pages per minute. If you need faster color and have a bigger budget, check out HP’s Color LaserJet Pro 4301.

The print quality of the low-cost imageClass MF654cdw is good and becomes great after a minor adjustment. Color laser printers are primarily designed to print reports, charts, and other documents, but photos are also possible.

I browsed through the printer’s menu and set print quality to 1200 dots per inch (dpi) as a default. With this setting, photo quality improved significantly, approaching that of an inkjet printer.

imageClass MF654cdw photos look great with quality set to 1200 dpi.
imageClass MF654cdw photos look great with quality set to 1200 dpi. Photo by Tracey Truly / Digital Trends

If you really want borderless photos, most inkjet printers handle pictures well. For photographic quality, a six-color printer like the Epson EcoTank ET-8500 is the right choice.

Monochrome documents, labels, and envelopes print quickly with crisp text. To save paper, the imageClass MF654cdw can print on both sides.

Special features

The imageClass MF654cdw include 600 dpi color flatbed and ADF scanners.
The imageClass MF654cdw includes 600 dpi color flatbed and ADF scanners. Photo by Tracey Truly / Digital Trends

The Canon imageClass MF654cdw includes a color scanner and ADF, so you can digitize old photos, scan receipts, and make copies of documents. The scanner has a resolution of up to 600 dpi, so copies match the quality of most other all-in-one printers but won’t be quite as sharp as an original printed at 1200 dpi.

For the best-quality image scanning and OCR, a dedicated high-resolution scanner will offer better results.

The ADF scanner works reliably, has decent speed, and doesn’t jam. The imageClass MF654cdw lacks duplex scanning, so double-sided documents need to be flipped manually. However, it can copy single-sided documents and output double-sided.

The USB-B port on the front allows scanning to or printing from a thumb drive, which is convenient if you share the printer with others or don’t carry your phone to the printer.

Software and compatibility

Canon's color balance sheet fine-tunes the imageClass MF654cdw's print quality.
Canon’s color balance sheet fine-tunes the imageClass MF654cdw’s print quality. Photo by Tracey Truly / Digital Trends

It’s easy to set up the Canon imageClass MF654cdw. The four toner cartridges are preinstalled, so I only needed to insert paper, power it on, and follow the on-screen instructions.

The printer prompted me to print a color balance sheet, which is somewhat unusual for a laser printer. After printing, that goes in the flatbed scanner to check the output and fine-tune printing. The colors in photo prints were quite accurate, so I appreciate Canon’s attention to detail.

Connecting to Wi-Fi was simple, and within a few minutes, I could print from my computers and mobile devices. Canon’s Print app works with the iOS and Android.

From a mobile device, scan resolution is limited to 300 dpi. Epson is the only manufacturer that supports 600 dpi scanning to a phone. Also, my Android phone didn’t offer an envelope option from the Canon Print app. From my iPhone, Airprint can print an envelope. Everything else worked as expected.

A great bargain on a color laser printer

The Canon imageClass MF654cdw comes with standard black and starter color toner cartridges.
The Canon imageClass MF654cdw comes with standard black and starter color toner cartridges. Alan Truly / Digital Trends

Canon’s list price for the imageClass MF654cdw is $400, but you can find it for closer to $300, a great bargain for a high-quality color laser printer. The upfront cost isn’t the only expense to consider, however. Toner costs can add up, particularly for the color cartridges.

A high-capacity black toner cartridge prints up to 3,130 pages and 2,350 pages for color documents. Standard cartridges hold enough toner for 1,350 black and 1,250 color pages.

With high-capacity toner cartridges, each page in a color document costs about 14 cents. With standard toner, that becomes quite expensive at 21 cents per page. Monochrome printing is much more reasonable, costing 3 to 5 cents per page.

Canon ships the imageClass MF654cdw with a standard black toner cartridge and a set of three starter color cartridges with about half as much toner. Canon estimates you’ll get about 680 pages before color toner runs out.

Is this the printer for you?

The Canon imageClass MF654cdw is a very nice color laser printer at an enticingly low price. It might not be the right pick for a busy office since it lacks full duplex and color prints are a bit expensive. However, it could work nicely in a home office where there’s less need for double-sided copies.

If you like the idea of printing in color sometimes but never in high-volume, printing costs won’t break the bank, particularly if you choose high-capacity toner cartridges. You can also pick up a good, cheap inkjet printer for photos and use the imageClass MF654cdw for everything else.

Overall, the imageClass MF654cdw is a solid pick for a quick, reliable all-in-one color laser printer to use for moderate color printing.

Alan Truly
Alan is a Computing Writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. A tech-enthusiast since his youth, Alan stays current on what is…
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