“With a six-ink system, Canon’s Pixma TS9020 produces excellent prints that rival costlier models.”
- Excellent color output
- Very good performance
- Lots of connectivity options
- SD card slot
- Duplex printing
- Paper tray extends out
- No ADF
Canon’s strength in photography includes its photo printers, not just cameras. The company’s new Pixma TS-series replaces the MG-series, but at heart they remain the same – all-in-one (AIO) inkjet printers for the home – and serve the same customer. In this Canon Pixma TS9020 review, we take a look at the flagship model: a six-color multifunction printer that prints, scans, and copies, with the added bonus of producing excellent quality photo output up to 8×10 inches. Since it’s intended for the home, and not office, it lacks an automatic document feeder (ADF) and fax, but these omissions are unlikely to figure heavily in the purchase decision for what is a very good photo printer.
Features and design
With the TS-series, Canon has redesigned the look of its consumer inkjet models — less curvy, more boxy. We know taste is subjective, but we find the compact all-in-one (14.7 x 12.8 x 5.6 inches; 15 pounds) sleek, with its two-tone, glossy black and white exterior (it’s also available in red). Lift the white lid up to reveal the flatbed scanner.
The front panel has a 5-inch color LCD that’s touch-sensitive and easy to read. The panel, which also has the power button and near-field communication (NFC) tag for mobile printing (requires compatible devices, mainly Android), tilts up in order to extend the output tray. Tilt the panel all the way up, and you can access the special tray for printing on supported optical media (Canon’s software includes a print utility that lets you create impressive custom CD and DVD labels).
Hiding behind that panel is a lone SD card slot. You can pop the SD card from your digital camera, review the photos on the printer’s LCD, and print the ones you want. Gone are the multiple slots for the various formats before everyone settled on SD, but note that the printer only supports SD and SDHC (and the mini and micro versions, via an SD adapter). This sort of shows the type of general consumer Canon has in mind with the TS9020.
The TS9020 is a three-function AIO. As faxing is increasingly unimportant to a home market, we don’t see this as a huge loss. If you need fax for, say, a home office, Canon sells four-function office AIOs in its Pixma MX-series and Maxify printers. What we truly miss, however, is a useful ADF for scanning or copying multi-page documents; you will find this feature in office models, but not a photo printer such as the TS9020.
One thing we find really awkward is the paper drawer: it’s at the bottom of the unit – fairly common – but in its default configuration, it only accommodates paper up to 8 x 10, which tends to be photo paper, including Canon’s new 5 x 5-inch square photo paper. If you want to print on letter (8.5 x 11) or legal (8.5 x 14) sized paper, you have to extend the paper drawer by pressing on a button and pulling the end of the drawer farther out. When you do this, the drawer sticks out a bit from the edge of the unit, which mars the sleek look.
Canon’s home photo inkjet printer series has a new name, and a sleek redesign.
The small 100-sheet capacity of the paper drawer is also an annoyance, and it’s something too common in home printers. In reality, we were only able to load about 90 sheets maximum. Perhaps it isn’t an issue for those who print occasionally, but frequent printers will the small capacity frustrating. Fortunately, the TS9020 is a duplex printer, able to print on both sides of the page automatically. And, a rear paper tray gives you another 100-sheet capacity of plain paper or 20 sheets of thicker photo paper. Canon actually brought the rear paper tray back based on customer request, which had been removed from some MG-series models.
Connectivity options are excellent. In addition to USB, Wi-Fi, and NFC, the TS9020 also supports wired Ethernet. The AIO also supports a variety of mobile and cloud-based print platforms, including Apple AirPrint, Canon’s Print app (iOS and Android), Google Cloud Print, Mopria Device Printing, and Pixma Cloud Link. The TS9020 is also compatible with cameras with Wireless PictBridge (many of the new Canon cameras offer this).
Wireless setup is easy and straightforward – just go through the prompts to connect the printer to a network, which is then discoverable by other devices. With an iOS device, the printer pops up as an option provided both devices are on the same network.
Being that it’s designed for printing photos, the TS9020 is a six-color printer, providing Photo Black and Gray inks in addition to the standard CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black). These ink cartridges are available in standard and high capacity versions. The Photo Black and Gray inks are used only when printing photos. Of the six inks, five are dye-based with the Photo Black ink being pigment-based to give deeper blacks. The standard capacity dye inks run about $13 each (with a 350-page average page yield) and $16 for Photo Black (300 page yield), while the higher capacity inks run $20 for colors (700 page yield) and $25 for Photo Black (500 page yield).
Setup and performance
Setting up the TS9020 is easy. It took us about 10 minutes, which included the printhead alignment and ink priming initialization. We used the included disc to install printer and scanner drivers, as well as applicable software (you can do a full installation, or pick what you want), but you can also download the from Canon’s support website. We opted for a wired Ethernet connection, as it would provide the fastest speed for performance testing (to test the internet-based features, we connected to a Wi-Fi network).
For photography, one of the primary reasons for buying a six-color (or more) printer over the standard four-color CMYK standard is the enhanced quality of the photo output. To be honest, for many users, four-color output is just fine for casual snapshots.
But, the six colors do make a subtle difference, and if you are really into photography, it’s worth having. On a purely visual basis, the prints we generated — a variety that included photographs and charts — were well saturated with deep blacks, and the colors were accurate when compared to the X-Rite color reference we use. In fact, when we checked it against prints we made from a calibrated, nine-color Epson SureColor P600, the differences in quality were noticeable, but very subtle.
We are very happy with the print performance. Canon rates the TS9020 at about 15 pages per minute (Canon calls it images per minute) in monochrome printing and 10 ppm in color. Printing a mostly monochrome four-page Word document, we achieved an output speed of 16 ppm, which dropped to 7.3 ppm when printing a mostly color Excel document. These documents are part of the ISO Document Suite the vendors use, but our test protocol is not as elaborate, so our scores are in-line with Canon’s specs.
The scanner has an optical resolution of 2,400 dpi, which is fine for most uses. We tested it by scanning of our image test documents using the Google Picasa (RIP) import function, which recognized the TS9020 as a TWAIN scanner. Printing out the scanned test documents, we found they were very close to the originals in both detail and color accuracy. Unfortunately, if you do a lot of scanning or copying, you’ll find the flatbed scanner a pain to use. For a single scan or two, you won’t miss the ADF too much
Canon offers a standard one-year warranty.
The Canon Pixma TS9020 is a very capable six-color AIO with good performance and great photo output. It also boasts terrific connectivity, with NFC and wired Ethernet in addition to the ubiquitous USB and Wi-Fi. It has two main drawbacks: The small 100-sheet capacity paper drawer is limiting if you print often, and sticks out awkwardly when using standard letter-sized paper. And the lack of an ADF and, to a lesser extent, fax may put the TS9020 out of consideration for some users. But we like the large touch-capable LCD control panel, and the unit’s sleek looks. For the money ($200 MSRP, available for $150 as of writing), the TS9020 is a good value.
Is there a better alternative?
Epson’s Expression Photo XP-860 is a six-color printer, but with a list price of $299 (street price of $200), it’s pricier than the TS9020, making the Canon a better buy. However, the XP-860 has a 30-page ADF and fax capability, which may be more desirable if you need those function, like a small office. If large photo prints are your thing and you can do without the multifunction components, consider upping the budget for a printer like Canon’s Pixma IP8720.
Note that the TS9020 is the flagship, and that the TS-series has less-expensive models in the lineup, like the TS8020, which has a smaller LCD but is otherwise the same printer. The TS5020 is the least expensive model, at $100 (MSRP), but it’s a five-ink printer and lacks a touchscreen.
How long will it last?
Canon doesn’t publish a duty cycle for the AIO, but it feels well made. With a 100-sheet paper tray, you aren’t likely to have many long print or copy runs – jobs that put a lot of strain on a print engine. Given average home use, there’s no reason why the TS9020 shouldn’t give you two-to-three years of service, if not more.
Should you buy it?
Yes, for the price, you’re getting a top-quality photo printer that also has copy and scan features. The paper tray has less capacity than we would like, and it’s awkward, but they aren’t deal breakers – especially when you are getting very good performance and great output quality.
If you print a lot, you may want to reevaluate your needs. Would an ADF, fax, and larger paper tray better serve you? If so, a printer designed for office productivity might be the better option. If photo quality is also important, in addition to those features, then a machine like the Epson XP-860 is more fulfilling. However, for the majority of home users, we think the TS9020 is a solid buy.