Sometimes, great things come in small packages. Sometimes, great things come in cheap packages. And sometimes, cheap things come in cheap packages.
Canon, as with other vendors who offer printers and MFPs to home and small business users, has a number of low-priced models. The Pixma MX492 will set you back just about a hundred bucks. That’s not a lot for a four-function device that offers printing, scanning, copying, and faxing — but it also doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great value. So where does Canon’s latest fall on the spectrum? Is it cheap and great … or just cheap?
What’s in the Box
The Pixma MX492 is a compact unit, so the box isn’t very large or heavy. Unpacking, you’ll find the MFP, power and phone cords, an install CD that contains print and scan drivers and Canon’s Quick Menu software, the My Image Garden utility for touching up photos, black and tri-color ink cartridges, and a quick start poster.
The user guide can be installed as a readable file during the installation, and it’s quite large and very detailed. Not included on the install disc is Canon’s Creative Pack Premium. This provides a wide variety of printable crafts and is available online.
Features and Design
A compact black rectangle measuring 17.2 × 11.7 × 7.5 inches and weighing only 13 pounds, the Pixma MX492 offers no-frills printing, scanning, copying, and faxing. A folding auto document feeder (ADF) holds 20 sheets, and like the printer portion of the device, does not duplex scan. The top of the MX492 is hinged, and when lifted exposes the glass scan platen.
Controls consist of a two-line monochrome LCD and membrane touch buttons that provide a numeric keypad, monochrome and color start buttons, buttons for launching a scan or copy, a tools button, and left, right, and home buttons for menu navigation. You don’t get a color LCD or touchscreen for your hundred bucks, but that’s probably okay.
You don’t get a color LCD or touchscreen for your hundred bucks, but that’s probably okay
You also don’t get wired Ethernet, but you can still connect the MFP to a network using Wi-Fi or directly to a PC or Mac via USB, of course. Cloud-based printing using AirPrint, Google Print, and Canon’s own Pixma Print Services are available, as is a scan to the cloud feature if your network has Internet access.
Both the input and output paper trays are available when the front panel is pulled down. The input tray is located at the bottom of the printer and can hold up to 100 sheets of letter or legal size paper as well as adjust to smaller sizes of paper or photo paper and envelopes.
The output tray is located above the input tray and extends to catch the printed output. Directly above this is a door that is hinged down and opens to expose the print head carrier, where you insert the black and tri-color ink cartridges.
Setup and Performance
Setup these days is a simple matter of removing packing material, installing ink cartridges and software, and telling the install routine how you want to connect the unit. The MX492 uses only two ink cartridges—a black cartridge, and a tri-color cartridge with cyan, magenta, and yellow inks. This approach keeps the manufacturing costs down, but greatly increases the operating costs since when one of the colors in the tri-color cartridge runs out, you need to replace the cartridge even if the other two colors still have available ink.
Canon was one of the first inkjet printer vendors to offer individual inks in its BJ-600 printer more than a decade ago, so seeing the return of the tri-color cartridge is disappointing. We also had a tiny bit of trouble getting the cartridges correctly installed. They have to be inserted at an angle then clicked upwards into position. This took us several tries before we got it right.
After that, the software installation went quick and easy. The install menu gives you a choice of which utilities you want installed, including Canon’s Quick Menu and My Image Garden. Canon also offers a second creative/crafts utility, Canon Creative Park Premium, though this has to be downloaded—it’s not included on the install CD.
We installed the MFP using USB, but Wi-Fi setup is simple, especially if you have a WPS-enabled router, since it’s just a matter of pushing a button on the router and letting the MFP and router find each other and pair. Once connected to your network, and assuming the network has Internet access, the printer can be used with any of the networking options we listed earlier.
Canon rates the print speed of the Pixma MX492 as 8.8 images-per-minute (ipm, the standard Canon uses) in black and 4.4ipm in color. Our testing, which uses the 4-page ISO Word document, yielded an average of 8ipm over several runs. This document set is primarily black text with a small color logo on each of the four pages. Automatic duplex printing (printing on both sides of a page) is not available. If you check two-sided printing on the print driver, the MFP prints the top side of each page, then directs you to flip the pile over and reinsert the prints into the input paper tray to print the other side.
Image quality was good, but not perfect. We made prints of our test images on standard copy paper, Hammermill Premium Inkjet and Laser Paper, and Canon’s Photo Paper Plus Semi-Gloss. As is usual with inkjet-based printers, the prints made on standard paper (the copy paper and Hammermill) were considerably under-saturated due to ink wicking into the paper. The prints made with the photo paper were much better. The colors were accurate, but slightly darker than those in the reference prints. For printing school reports and the like, print quality is very much acceptable.
We also tested the copy and scan functions. Copying, as is common with this type of device, is more a convenience than a true utility, and best only for very occasional use, though the 20-page ADF is nice when you have multipage documents to copy or scan. As with printing, there is no duplexing with copying or scanning.
As with most printers and MFPs these days, ink cartridges are offered in standard and higher-yield models. The Black ink is a pigment, rather than dye, which gives deeper blacks. The standard PG-245 cartridge CL-246 tri-color cartridge each produces about 180 pages while the PG-245XL and CL-246XL cartridges have about a 300-page yield. The PG-246 cartridge costs about $17, while the higher-yield PG-256XL costs approximately $26. The tri-color cartridges are priced at about $22 for the standard yield and $31 for the high-yield cartridge.
Canon offers a one-year limited warranty with an instant exchange program should issues arise – a very nice feature. The company also offers one year of toll-free telephone support for customers.
The Pixma MX492 doesn’t offer much beyond its basic four functions—print, scan, copy and fax. But then again, it also doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. It has a small footprint and could easily reside on the desk where you work, if you keep the output tray unextended when not in use. But do your best to keep the printer out reach of curious toddlers—the output paper tray in particular feels flimsy and might not stand up to the heavy-handed machinations of a young child. Frankly, neither paper tray seems like it will stand up well under heavy use.
Unsuitability for heavy printing is underscored by the low page yields of the standard (180 pages) and XL (300 pages) ink cartridges. Clearly, this less expensive unit won’t match the HP Officejet Pro 8620’s 1,000-page black output, but we’d like to see numbers that get closer — you will too if you buy one. Add in the fact that the MX492 uses a tri-color cartridge rather than the individual cartridges for each ink color and you’ll start to get frustrated. Having to replace the tri-color cartridge when one color runs out is wasteful and expensive.
Ultimately, we’re not quite sure of the audience that Canon is targeting with the Pixma MX492. It would probably be suitable for a temporary replacement for a more expensive printer or MFP if you were in the middle of a project and short on funds. Or had a home business and sent out paper invoices or estimates on an occasional basis.
Canon’s My Image Garden and Creative Park Premium provide plenty of craft projects and ideas. But for most home use beyond printing an occasional photo, letter, or school report, any real hefty use of the MX492 is going to drain those ink tanks at a rate that will make you wish you had sprung for a more expensive four-tank model instead.
- Compact for a four-function MFP
- ADF is useful for faxing and copying
- Lots of creative software included
- No duplexing
- Modest ink yields
- Input and output paper trays feel flimsy