Canon's PIXMA iX6550 inkjet printer doesn't have a scanner, copier, automatic document feeder, auto-duplex or any other complicated circuitry to confuse you — all it does is print documents and photos from the tiny 6x4in size all the way to A3+. It's compact — hardly wider than an A3 sheet of paper, and not especially tall or deep — and is able to produce high quality print-outs when using the right paper and settings. If you're printing documents it can be reasonably quick, although photos do take significantly longer and can chew through ink within just a few prints.
Canon PIXMA iX6550: Design and setup
There's not much to say on the design front for the Canon PIXMA iX6550. The printer's body is slightly plasticky and flimsy-feeling. You load paper through the top-loading cassette and it is fed out onto a front tray. That's really about all there is — apart from a power switch and a paper feed/eject button, the PIXMA iX6550 is a blank slate. It's a glossy black box that picks up fingerprints remarkably quickly. It has no fancy colour screen (no screen at all, in fact) and no buttons for navigating through menus or changing functions on the printer itself. Similarly, there are no memory card slots or a USB host port for direct printing. Because of this, you'll obviously need a desktop PC or laptop connected to control and print from the PIXMA iX6550.
The Canon PIXMA iX6550 has USB 2.0 connectivity but no Wi-Fi or Ethernet networking, which might vex anyone trying to set it up in an office to be shared by multiple computers. You can do this in a roundabout way by sharing the printer directly through the computer it is connected to, but this is an awkward and inferior solution — so if you absolutely need to share your printer between multiple computers the PIXMA iX6550 shouldn't be at the top of your list. Annoyingly for a $400 product the PIXMA iX6550 doesn't have a USB 2.0 cable included, so you'll need to hunt around to find one from your old printer or take a trip down to the store and shell out a few dollars more. We hooked the Canon PIXMA iX6550 up to our Apple MacBook Pro running both Windows and Mac OS X Lion using a USB 2.0 cable.
Canon PIXMA iX6550: Print speed, quality and performance
The PIXMA iX6550 is a no-nonsense printer: once you've got it installed on your computer (Canon includes a reasonably bloated range of software, but you can elect not to install it) the driver gives you a few select options for adjusting print quality and paper feeding, and that's it. Hit print on your computer and the PIXMA iX6550 is up and running within two or three seconds.
Canon's quoted figures of 11.3 pages per minute for monochrome documents and 8.8 pages per minute for colour documents are reasonably close to the figures we achieved. Over a 50 page print run using an A4 colour test document we achieved a print speed of 7.2 pages per minute, while a greyscale version was faster at 9.8 pages per minute. A full-colour maximum quality A3 photo print took 2min 21sec to complete. We didn't time a maximum quality A3+ print run but we expect it to be over three and a half minutes per sheet.
The Canon PIXMA iX6550 has good print quality. This is most evident when you're creating a large A3 or A3+ photo, but it also translates into clean text on any kind of paper down to around the 7pt text size. Colour saturation is good on both documents and photos, even in Draft quality, but ramping up to maximum quality does come at the expense of quickly-empty ink tanks.
The ink costs for the Canon PIXMA iX6550 are not particularly low but not dramatically higher than competing models from Brother and Epson — more important to us is the PIXAM iX6550's reasonably high initial price. Each of the five ink tanks costs $23.95 RRP, so buying a brand new complete refill is expensive. If you're only going to be printing monochrome documents the PGI-525BK pigment black is good for 335 sheets, and the combined colour inks are good for around 500 pages.
Canon PIXMA iX6550: Conclusion
The Canon PIXMA iX6550 does a good job of printing A4 and A3 documents and colour photos. We don't have any real problems with it apart from the slightly plasticky build quality and lack of USB cable — otherwise it acquits itself well as a competent if slightly expensive single-user printer.