Canon i80

Road warriors take heart: You no longer have to return to the office just to print your latest report. For that matter, you can cross off stopping at the drugstore to get your photos developed. Canon’s new i80 Bubble Jet printer, released in February, takes care of both chores in a sleek, portable package that lacks only speed.

Unlike most portable printers, the i80 doesn’t ask you to compromise on print quality. Black-and-white text printouts are clear and crisp all the way down to 4-point type. Text printed on general-purpose paper shows a little ink bleeding around the edges of letters, which gives a slightly fuzzy appearance to very small type and to the edges of bold display type. But when printing photos on photo-quality paper, the i80 really shines. Text and lines are razor sharp, and photos come out with well-balanced, saturated color, smooth blending in sky and skin tones, and fine, crisp detail, even in low-light areas. The only shortcoming, and it’s a slight one, is that blacks aren’t quite as deep and saturated as we’d like.

The Canon i80 is highly portable, with a travel weight of 4.6 pounds including the power adapter. An optional battery kit ($100) screws onto the back of the printer, adds 13 ounces, and gives you enough juice to print a couple hundred pages on a single charge — we got 130 pages over a six-hour testing period before the battery gave out. Even with the battery attached, the i80 has a smaller footprint than most notebooks, although it’s thicker; it should fit nicely alongside your computer if you’ve got an oversize carrying bag. Replacing ink cartridges is a snap, with easy drop-in access to the print head. The print feed tray holds about 30 pages; there’s no output tray.

The printer’s metallic casing and glossy black plastic trim give it a sleeker, smoother look than most printers — no need to hide this little guy under a desk or behind a potted plant. And it’s quiet enough that you can talk on the phone while it churns out pages right next to you.

The price you pay for this portability is speed. Although Canon rates the i80 at 14 pages per minute for black-and-white text, it delivered only a tenth of that — 1.2 pages per minute in our tests. Switching the printer to draft mode doubled the speed, to 3.2 pages per minute, although draft-mode printouts look a little like dot-matrix printouts: Text is gray and speckled, and letters have chunky, fuzzy edges. Black-and-white and color print speeds were about equal using our test documents: a Word document filled with black-and-white text of various font sizes and a PowerPoint presentation with a mix of text, photo images, and multicolor charts.

The i80 has an infrared port and can connect to your computer or camera via a USB cable or, with an optional $80 adapter, Bluetooth (this adapter wasn’t available for us to test at press time). Also new with this model is support for PictBridge, a standard that simplifies printing when connecting a PictBridge-compatible camera directly to the printer.

In addition to the svelte and functional hardware, the Canon i80’s Windows driver contains goodies such as the Print Advisor, a wizard that automatically selects the best print settings based on your document and paper choices, and various photo-optimization and effects filters.

At $250, the i80 is a great deal for mobile professionals and photo enthusiasts with limited desk space. The only real downside: At almost a buck a page for full-size photo paper, you’ll need to exhibit some restraint when cranking out those prints or you’ll soon find your paper costs exceeding that of the printer itself. -Dylan Tweney

SPECS:
Canon i80
$250
Weight: 4.6 pounds; 5.4 pounds with battery
Size: Printer only: 12.2 x 6.7 x 1.9 inches; with battery: 12.2 x 7.9 x 1.9 inches
Specs: 4,800 x 1,200 dpi; PictBridge support; IR; USB; optional Bluetooth

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Canon i80