Like that of other Pixmas, this printer's operation is driver-centric. With a large power switch on the upper-right corner, a PictBridge port, a paper-feed button, and a paper-input-source switch. The power LED flashes in cycles of two to nine bursts to indicate status and error conditions, but it's generally easier to monitor the software status monitor for updates.
A sleek 16.5 by 11.2 by 6.7 inches (WDH) and about 15 pounds, the Canon Pixma iP5000 unfolds for use, with a flip-up 150-sheet auto feeder tray that needs no extra clearance behind the printer and a flip-down 50-sheet output tray that extends 6 inches in front. A second paper source, a 150-sheet cassette (20 sheets if using 4x6-inch paper), expands to accommodate letter-size sheets. There's also a cover on the back of the printer that opens to allow unsnarling paper jams; however, we didn't experience any jams during our tests, even when duplexing.
The printer doesn't automatically know which size paper is loaded into each tray. There is a valuable Paper Allocation feature, which allows you to specify the type of paper loaded into the cassette. When the absentminded choose the wrong input source, the printer switches automatically from the cassette to the automatic sheet feeder. Used correctly, this feature simplifies working with multiple-size sheets simultaneously.
The Canon Pixma iP5000 uses a 1,856-nozzle version of Canon's Full-Photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering (FINE) printhead, spitting 1-picoliter droplets of ink. Up to 32 droplets form a pixel, for an effective colour resolution of 9,600x2,400dpi. Canon's ContrastPlus ink system uses four dye-based colours cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks for photos and a pigment-based black for text. It uses the same BCI-6 colour tanks as several other Pixmas. An optical monitoring system tracks usage and offers a warning before each tank is completely depleted.
As with other Pixmas, Canon's printer driver divides key functions among six easy-to-navigate tabs. The main tab supplies drop-down lists for choosing paper type and input source. You can tell the printer to use the default source specified by the its feed switch, override the switch to use the top tray or the lower cassette, or choose continuous autofeed to switch automatically from one source to the other when the selected tray runs out. The Paper Allocation feature can be used to specify both the size and the surface type of paper loaded into the cassette.
The Maintenance tab has the customary nozzle-cleaning and printhead alignment functions, along with a useful bottom-plate-cleaning step that uses a piece of letter-size paper that's been folded and straightened out to wipe the printer clean prior to two-sided printing.
The gamut produced by the Pixma iP5000's four-colour ink set can't match those of real photo printers. However, its minuscule droplets produced excellent text--some of the best we've seen--and allowed the printer to render photos with far more detail and accuracy in the midtones than comparable four-colour models do. We saw a full range of colours with good saturation, particularly in images that had been colour-boosted in Photoshop.
We found that Canon's Web site had everything we needed, including downloadable drivers and manuals, a comprehensive set of FAQs that answered most questions, and an interactive step-by-step troubleshooting wizard. If all else fails and you don't want to wait in a telephone queue, Canon offers an e-mail address for sending questions to live tech-support representatives.
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