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Review, October 2004

and CANON (and other) Printer Info



by Neil Slade

Sponsored by   The Amazing Brain Adventure



My tested and compared recommendation to most people for most applications for any brand printer:


This is the ink I USE, have used for years, and that I've tested to be superior to any of the dozens of available second and third party alternative inks. All inexpensive inks ARE NOT ALIKE- most others give inferior color. This includes off the shelf retail alternative cheap ink sold in places like Office Depot, Staples, etc- which is not good at all.

          It is generally  75% less expensive than the cost of regular ink refills, with as good or better color than OEM.

          Read HERE to find out why, the alternatives, and the difference between inks including image comparisons.







Welcome to this page dedicated to inkjet printers  and ink---  the NO BALONEY review and info page. Almost EVERY commercial and even non-commercial printer review and inkjet info shortchanges  the consumer- and  ignores long term usage problems, and practical application  of printers  and ink.


THIS PAGE LOOKS  AT EVERYTHING beyond the superficial claims and typical shallow reviews- typical reviews that GREATLY  MISLEAD users and buyers of inkjet printers and ink.


This has turned out to be the SECOND most popular page on  my entire site- which you MUST visit when you are done here- THE AMAZING  BRAIN ADVENTURE LAB. If you think this printer page is good- just wait till you explore  the Brain pages- Click on Briana to visit Brain Adventure Books for the most amazing adventure of your life.


This page is receiving THOUSANDS of hits a day, and I am constantly revising this page as new information  comes in, so bookmark this page, and visit frequently. 


New info on the new season of Canon printers is down the page, in which I compare with last year's superlative models.


Neil's MAIN Suggestions SUMMARY:

1) Don't go broke buying overpriced inkjet refills. We have now found suppliers who actually offer ink cartridges at fair prices. Nearly EVERY retailer, and most internet sources we have found charges at least 300% to 600%  times the price of these companies. We've tested their inks- they work wonderfully, and a fraction of the cost of the OEM ink you pay through the nose for. These are NOT paid endorsements in any way, just passing on our research in this area, more details below. We've tested several custom formula third party inks against Canon (and some Epson) factory ink cartridges and there is little reason- except for greed- that anyone should be paying $20- $60 to refill their inkjet printers. It is obscene. Details below on this page.

But what about LIFE SPAN of cheap second party inks? SEE THIS PAGE for my comments then read the pages in Ink Jet Ink  then read this page on COMPARING INKS

2) For large quantities of printing by professionals and artists, REFILL your cartridges for a fraction of store bought carts. Details below- DON'T use off the shelf refill kits, however. Your ink will cost you1/20th the price of regular refills.  There are Continuous Flow Systems available- these come with their own set of problems however, again  details below...

3) If you need a printer, I suggest any Canon desktop regular printer at the mid-price range, $100 or more (i.e. models i560, i860, i960, i900D, i9100,i9900) rather than anything else. I don't have any info on the small mini-portable printers, but will tell you this, the ink cartridges are pretty tiny.

REGARDING the new line of Canon printers: Okay, Canon printers BEAT ALL, no question. But the new season of printers, the PIXMA printers are a mixed bag and possible de-evolution of last years superlative i-series printers- which were PERFECT. Alas, most companies are guilty of planned obsolescence, and often make changes for changes-sake to sell new printers. I  recommend  the Canon i960 above EVERY printer made-- but they are being discontinued, so get one while you can, found for about $119-$135 online these days. Planned obsolescence sucks.


The Canon i960 offers the fastest, most vivid,  most  highest detailed, sharpest imaging of  ANYTHING, including all other Canon models. It is the LOTUS ELAN, the Ferrari, the Acura NSX of inkjet printers. I have THREE of these.

The new $179 PIXMA IP6000 is 6 color just like the i960, with additional gimmicky features. It does not appear to be as fast as the i960, but speed on these printers is dependent on which setting you choose. At the lowest detailed settings, it IS as fast. At the highest resolution, it is not- only the i8500 retains the i960's lightning speed at highest resolution. The i6000D adds a few more features and LCD screen-- $179 at Best Buy. This is a good printer, a great one for the money.

The i9900  prints  as  nicely as the 960, but is much more expensive, and requires  two additional colors (red and green) that you don't need. It does allow for  bigger prints if you really need that. The i9100 is a better  deal, big tray, and 6 color, though microscopically not as absolutely fine  as the 960- naked eye, might not be able to tell the difference. A very very very minor difference in printing between the 9100 and the 960 The 9100 printer is/has been phased out. Figures!

The IP8500 again is much more  expensive than  the 960, requires the two additional inks, and is for  all purposes  the same  speed as  the 960.  Its the top new Canon printer for regular sized paper.

All of  the other PIXMA printers are only 4 color with an additional black (pigment ink for text printing), equivalent to the i560 models. These are good printers and suitable for most consumers, but not as good as the 6 or 8 color printers for really semi-pro or pro use.

AND any CHROMO INK 8 color printers (9900 and 8500) will require two more ink cartridges for not a whole lot better results, if any.  

SO- get one of the i-series while you still can-- ink will be available for years and years to come, and you'll get more for your printer money, absolutely.  When the time comes  and you can't get an i series printer-- the new PIXMA printers are still going to give you better results and reliability than ANY other companies  machines.

I do NOT  work for Canon.

Avoid any printer under $100 unless you are a broke student or just need something cheap for very occasional use, or you really are not picky about the quality you get..

4) You can refill your laser printers with toner yourself, recycling the cartridge, for 1/5th the cost of just replacing the whole cartridge. This is fairly easy in most cases. Details at the bottom of this page.

5) I have tried Continuous Flow systems for Canon printers. Sorry, but I did not have long term success. Some people HAVE had luck with these, including Colorbat customers who makes good systems for Epsons at great prices. So, you're on your own. It may be that if you do not print huge volumes that place a lot of stress on your CFS system, you may be okay. I, however, print LOTS AND LOTS at one time, and the CFS systems I've tried can not keep up with what I am asking my Canon printer to do.

I have 3 Canon i960s, and they are WORKHORSES for massive printing requirements. Fastest, sharpest, most dependable ink jets out there.

6) DO NOT expect your paper inkjet prints to look EXACTLY like the preview on your monitor. Both flat LCD monitors and regular more common tube CRT monitors PROJECT light to your eyes. Paper inkjet prints REFLECT light to your eyes-- color transmission is very different between a monitor and a paper print. Even with the best calibration- and most people don't even approach this- a print and you monitor will differ significantly in worst cases, and somewhat in best cases. Adjust your printer color settings from what you see on actual prints. You can calibrate your monitor to get close, but chances are, for the best color rendition, look at the print and adjust accordingly.


*                    *                    *


Why is this a BRAIN review? Because often reviews are written (even by third parties) which are done poorly, and with motives that may reflect conflict of interests. This is an honest evaluation done by yours truly, seeking the best quality and results for reasonable cost.

AND I USE ALL OF THIS STUFF- extensively all of the time, printing hundreds of photos every month and THOUSANDS of documents and photos every year.

OFTEN, magazine and web reviews are inaccurate- why? The people writing the reviews are COLUMNISTS, and rarely use this stuff at a full time level. They make their conclusions based on short term use, limited use, and frequently don't have the eye of a pro. They may have a slanted bias for or against a printer for unexplained reasons. THEY ACCEPT PAID ADVERTISING, duh-  what do you think this does to accurate opinions, eh? I've seen all kinds of BAD reviews regarding printers, as well as cameras. Take any review in a commercial site or magazine with a grain of salt. I use my printers ALL the time, and have for years.

I recently looked at the CNET reviews of inkjet printers-- TOTAL CRAP. This is really bad information to be giving people per their ratings, and I genuinely feel sorry for anyone buying a printer based on these kinds of reviews. Irrelevant and inconsistent, and things CNET editors judged relevant----OOOOO@! it actually makes me disgusted. The editors at CNET are morons to publish these ratings- but then, they accept commercial advertising. BEWARE!! of reviews on commercial sites!

The main players in the regular inkjet and inkjet photo printer consumer market are Epson, HP, Canon, and Lexmark. What I looked at was detail, correct color, speed, price, reputation, reliability and ease of use. I spoke with representatives from the companies, dealers, and used the equipment. I did this on my own then compared some reliable expert reviews, and found that my results were in keeping with other reviews.

Any of today's inkjet printers do a good job for general non-too-picky use, and if you only use your printer occasionally, most printers will suffice. 

But, if you've got a real eye for quality and reliability-- WATCH OUT. For the same money you will spend on a greatly lesser printer, you can get a printer way ahead of the crowd.



Given all things equal,  SIX color (5 colors plus black) printers are superior for lifelike and accurate color over the FOUR color (three colors plus black) printers. This difference may not be noticeable or important however to many people. For snapshots where color imagery accuracy is not that important, it is a small difference. You will pay more for six color systems than four color systems, as well as for the ink.  Look at the sample photos at the store- if you can't tell the difference, and absolute color accuracy is not important to you- factor this into your printer purchase/use decision. If you've got a decent eye, and you do care and want the best- go 6 color.

There are now 7 and 8 color printers out there--  in my opinion, forget it. This is pure overkill. 6 color printers will now deliver the same quality as a regular color photo lab. Add 2 more colors- what... do you drive a Humvee to get to 7-11 and get your groceries also- when a Honda will get 3 times the gas mileage, easier to park, a fraction of the cost? Two more colors add more problems to deal with, that you really don't need. The payoff is minimal, if it exists at all.

As far as ink goes, we have now found outlets on the web that sell printer model specific outstanding quality ink at a truly reasonable cost-- 1/6th the price of OEM ink or manufacturers ink elsewhere. It's ink at the price IT SHOULD BE.  See details below. If you are replacing inkjet cartridges more than once every year (ha ha) you should not be wasting money supporting greedy printing companies by shelling out $50 for an ounce of ink. !!! How Canon, and Epson, and all the rest rationalize charging outrageous prices for pennies worth of ink is a story in corporate greed in itself. Okay, they make good printers-- charge fair prices for ink already. 


Okay, this discussion comes up immediately when dealing with THIRD PARTY INK SUPPLIERS. Don't make the assumption that anything other than name brand ink will last a fraction of the life span predicted by $12 -$50 name brand ink cartridge makers. 

There are ENORMOUS variables in what constitutes print life. Conditions, ink itself, brand, paper, and how all of these interact. There is NO ONE ANSWER, and it is a bad assumption to make that if you use the printer's ink and paper, you will get the best results. Of course, that is what Canon, Epson, and HP would want you to believe. God bless them, they've made great at-home photo printing possible- but that's no excuse to gouge us for ink.

I've been using cheap Epson Glossy Photo paper ($20 for 120 8.5 X 11" sheets at COSTCO) for years. I use third party CUSTOM FORMULA INK (not the generic off the shelf one-ink-fits-all from Office Depot), which costs about 1/6 - 1/20 the price of name brand ink depending on the packaging (4 oz bulk bottles cheaper, obviously). I keep my prints hung on the wall with scotch tape in a brightly sunlit room. I have yet to see and print fading or discoloration in 2 years of any of my s900 or i960 prints. Maybe in ten  years. The Canon FORMULA is expected to last 25-27 years before ink degeneration- I would say this is very optimistic.

If you need DETAILED information on print life, then you need to do serious homework. Don't take mainstream media propaganda (PC magazine for example) as God's word. Think about WHO buys advertising in their magazine....Their own article on this subject was VERY limited in it's sensationalist testing. Start here instead:  

then read this: The MYTH of non-permanence of inkjet prints:

If you are printing PROFESSIONALLY and selling your prints-- DO YOUR HOMEWORK. In summary, Epson's with archival pigmented ink is the way to go to guarantee the longest life. Canon printers won't take pigmented inks (with one exception).

For the typical self-home user, however, Epson's have distinct DISADVANTAGES over Canon printers. See below.

If you are a home consumer use- use regular dyebase inks. They'll look better, printer cheaper, and last plenty long enough provided you don't put your prints in direct sunlight-  even REAL color lab photos won't last in the sun- duh.

There are four companies whom I have bought ink for my Canon printer at fair prices, and I've had excellent results with each. Each company offers some unique advantage for your situation, so look at them all, and see my detailed notes about INK below. 

I've spoken with the actual manufacturer who supplies these distributors with their inks- very honest, well informed people. I have no doubts- none- about the integrity of their products and their equivalent quality to name brand inks.

PIGMENT ARCHIVAL INKS: All consumer inkjet printers start off using DYE based inks. Archival PIGMENT inks are made, and offer better life-- at higher price. I personally don't use them. 

However, be aware, that feedback I've received from people using archival inks, is that in general they do not yet quite equal regular dye based inks in brilliance and accuracy- so that's the trade off. Do lots of homework if pigment inks interest you.

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