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Review: Canon ink-jet printer good on the go

Story Highlights

• Canon Pixma iP90v printer is Vista-enabled
• Compact design makes it easy to carry
• Ink-saving modes can save you in a pinch
• The printer is expensive: $250, battery kits $90 to $140
By Felisa Yang
CNET.com
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(CNET.comexternal link) -- The Canon Pixma iP90v is the 2007 refresh of the Pixma iP90.

Aside from support for Windows Vista and an odd reduction in photo print speed, the iP90v is essentially the same product.

It even costs the same $250 as the older model. If you already have an iP90, don't worry about upgrading. If you don't already have a portable printer, consider whether you need one, because this one's not cheap, especially with the add-ons.

If you simply must have a tiny inkjet, you'll be pleased with the Pixma iP90v's print speeds and quality.

The closest competition Canon has in this niche is the HP Deskjet 460 series. We don't have a review yet, but we're working on it. In the meantime, check out our review of the HP Deskjet 450wbt (Read reviewexternal link).

The compact printer is small enough to slip into a laptop bag, for printing from practically anywhere.

For a single-function printer, $250 is a lot of money, especially when you'll need an additional outlay of cash for the optional battery kits that allow for true "anywhere" printing. The battery kits will set you back anywhere from $90 to $140.

That said, the printer comes equipped with a USB port for printing photos from PictBridge cameras and an IrDA port for wireless printing.

If you want to print from a Bluetooth-enabled device such as a laptop or PDA, Canon offers an optional Bluetooth adapter that you can attach to the PictBridge port.

The iP90v uses the same ink cartridges as the older model. (See the review for comments on print costs.)

Like its predecessor, the iP90v offers two alternatives to normal printing. If you're concerned about running out of black ink, you can switch to a Save Black Ink mode (similar to draft); the resulting text is a dark gray, as opposed to black.

If you've run out of black ink and don't have a replacement cartridge at the ready, you can use the Composite Black mode, which mixes the colors in the color tank. The resulting text is a light purplish-gray -- not appropriate for formal documents, but a handy option in a pinch.

Finally, in terms of print speeds, the iP90v offers the same speeds, except when it comes to photo printing. It produced black text at a rate of 6.23 pages per minute -- the same as the iP90 (Read reviewexternal link). When printing color graphics, the iP90v scored 1.42ppm.

We couldn't make direct comparisons between the two models for photo print speeds, as our methodology changed between testing periods. But the iP90 scored 1.05ppm for an 8x10 photo print while the iP90v scored a mere 0.68ppm for a 4x6 photo print -- clearly, the new iP90v is much slower.

The iP90v showed slightly improved print quality over the iP90, which makes the slower print speeds a bit more tolerable. The black text prints (on coated inkjet paper) displayed a nice, rich black and consistently formed characters, though close inspection revealed jaggedness on the edges.

The graphics print was even better: pleasing color saturation, smooth gradients, and impressive details in the photo elements. The only downside was a slight blue cast to the grayscale elements. The photo was surprisingly good for what is basically a convenience printer: we liked the smooth color blocks and sharp details, though the light end of the grayscale was slightly overblown, so we lost a bit of detail in the light areas. Overall, the print speed and quality impressed us.

Canon provides a one-year warranty for the iP90v, and toll-free phone support is available weekdays, 8 a.m. to midnight, ET, and on Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Canon's site also offers e-mail support, FAQs, and driver/manual downloads.


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