Why I won’t buy another Canon all-in-one printer

Why I won’t buy another Canon all-in-one printer

Last year, I bought a Canon MP830 printer/scanner/copier/fax/tea maker/whatever for my home office. I chose this particular device because it had all the features I was after, including CD printing, duplex printing, printing to the edge of the sheet, decent photo printing quality, and great document handling including automatic dual-sided copying. It also had theoretical high speed operation and ink economy with 5 separate tanks. It also looked like a sturdy piece of kit that wasn’t going to wobble all over the place in use, and which might stand a chance of lasting a long time. It was at the upper end of the Canon range, but even then it wasn’t expensive.

I was a little worried that when one part of it eventually failed, I would be stuck with a partially functional device, such as a scanner/fax that wouldn’t print, or a printer that wouldn’t scan, and be left with the dilemma of replacing all of it or part of it. But I had good experiences with long-lived printers in the past (albeit Hewlett-Packard ones), so I figured that if I had to throw it away in five years’ time I could live with that.

In practical use, most of the device’s features turned out to be as advertised, and while it was working I was generally happy with it. But I won’t be buying another one, and it’s unlikely that I will ever buy another Canon printer of any description. Why not?

  • Performance. This simply isn’t up to scratch. While it may theoretically print a 500-page document at 30 pages per minute, printing a single page is a different matter. Although it can look spectacularly quick in action, it takes one full minute from turn-on to get itself ready to do anything at all, then about 10 seconds to print a simple monochrome page in draft. There are also long delays when the device is switching from one kind of use to another. The lengthy period of whirs and clunks indicates that it’s doing something very important internally, but I have no idea what. I don’t care. For my typical use, it’s just too slow.
  • Economy. The ink savings promised by the 5-tank system are illusory. This thing eats ink at a rapid rate, so I’m finding that the costs of running this printer are significantly greater than my previous Hewlett-Packard. Having to maintain at least one spare (preferably more, because they don’t last long) of each tank is inconvenient and means there is always an expensive set of tanks lying around waiting to be thrown or given away when the device finally dies. Which, given my experience to date, could be any day now.
  • Reliability. It doesn’t have this. It had to be returned for warranty repairs in its first year, as it complained about its ink tanks. This resulted in the print head being replaced. Out of warranty, it started doing the same thing again. This was sometimes fixable by various means, such as removing and replacing the tanks, switching the device on and off, removing and replacing the print head, cleaning the contacts, prematurely replacing unfinished ink tanks with new ones, and so on. This would sometimes fix the problem on the first or second attempt, but this level of cooperation didn’t last for ever and the condition gradually worsened until the device was officially dead. I took it in for repair but apparently a new print head (which costs 30% as much as the printer) was not required this time. It has been fixed, for now, by replacing one of the half-full tanks with a new one. Apparently, genuine Canon tanks, which are the only thing it has ever had in it, are prone to bad batches, and I’ve been unlucky. The little chip on each tank, which is intended to make life difficult for makers of third-party tanks, has been making my life difficult instead.
  • Idiotic design. This is the killer. You may recall my concern that I would be left with a partially functioning device when one part failed. I need not have worried about that, because it seems the Canon design philosophy is one of extreme built-in obsolescence. When one part fails, even if it’s just an ink tank, the whole machine is a boat anchor. When the magenta ink tank is faulty, that doesn’t mean your prints come out looking rather less pink than they should. It doesn’t mean that you are restricted to monochrome prints. It doesn’t mean that you can’t do any printing at all. It means that the device is completely, absolutely, 100% useless. You may think that it should be possible to print in monochrome, scan a page, or send a fax without a cooperative magenta ink tank, but the Canon designers apparently think otherwise. What on earth were they thinking? I mean, how could anybody possibly think this is an appropriate design decision? Strewth!

Canon, this device is not good enough. I know that one person’s reliability experiences are not statistically significant, but even without that, the other downsides are enough to make me not want to repeat this unpleasant buying experience.

I have had very long life, 100% reliability and relative economy out of Hewlett-Packard devices in the past, so it looks like I’ll be returning to the fold with my next purchase. I know that HP doesn’t quite have the exalted quality reputation it once enjoyed, but it surely can’t be as bad as this. Can it?


  1. That’s sad to read. I had a good run from Canon inkjets, have had an a4 and a3, but they died of genuine old age. I can advise not to bother with Lexmark as the one I got was “free” (with a software upgrade) and not worth the price.
    A heap of junk that’s gathering dust, but luckily I rarely print much anyway.

  2. Any ‘non-business class’ printer (i.e.: several hundred US$) – is simply an tool to sell overpriced ink. I have just started buying $40 printers and replacing them when the ink runs out – since the replacement ink is more than $40.

  3. I agree about the ink rip-off honey trap. I actually considered doing the disposable printer thing myself, but didn’t. This is because I wanted more features than the cheapest printers were offering, I wanted some printer stability for a few years, I didn’t like the idea of creating so much landfill, and I read that the printer makers have started shipping the cheapies with half-capacity ink tanks.

  4. Jen

    That’s too bad. I’ve got a Canon 3-in-one that I’ve been running for about two years now & (knock on wood) haven’t had any major problems. I’ve been out of color ink for awhile now, but I can still print in black. My main beef is not being able to change the default settings on the copier function. I don’t copy photos so it’s a pain having to scroll through all the options to find 8.5 x 11 plain paper each time I need to make a copy. I also hate the tiny ink tanks that have to be changed so frequently.

    I’ve got a HP Deskjet at work and it picks up paper from the tray crookedly so I can’t print labels and anything good that’s going to leave the office has to be sent to the shared network printer.

  5. I have two printers:

    HP LaserJet for most of my printing. Monochrome toner is the cheapest, especially when I buy two-packs.

    HP PhotoSmart inkjet for the occasional color printing.

    Both do two-sided printing to save paper. Both are on the network so that any computer can access them.

    The solution is in your last sentence: buy only HP printers. (Epsons are particularly awful.)

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