A barebones printer under $100 may be the most obvious choice when you need to lay ink to paper, but enhanced MFPs like Canon’s new $150 MG5320 offer plenty of functionality to lure ambitious users a little further up the price ladder. Besides the all-in-one functionality it shares with many cheaper competitors, the MG5320 boasts a 3.0-inch LCD and scroll wheel for navigation, built-in Wi-Fi, prints on CDs and DVDs, autoduplexes for two-side printing without hassles, and can print from smartphones with Canon’s free Easy-PhotoPrint app.
We found that the MG5320 largely delivers on these features, but users should be willing to put up with some glitches and minor frustrations (think reconnecting to the Wi-Fi network or waiting for processing to finish). That said, it’s affordability and print quality, not to mention ease-of-use, make up for these shortcomings.
Build and design
The MG5320 wins points for its lack of angles. The printer is capable of folding down into a completely flat-sided box: Both trays and the pop-up display can be pushed in, and you don’t have to remember to open that tray when printing either. It will automatically unfold itself if you forget to do so. It’s a generally sleek-looking printer, with the exception of the massive amount of finger prints it picks up.
The printer’s controls are located entirely on top of the machine, and a small 3-inch LCD. That 3-inch specification is sort of stretching the truth, seeing that there’s a fairly thick black border around the screen, giving you less viewing room. This means it’s a little under a 2.5-inch screen. We didn’t find this terribly inhibiting, because of the control scheme. Users scroll through the Pixma’s main options as screen-filling pages, instead of viewing them simultaneously laid out in a main menu. This may sound slightly disorienting (it’s different than how most electronic home screens look!) but it’s not, and it means the icons are big, bold, bright, and captioned.
pixma-mg5320-front-paper-slotThe display’s in-screen functions mean the Pixma’s physical surfaces are relatively empty. There’s a power button, controls for home, B&W and color printing, a control to cancel printing, a back button, and a dial with OK to select in the middle. Above this are three “function” controls, which are used to select options presented on the LCD display.
Oddly, photo printing pulls from the Pixma’s rear tray. We were primarily printing 4×6 photos, and the giant tray looked somewhat ridiculous for that size. Obviously, this isn’t a caveat or really a problem at all, just non-traditional if anything. There’s a sliding paper guide to hold the sheet size of your choice in place. The paper tray can be found below, and documents feed into the fold-out tray on the very front of the Pixma.
Setup and use
There isn’t much to setup here. After heaving the printer out of its box (which is never a small feat, but the Pixma’s rectangular shape helps) and installing the ink cartridges, it’s all a matter of walking through menus. The power button will pull up the home screen, and you’ll need to decide whether you want to hook the Pixma up via USB or Wi-Fi.
Now here’s where the button placement can get a little confusing. A typical scenario: Scroll using the arrows on the physical dial until you find Setup. It’s off to the right, so you’ll want to press the right arrow – but that won’t do anything. Instead, you’re supposed to press the function button below the icon. This is not a big deal, but if you’ve used dials like this on digital cameras or video game controllers, it’s a little disorienting at first and takes awhile to get used to. We continually found ourselves pressing the dial’s arrows and wondering why nothing was happening. Luckily, Canon gives you a gentle reminder to look for the “function” buttons directly below the in-screen icons.
If you choose to use Wi-Fi printing, you’ll need to find the right network and then go through the somewhat-painful process of entering the password. There’s obviously not a keyboard, so you have to find the correct characters one at a time.
The pop-up screen is a clever solution, and one we enjoyed using. It has an almost plastic-toy feel to it, which some might equate with cheap, but it didn’t feel breakable to us. There are four “home” screens you scroll through, and the home and back buttons do a good job of keeping you from getting lost.
For its modest $150 price, the Pixma really does manage to live up to the title of multifunction printer. In addition to photo and document printing, Wi-Fi, scanning, it also includes CD and DVD printing capabilities. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly a simple process. You manual insert the included platform, and the in-screen navigation doesn’t include the most detailed instructions for this process. The manual software does the best job of assisting you here, but it’s not tremendously quick or easy.
Of course, it’s a function that most MFPs don’t include to begin with, and we can’t imagine it’s used all that often. It’s worth noting that the platform that you insert to print on CDs and DVDs can’t be stored anywhere on the printer itself, so it’s a loose object you have to take care not to lose.
pixma-mg5320-scan-glassWe liked the quick connection between the PC and the printer. When scanning or sending a scanned document or photo to the PC, our computer screen registered the activity almost instantly, basically giving us a little sign it was hearing the printer and working on it. The microSD slot is conveniently tucked into the side of the printer as well, with a discreet door. Too often, electronics have their ports around the back or near the bottom edge, and with a device you don’t want to move around – like a printer – putting this feature front and center is helpful. A USB port for thumb drives is directly below.
The Pixma boasts a 150-sheet paper tray, as well as its rear tray for other materials (photo paper, etc). The output tray holds up to 50 sheets – but our favorite feature was how it automatically popped open when we started a print job.
Canon’s mobile Easy-PhotoPrint app (for both iOS and Android) connected to the Pixma just fine. It lets you set up a printing queue with different details (photo paper type, size, borders) for each individual image. Transferring the print job from the phone to the printer was just as quick as printing from a PC.
One other included feature that doesn’t get a lot of attention, but that’s definitely worth noting, is the Pixma’s auto-duplexing. It means the printer automatically prints on both sides of the paper instead of forcing you to manually reinsert pages to print on the backs. This isn’t a huge hassle, but it keeps you from wasting paper (and money) without thinking about it.
We started out by testing the Pixma’s photo printing abilities, and were impressed. It’s quite fast, and quality was good, even more so using Canon’s own photo paper. We tested with stock photo paper and the photos looked grainier. However, even extremely dark pictures were nice and black where they should be, no gray tones.
Printing a full page proved difficult. We initially attempted to print a very detailed image as an 8×10, then as a 4×6, and the MG5320 quit about halfway through each time, with no warning of an ink shortage or error message. We had a different glitch with document printing as well: We attempted to print a full page of directions, sending it from the PC to the printer. This happened more than once, and the Pixma would start recognizing the print job, only to suddenly return to the home screen. The computer would show it was still attempting to print, however, and we were stuck waiting to see if the printer would acknowledge the request. After reconnecting the printer to the Wi-Fi network, it started working. Strangely, we never experienced this glitch with photo printing.
Once we were able to print, text was crisp and black and fairly quick. In one test, we printed three, rich full-text documents in about one minute, and three high-quality 4×6 photos in about two minutes. Nothing very remarkable as far as speed – although the “fast” setting was quicker and didn’t appear to sacrifice much quality. Canon’s stated speeds are 12.5 images per minute in black, with color trailing slightly behind at 9.3 images per minute, and 20 seconds for 4×6 photo prints.
We printed, scanned, and then reprinted a few photos and text documents as well – a test of both the scanner’s accuracy and how well the printer can reproduce images. While quality naturally went down with each reprint, our photos were still rich and print was still easy to read. One of the best features about the machine is how quiet it is as well. Everything is a fairly silent process, which a “quiet” setting (easily found from the home screen) improves even more. The only exception is the brief “processing” stage as the MG5320 prepares to print and makes a few clicking noises.
Something that’s incredibly important to consider before buying a printer is its ink costs. And the Pixma’s are pretty fair: A black cartridge is $16, and cyan, magenta, and yellow cartridges are $14 apiece. They last for 339 and between 486 and 530 pages, respectively. It’s not the least expensive ink pricing out there, but it’s pretty reasonable for small-volume printers.
Honestly, we’re so taken with Wi-Fi printers that choosing one without wireless functionality in 2011 is somewhat difficult to justify. We were happy with how easily the Pixma MG5320 connected to our computer, and the provided Canon software was actually quite helpful for printing and formatting photos.
Unfortunately, the printing glitches were extremely frustrating. Struggling with your printing is never fun, but it’s almost more maddening when you can see via the pop-up screen that your requests are being ignored. That said, simple restarts generally worked as a fix, and we don’t want to dismiss an otherwise capable printer if these results weren’t typical. Glitches aside, the Pixma MG5320 was easy to setup and navigate, printed high-quality photos, zipped out pages quickly, and barely made a peep compared to some noisy competitors. At $150, it brings a lot to the table if you’re willing to make a few sacrifices working through its kinks.
Printing is extremely quiet
Slick, compact design
Packs a punch for its price and size
Glitchy out of the box
Initially disorienting button placement