The Canon G650 in the UK, or G620 in the US, is Canon’s first foray into a photo printer with 6 colours including the photo-specific red and grey, that runs of very economical refillable tanks of ink. A 6×4” print will cost just over 2p or 2.5c in ink – around a 1/10th of the cost compared to typical even larger capacity ink cartridges.
This G600 series model is an all in one with a built-in scanner for scanning and photocopying tasks. But there’s also the G500 series with the G550 in the UK which is the same printer but without the scanner and is a little cheaper.
You can check the current prices down below, but you are paying a higher upfront price to get the cheaper running costs, and the printer is lacking a few features that you might expect at this price point, most notably it only has a single rear paper tray and no automatic double-sided printing.
I’ll cover the setup, features, print quality, speed and running costs, to try and help you decide if it’s worth your money. I’ll also discuss a few other printers worth considering towards the end of the article.
In the box you get a standard Figure 8 power cable, the 6 ink refill bottles and the printer itself, which you’re meant to remove from the box by grabbing the corners of the bag. But I never quite trust that system! Finally there’s two print heads and a “Getting Started” guide.
Setup is a little more complex than your average cartridge based printer, but still pretty foolproof. You can either use the setup guide, or scan the QR code and follow through the setup on your phone.
You need to remove all the orange tape and protective packaging, open the scanning unit and install the left and right print heads. Open the print head locking covers, remove the print head packaging, label and orange tape and insert each print head. Be careful not to touch any of the exposed contacts. Then close the locking cover until it clicks. Finally press both buttons on top of each print head until they click and sit flush.
Close the top of the printer, lifting it up slightly and then gently lowering it.
You can then power on the printer, confirm the language and fill the ink tanks. This is a fairly simple process. Open the printer up again and release the grey tank cap on the far left of the printer. Open the grey or GY bottle with it upright – you shouldn’t shake it – and carefully align it with the inlet and then slowly stand it up vertically. Push down slightly on the bottle to make sure it’s fully seated and let the tank fill up with a very satisfying glug’ing sound – you don’t need to squeeze the bottle. You can see the level of the ink at the front of the printer. It takes between 20-40 seconds to fill a tank. To remove the empty bottle carefully lift it vertically and tilt it back upright. Replace the tank clip – it closes with a positive click.
Fill the remaining tanks in the same way. The bottles are keyed to their correct tanks, so you can’t get them mixed up. I didn’t get any spillages, but I’d still take your time. You can check ink levels visually, but by default you will get a warning when ink levels are low. You can then refill the inks in the exact same way. You can refill the ink at any time, but you’ll need to manually tell the printer to reset the ink level monitor via Setup | Ink Level Monitor, otherwise the printer will have no idea how much ink is remaining. You can reset all tanks or a single tank at a time.
Close the top of the printer and confirm the ink tanks are full using the control buttons.
You can then confirm the message to start the print head alignment. Load 2 sheets of A4 paper into the rear paper guide and then again press the OK button. The printer then takes around 10 minutes to charge the ink ready for printing, and then prints the two print head alignment sheets. This is an automatic process – unlike on an A3+ Epson ET-8550 I’m currently testing.
You’re now ready to print.
The printer has decent build quality, made from a matte plastic which I do prefer to the glossy finish of many printers, that starts to look a little shabby pretty quickly. But there are quite a few features missing that you might expect with a printer at this price. There’s no touch screen, not even a colour screen – just a two line LCD display which isn’t even backlit and is very awkwardly on top of the printer. There’s no duplexing unit for automatic double sided printing and probably most disappointingly there’s only a single rear feed option. I’d expect at least a bottom cassette to hold plain paper.
There’s also no USB or memory card reader to print photos from directly, but you can use the Canon Print app for your smartphone photos, or any photos you can get onto your smartphone.
There is a built-in 600dpi scanner, which lets you use the printer as a basic photocopier or you can scan directly to a computer, even wirelessly, if you have installed the Canon software.
You can connect the printer directly to a computer with a USB cable, but as is the norm this isn’t included. There’s no Ethernet port for a wired connection, but most people will connect to the printer via WiFi.
There are various methods to set up the wireless connection, but I find it easiest to just connect the printer to your wireless router manually. From the Setup menu, choose WiFi Setup | Manual Connect and then choose your router. Enter the WiFi password and the printer should be then available on your network. It is a bit of a faff entering your password without a touchscreen, but I still find this method the quickest way of getting the printer setup.
On your computer, you can then type http://ij.start.canon into a web browser and follow the prompts to install the software and finish off setting up the printer.
I’d also recommend downloading the Canon Print app for your smartphone. You’ll need to Register the printer. Press and hold the Link button on the printer and then search for your printer in the app. Follow the prompts to finish off adding the printer.
With photo paper loaded in the rear tray, the smartphone app makes it very quick and easy to send photos off your phone straight to the printer. Tap on Photo Print, choose Smartphone for Photo Location and tap on the photos you want to print and then tap Add. Tap on Next and you’ll get to Print Settings. Choose the correct paper size and media type. I’d highly recommend using Canon paper like their Photo Paper Plus Glossy II at least initially, to make sure you get the results you’re expecting.
I like to turn off Auto Photo Fix – I prefer to use my smartphone’s photo app to make adjustments. But I did get better results with Sharpness left on. If you tap the back icon, you can also crop the image as you like. Then tap on print.
The printer also supports wireless Pictbridge if you want to print straight from your camera, and your if camera supports it.
I’m not going to go through all of the options on the printer but I will point out one useful feature of most Pixma printers including this one, particularly if you have school aged children. It’s a bit tucked away but if you go to Setup Menu | Template Print you can print off graph paper, lined paper, music paper, checklists and a few more templates and they all print borderless even on plain paper which is quite handy.
Print quality, speed and cost
The printer has a 6 ink system with the usual cyan, magenta, yellow and black, but an additional red and grey tank which make it the first Megatank printer from Canon intended for printing photos.
And the print quality is very good – as good as I’ve seen from any of Canon’s cartridge based non-professional printers.
All the inks are dye based and there’s no additonal pigment black like on some printers, which is better suited to printing on plain paper. Dye-based inks don’t last as long as pigment inks found in more expensive printers, but prints using Canon’s ChromaLife100 ink are still meant to last up to 200 years in an album, 40 years on display behind glass, and 10 years without glass which is plenty for most people.
I’ve printed endless prints on a variety of papers and particularly glossy photos look vibrant and colours are accurate including skin tones, even without using any printer profiles.
As well as Canon’s photo paper, I’ve also tried Photo Paper Direct’s 280gsm glossy photo paper, using the same settings as with Canon’s paper and results are difficult to tell apart although I got even more accurate prints with a custom profile I made with my X-Rite i1 Studio spectrophotometer.
I also tried Paper Spectrum’s Premium Lustre 300gsm as well as some of their greeting card papers both without and with custom ICC profiles they created for me, and the results were very good. I particularly like the Premium Lustre paper.
I also compared an A4 print in standard quality to an A4 print from a local lab and even on cheaper paper the inkjet was at least as good.
If you like to use a colour managed workflow, disappointingly Canon don’t provide any ICC profiles for their paper, but you’ll still get good results if you just choose the correct paper type and let the Printer Manage Colour in Photoshop or whatever the similar setting is in your software. And most inkjet paper suppliers will provide a free ICC profile if you purchase paper from them – so it’s not a big deal but it is something I would have liked to have seen. Even my older, cheaper, TS8050 camera came with printer profiles already installed.
This printer also isn’t supported by Canon’s Professional Print and Photo Layout software which also would have been nice.
But Canon’s consumer-focused Easy-PhotoPrint editor works ok for basic prints and layout, even though it doesn’t support any colour management. I had to select another printer to download the software since the G650 still wasn’t listed on Canon’s website.
Photo prints are much slower than equivalent cartridge based PIXMA printers, but still more than acceptable for most people, and a small price to pay when you consider the relative cost of a print, which I’ll come back to shortly.
A borderless 6×4” print takes 48 seconds from when the printer kicks into action in standard mode, and 1 minute 53 seconds in high quality mode. In comparison, the 6 ink Canon TS8350 can print a 6×4 photo in 17 seconds and the Epson ET-8550 EcoTank printer I’m testing took 30s, so even refillable ink printers don’t need to be as slow as the Canon.
A borderless A4 print took 2 minutes 5 seconds in standard mode and 4 minutes 49 seconds in high quality mode. On most of the papers I tried and with the majority of images I printed, I could hardly notice any difference between the 2 quality settings.
I do like the number of borderless options you get with this printer.
You can print borderless from A4 size right down to 55x91mm, and square 5×5” and 3.5×3.5” formats are also supported.
And you can even define custom sized paper, including a few borderless options, which is handy for greetings cards. To save these custom sizes, you have to create a “User Defined” document size, then save that document size in a Printing Preset, otherwise the custom paper sizes will be lost.
With no black pigment ink, this printer’s not ideal for office documents. Text quality looks ok on decent copy paper if you don’t look too closely, and the first page came out in 23 seconds. A 10 page plain text document took 3 minutes 8 seconds to print which is only just over a remarkably slow 3 pages per minute. A mixed graphic PDF file printed at roughly the same speed. Again print quality on some HP 90gsm paper was acceptable as you can hopefully see from the scans. And you can see how it compares to some other printers I have to hand.
There’s no built-in duplexing unit for automatic double-sided printing, but manual duplexing is supported, where the printer prompts you to reinsert the paper the correct way around after printing all the first sides. Although slightly inconvenient, duplex printing on inkjets can be quite slow since the printer has to wait for the ink to dry before feeding the paper back through the duplexer – so it would be painfully slow on this printer anyway.
Photocopying is pretty slow too, but quality is acceptable. A colour photocopy took 34 seconds – black and white was no faster.
The scanner has a maximum resolution of only 600dpi, which is on the low side compared to most scanners, but adequate.for most tasks. Using Canon’s Scangear app, preview scans are quick at under 6 seconds, but an A4 scan at 300dpi took 25 seconds, about the same as a 6×4 photo scan at 600dpi. The quality is ok and colours aren’t too bad but they do have a slightly red colour cast.
I was able to improve colour accuracy by profiling the scanner with a known test target.
If you are looking for a scanner to archive all your photos I’d get a dedicated scanner, and there’s no document feeder so that would be a painful process anyway.
The big selling point of this printer is of course the refillable inks, and that’s where it shines. The included ink will let you print a whopping 3,800 6×4 photos, which even if you include the price of the printer works out at around 6.5p or 8c per photo, plus paper. But a full set of ink bottles each with 60ml of ink costs only £84 or $96, so ongoing costs are only 2.2p or 2.5c per photo. Prices vary hugely depending on quality, but you’ll be paying more for decent inkjet paper. I picked up 100 sheets of decent photo paper for around £8 or $10 so the total cost of a 6×4 photo works out from around 10p or 12.5c each. An A4 photo will cost around 25p or 30c including the paper, compared to £4 (around $5) I paid for a lab print.
I can’t test these claims scientifically, but I’ve been printing constantly including lots of A4 prints, and the tank levels seem to have barely gone down from what was used initially to charge the inks.
In my testing I didn’t get any paper feed issues or nozzle clogs, and I’ve generally found Canon printers pretty good in this regard so long as I’ve stuck to genuine inks – and with the price of replacement ink there’s little temptation to use 3rd party inks with this printer.
The Canon G650 in the UK or G620 in the US prints quality photos with extremely low running costs. It is an expensive initial outlay though, and for that price I would have liked to have seen a few more features. If you’re just going to use the printer for photos, many of its shortcomings won’t matter, unless printing directly off memory cards or USB sticks is important to you. It is a lot slower printing out photos compared to cartridge-based printers in Canon’s range, but waiting 50 seconds for a print isn’t going to be a big deal for most people.
But it’s not a great all-rounder. With only a single rear paper tray, you’ll be swapping paper all the time. Quality on plain paper is only average and you’ll find it painfully slow for printing out long documents, not to mention the lack of a duplex unit. If you want a tank based printer for office tasks, with occasional photos you might want to look at the G6000 series or G7000 series. Photos won’t be quite as vibrant with only 4 inks, but it’ll do everything else much faster and they both have a better 1200dpi scanner built in.
I bought this printer as an economical photo printing workhorse, together with a cheap black and white laserjet printer for everything else – the Xerox B210 – which for £100 or $100 prints at a super quick 30ppm and has a duplex unit built in. It makes a good combination for me, but that’s not going to be an option for everyone.
If you want to print larger photos up to 13×19” or A3+, it’s even harder to find the perfect all-round printer. But I’m currently reviewing the A3+ Epson ET-8550 6 ink photo printer, which is also refillable, is faster, has duplexing built in and with a 10.9cm touch screen, a pigment black tank and four paper feed options, makes a much better office printer. And in my initial tests it appears to have very similar photo quality to the Canon. There’ll be a link to that video in the on screen card and down below after it’s released.
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