Canon PIXMA MG3120 multifunction inkjet printer

Canon PIXMA MG3120 wireless inkjet photo printer review: a nice bargain sabotaged by consumables costs

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Canon PIXMA MG3120

Pros

  • Nice output quality
  • Automatic duplexing is standard

Cons

  • Very expensive black ink

Bottom Line

Pricey black ink spoils the deal with this otherwise excellent budget MFP for home or school use.

Would you buy this?

  • Buy now (Selling at 17 stores)

  • Pixma Pro-100 Pro A3+ Printer 699.95
  • Pixma Pro-10 A3+ Printer 999.00
  • IP100 Portable Printer 389.00
See all prices

The $80 (as of February 3, 2012) Canon Pixma MG3120 wireless inkjet photo all-in-one is one of the least-expensive color inkjet multifunction printers you can find that offers paper-saving automatic duplex printing. It also prints reasonably quickly, produces good output, and is easy to use. Unfortunately, that collection of positives can't make up for the unit's extremely pricey black ink.

Setting up the Pixma MG3120 is easy, though it lacks an LCD, so you'll have to use the USB connection to perform the wireless setup (unless you have Wi-Fi Protected Setup on your router). The documentation is top-notch, and the control panel is very simple: A two-digit LED shows copy quantity and messages, and Canon provides clearly labeled buttons and LED indicator lights for copying, scanning, and maintenance tasks. A Wi-Fi indicator sits on the front of the unit, but there are no card slots and no USB/PictBridge port. Paper handling on the Pixma MG3120 is rudimentary (aside from the automatic duplexing feature): A front panel unfolds to reveal a 100-sheet input area.

The Pixma MG3120's output quality belies the printer's price. Photos on Canon's own paper looked quite good, despite a slightly unnatural orange tint that was especially noticeable on human faces. On plain paper, color graphics looked reasonably accurate, and text appeared dark and sharp, though grayscale graphics tended a bit toward purple.

Performance was quite good for an $80 MFP. Full-page color glossy prints took nearly 4 minutes to print, but text pages printed on plain paper print at 6.2 pages per minute on the PC and 5.85 ppm on the Mac. Snapshot-size photos emerged at 2.4 ppm on plain paper and 1.2 ppm on glossy paper.

In the category of "most useless answer ever on a website," Canon has a serious contender: In the Product Q&A section for the Pixma MG3120 online, a user asked, "how many sheets does each cartridge print?" Canon's response: "The actual ink yield obtained from each cartridge will vary depending on texts/photos printed, applications software used, print mode selected and type of paper used." That's it--the answer doesn't even hazard a ballpark estimate. Why not point the user to Canon's own page-yield documents, which are nearly impossible to find otherwise?

The reason for the evasive reply just might be the dear cost of the Pixma MG3120's black ink. Two sizes of black replacements are available: the 300-page XL, which costs $21 (a whopping 7 cents per page); and the 600-page XXL, which runs $38 (or 6.3 cents per page). The XL unified color cartridge (which includes all three colors) is somewhat more affordable, relatively speaking, at $30 for 400 pages (7.45 cents per page) for all three colors. A four-color page (printed with the XL color cartridge and the XXL black cartridge) would cost a pricier-than-average 13.8 cents. You'll need to visit the store fairly soon after the initial purchase, too: The Pixma MG3120 ships with 180-page starter cartridges that didn't even make it through our testing.

In our years in San Francisco, we've seen multitudes of inkjet printers, including Canons, left on the sidewalk because of their ridiculous ink prices. In some cases, buying a new printer with fresh ink costs no more than buying replacement cartridges for a model you already own. Despite the Canon Pixma MG3120's competence in multiple areas, its high ink prices make it difficult to recommend. Instead, consider the Epson Stylus NX430 or the Brother MFC-J430W.

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