Ratings in depth

Design 3/5
Features 3/5
Performance 4/5
Usability 4/5
Value 4/5

This A3 printer, the Canon PIXMA iX6850, is a high-quality compact model, designed for home hobbyists and small businesses rather than busy offices. It's inexpensive too. The RRP is just £220 (about US$368, AU$394) and if you shop online, you can pick one up for around £170 (about US$284, AU$304). This drop in price is what makes it possible for A3 printing to start leaving the office and start making inroads into the home market.

The advantages of being able to print at A3 size are clear. Business users can output large spreadsheets on a single page without making them too small to read. Photographers can output their images at the larger size without taking them to their local photo lab, and event posters and flyers can be produced at home rather than in a print shop.

According to a study by psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire, commissioned by printer manufacturer Brother, people find products and services 43% more likeable and 30% better value for money when viewing them in A3. He found A3 advertising is 66% more memorable and 47% more impactful too.

Canon printer
A3 printing has many advantages and is no longer limited to office and professional printers

The Canon PIXMA iX6850 is the cheaper of the two A3 printers introduced with Canon's 2014 refresh. If you want to spend a little more, there's also the Canon PIXMA iP8750, which adds features such as direct disk printing, lab-quality photographs and a sixth ink tank, but at £349 (about US$583, AU$625) RRP, it's significantly more expensive.

Neither the iX6850 nor the iP8750 are all-in-one, multifunction devices, so don't expect to scan or photocopy with them. For system requirements, the Canon PIXMA iX6850 supports Windows XP SP3 or later and Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later.

Although the A3 inkjet isn't as common as A4 models, the Canon PIXMA iX6850 is still up against some stiff competition. Epson's Stylus Photo 1400 is a little basic, but is very affordable for a six-tank photo printer. Canon's own PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II is fast and produces excellent colour prints, and the Brother MFC-J6510DW is well built and includes scanning and photocopying features, though it doesn't excel in any area. For the photo enthusiast, the Canon PIXMA Pro-1 offers a 12-ink system for an incredible colour gamut, but it's heavy, and unsurprisingly, expensive. It's great for serious photographers and design professionals, though.

As mentioned earlier, the Canon PIXMA iX6850 is surprisingly compact for an A3 printer, measuring just 58.4x31x15.9cm and weighing 8.1kg. If you're tight for space, this is definitely a commendable asset. This is achieved by dropping the paper tray and using a rear sheet feeder as the sole input source. There's no screen and no ports for USB sticks or memory cards, so if you want to print your photos, you have to transfer them to your computer first. Don't expect Duplex either.

Network connectivity is through 10/100Mbps Ethernet or WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, or you can connect it directly to your computer through USB. For mobile printing, Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print are catered for, and there's a PIXMA Printing Solutions app for iOS and Android devices.

Canon Pixma iX6850
The Canon PIXMA iX6850 has five individual ink tanks

The Canon PIXMA iX6850 sports five individual ink tanks; dye-based cyan, magenta, yellow and black, and an additional pigment black for waterproof, high-definition text printing. Standard-sized tanks are, we're told, good for 331 document pages or 127 photos for coloured inks and 1,645 document pages or 384 photos for the black tank. XL tanks are also available, more than doubling these figures, and there's also an XXL pigment black cartridge. As A3 printing inevitably uses more ink than A4 documents, high-yield tanks are definitely worth considering.

The usual paper types are catered for, including plain paper, photo paper, t-shirt transfers and envelopes. The Canon PIXMA iX6850 can handle plain paper of between 64 and 105 gsm, and photo paper of up to 300 gsm. The paper input is only good for 150 sheets of plain paper or 20 photo papers, though, so this isn't the ideal printer for high-volume printing.