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As a text printer, the Canon PIXMA iX6850 is very good, with clear, well-defined text that's readable even at very low point sizes. It's not quite as vivid as, say, an office-orientated HP or Canon's own office printers, but it certainly doesn't disappoint. It's pretty speedy too, printing our 20-page, A4 text-only test document in one minute, 52 seconds.
But naturally, it's its image quality that's of most interest. Printing an A3 flyer on plain paper, the results were excellent. Text was clear and well defined, colours were accurate and there was very little speckling and no banding at all. The Canon PIXMA iX6850 is ideal for window posters and internal presentations, or indeed anything short of pro-quality publishing. A photo test image on A3 plain paper was less impressive. The colours were good, but it showed definite signs of banding, especially on the colour ramps.
But where the Canon PIXMA iX6850 really shone was in high-quality prints on photo paper. Definition was superb, with skin tones being especially impressive. Even large areas of gradated colour showed no signs of banding whatsoever. Perhaps they were a little darker than was ideal, but overall, they were great. Speeds were reasonable, with a high-quality A4 photo print taking two minutes, 18 seconds, and the same print in A3 taking three minutes, 56 seconds. Not exactly lab speeds, but entirely acceptable for the home.
Despite a few compromises, the Canon PIXMA iX6850 excels at the tasks it's intended for. It's probably not ideal as your only printer, and couldn't replace your existing everyday workhorse. But it's great as a companion to your main inkjet or laser printer, for large-format printing and photographs, and cheap enough to be used in this way too. If you've shied away from switching from an inkjet to a laser because you still want to print quality photos, maybe the PIXMA iX6850 is the excuse you need?