Canon S400

A very low price, but disappointing print quality keeps the Canon S400 out of the running for our chart

WHAT'S HOT: The S400's $79 price tag makes it the least expensive ink jet that PC World has reviewed in a long time. Despite the low cost, it is well designed and fairly versatile, with support for both standard ink and optional photo ink. The S400's ink prices are quite modest, at 2 cents for a page of black text and 11 cents for a page of color graphics. Also, each ink color comes in a separately replaceable tank, so if you deplete one color before the others you can replace just that one; on most other printers you have to replace all the color inks when one color runs dry.

WHAT'S NOT: The S400 prints graphics at a run-of-the-mill 0.6 pages per minute, but it prints text at only 2.3 ppm, about half the speed of many printers on the chart. Plus, its print quality on ordinary paper didn't impress us; text showed some shadowing or spattering and was somewhat rough on big letters, while graphics looked very dotty and didn't have much detail. (Note that on coated ink jet paper the S400's print quality takes a big jump in quality.) A minor detail: The output tray sort of leans against the printer instead of attaching snugly. That's fine until you move the printer, when the tray can easily slip off.

WHAT ELSE: As with Canon's BJC-85, you can remove the S400's print head and replace it with a gizmo that turns the printer into a scanner. The IS-32 scanner head captures 24-bit color at 720 dpi, similar to a low-end flatbed scanner. But it costs $69, which is only a bit less than an inexpensive scanner; considering the inconvenience of swapping heads and not being able to print while the scanner head is installed, it makes more sense just to buy a stand-alone scanner for your desk. We did not test the IS-32 scanner features. Canon really outdid itself on the S400's documentation: The excellent and detailed 500-page manual would probably outweigh the printer itself if Canon had decided to print it, but it is only available on the CD.

UPSHOT: The S400's low purchase price and relatively low ink costs might make it a good choice for casual users, though less-than-stellar print quality and slow speeds will probably discourage anybody who plans on doing more than occasional printing.


Canon S400

Rated 9-ppm monochrome/4-ppm, 1440-by-720-dpi maximum resolution, 100 sheets input, 20 output.

List price: $79


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