Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Engineering faux pas

Canon PIXMA MX920
An inconvenient printer


I AM A CANON loyalist. I have Canon cameras (F-1, FtB, SD30, and SD1100) and Canon multi-function printers (PIXMA MP560 and PIXMA MX920). I also had a Canon camcorder that failed when most needed.

I just bought/installed the PIXMA MX920.

The installation went "OK." First time installs always have user-generated hiccups.

But then came the use - and the surprises.


In order to print an envelope with the MX920 all the document paper (8.5*11, A, etc.) has to be removed from the lower feeder tray to load in envelopes.

The printer has two trays. The top tray is for photo paper; it will NOT accept standard #10 envelopes. (I tried.) By comparison, the much older MP560 has a pop-up "tray" in back for envelopes, cards, photo paper, and "other size documents not suitable for the paper tray." I'm normally the only one who actually sends snail mail with other than pre-addressed envelopes, having the "envelope machine" next to my computer makes keeping the old machine worthwhile.

Both trays are plastic and while they are relatively thick plastic, I don't have any confidence that it is sturdy plastic, especially the movable parts. The MP560 trays have held up, but they have fewer moving parts.

The MX920 has an integral fax, but to SEND a fax, the user has to

  1. Create the copy on a computer or with pen and paper
  2. If on the computer, print out the document
  3. Load the document into the MX920
  4. Dial the destination number from the computer
  5. Send the fax from the MX920

Turns out, and unbeknown to me, my wife's Windows 8 machine has a "fax from the computer" option. Sans a telco connector, I don't know how that could work, but that's for another day.

The manual, which has to be downloaded - nothing's in paper anymore, tells me that I have the option to set the system to essentially "sleep" between print jobs. The manual must be for the entire series of MX machines because my MX920 lacks the feature. I CAN turn the device OFF from the computer, but despite having a "Start" icon, the only way to turn the device on is top walk over and push a button. Given that it is a networked device and the other computers are distant, someone has to walk to the office to (wo)manually turn ON the unit.

All-in-all, I am NOT a happy camper and now understand why this unit was less expensive than the older MP560 despite the addition of the ADF and fax function.

Having bought the new machine I am beginning to suspect that the MP560's color problem is NOT the machine but the cheap mail order ink I bought for it. Still, it - like me - is making age-related noises. I may spring for some Canon ink and see if it's the ink or the machine.

The new machine has some features I appreciate - the Automatic Document Feeder (ADF) and the fax function. It is quiet and it supposedly is power efficient sufficient that it can be left ON for most of the time.

In my not at all humble opinion, Canon's hardware engineers failed, and failed on a grand scale, with the MX920.

Printers should first be easy to use; the MX920 is not.

Canon tried to make replacing ink cartridges easy and failed at that.

The old MP560 took two steps to access the easy in/easy out cartridges.

The new MX920 takes an additional step and the cartridges are hard to insert.

Both printers have 5 individual cartridges; if one is empty, replace that cartridge. More economical than replacing an "all-colors-in-one" cartridge - but still not "low cost."

To be fair, set up was relatively easy; the most difficult part was getting the printer and modem/router to recognize each other. Once physically configured I ran the the accompanying CD in each networked computer; that may not have been necessary except for the first machine.

I ordered the MX920 from Amazon on Tuesday, 24 NOV and was promised delivery between December 1 and 7. It was waiting for me when I returned from an overnight Thanksgiving trip - fast delivery. Tip of the hat to Amazon.

The MP920 seems to print first pages faster than the older MP560, and the noise factor in Quiet Mode is minimal.

Documentation, downloaded in PDF from comes down as an executable (.exe) file that contains 5 user documents. The documents are, based on a quick overview, useful and provide information in text and graphics.

Mechanical engineering - the engineering that designs hardware - is in some respects like my old job in that, to be good, the engineers need to think "outside the box."

I once worked for a mainframe company - that shall remain nameless - that built a computer enclosure that everyone thought was perfect . . . until someone tried to cable the components; no room for the cables. A different company made a nice machine that had a pull-out unit. The only problem was when the unit was pulled out, the ribbon cable was disconnected from the backplane. Oops.

Canon would be well served by asking the customers what they want and how they want it presented. That top tray would be great if I could put envelopes in it as well as photo paper. Alternatively, copy the MP560 "pop-up in back" tray (see photo, above).

Software engineers need to get with the mechanical engineers so the unit can be turned off AND on from the computer.

The MX920 is close, "but no cigar."

No comments: