Canon Bubble Jet i865 test and review

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Canon Bubble Jet i865

The i865 is one of three Canon Bubble Jet models able to print directly in full colour to CD and DVD discs. The best price we could find for this A4 printer was £102, and that's substantially less than for its companions - the i965 (£191), which also prints to A4, and the A3-capable i9950 (£448). However, for those on a strict budget, it's worth knowing that the Epson R200, can now be had for around £50 - compared with £90 at the time we tested it.
Our review here concentrates on the i865 and direct-to-disc printing, but we also had the opportunity to give its stable-mates a decent workout, and to compare the quality of printing to disc and to glossy paper of all three models. The more expensive offerings will, we reckon, have greatest appeal to folk wanting to print out a lot of decent-resolution still images since they use extra ink colours to enhance photo printing. Oddly, though, neither has a second, large black ink cartridge as seen on the i865, which is useful for general-purpose text printing.
As well as large and small black cartridges, the i865 uses three others - yellow, magenta and cyan.
When printing to discs, the i865 uses a disc tray much like that supplied with the Epson R200, except that the Canon's has multiple metallic reflectors to assist with automatic positioning. The disc sits in the tray and slides into the front of the printer via a feeder mechanism that itself must first be slotted into the paper output. This is done by opening, but not extending, the paper output tray, sliding in the tray feeder until it clicks into place, and then pushing a sliding part of the feeder fully in.
Along with the tray feeder and the disc tray, the i865 comes with an adapter for printing to smaller (8cm) discs, but we didn't have any printable 8cm media to be able to test this feature. One printable 12cm CD-R was provided in the box, made by Maxell. There is also a warning, stating that the provided disc is recommended - implying that other brands are not. When choosing disc-printing options, it's necessary to select either 'Printable disc (recommended)' or 'Printable disc (others)' - a peculiarity we discuss in the section on testing.
Also in-pack is a mains lead (there's no external adapter required), a printed quick-start guide and another for CD printing, plus two CDs - one with the printer driver and manual, the other with a bunch of software. As now seems to be the norm, there was no printer cable supplied (neither USB nor parallel). This was also the case with the other two models, the USB-only i965 and USB/FireWire i9950.

Although there's considerable similarity between the software and the disc-loading of the i865 and Epson's R200, the Canon outclasses its rival on speed and ease of disc handling. It's main disc-printing software is also slightly better (but for the lamentably poor documentation), and the novel contact-print-style disc-print options from Easy-PhotoPrint are rather attractive. We also like the convenience of having a dedicated holder for postcard-size photo paper.
Although the two more expensive Canons give somewhat better quality than the i865 when printing to A4 photo paper (and the i9950's A3 printing is to die for), there was little to choose between any of the three when printing to CD or DVD - the surface materials of discs aren't of comparable quality to photo paper.
The i865 gave great results with boring old text - its draft printing was better than that of its two siblings and streets ahead of the Epson - making it a great all-rounder. Photo enthusiasts might instead pick the i965 or A3-capable i9950, but for anyone else, the i865, at £102, has to be the one to go for.

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