The control panel LCD also provides menus to operate
the copy and fax modes independently of a PC. One nice touch: the LCD
displays small and large type on the same screen, allowing more
information about a print job to show at one time.
The flash card reader under the control panel means you don't need a PC to print photos.
The MP730, while easy to operate, lacks some of the
advanced features you might find on separate printers or faxes. For
example, the MP730 can't collate copy jobs. To make more than one
collated copy of a multipage document, you have to place the document
in the ADF several times. Nor can the MP730 sync fax numbers entered by
hand or accessed from within the Windows Address Book (Canon doesn't
provide its own fax/address-book software), so you may end up
duplicating efforts. Nor does Canon's software create group dials from
your address book on your PC or provide a cover sheet. Finally, the
MP730 can't forward faxes to another number or hold a fax to send when
nighttime low rates kick in, which other multifunctions do.
Still, the MP730 provides plenty of features we do like. Using
the menus with the Photo Print mode, you can print a photo contact
sheet, pick individual images to print, and set up the printer to copy
or print onto high-quality glossy paper. In the Copy mode, menus let
you print two reduced originals side by side or print the same image on
the same page several times (useful for business cards, name tags, and
so on). The fax engine distinguishes voice from fax, sending voice
calls to your phone or an answering machine and sending fax calls to
the printer or to buffer memory so that you don't have to get a second
phone line installed for your fax.
Installing the MP730 software is slow but idiot-proof: You
just pop in the CD and follow instructions, which require restarting
your PC several times. Canon bundles the MP730 with ScanSoft's OmniPage
SE, a lite version of the best optical-character recognition software on the market, and NewSoft's Presto PageManager 6.0, one of the best document-management databases available.
MultiPass MP730 won't replace top-of-the-line printers and scanners,
but its print and scan speeds keep up with other multifunctions' as
well as that of most as midrange ink-jet printers and scanners on the
market today. In our tests, it printed ordinary text at 6.4 pages per
minute and printed CNET's high-resolution test photo in 3.7 minutes.
For comparison, the Lexmark X5150 (only $149 but without fax capability
or automatic document feeder) prints text at a more common 5.2 pages
per minute, and printed our test photo in about 2 minutes. Canon's
MP730 scans a page of black in 9.4 seconds and a page of color in 20
seconds; that's seconds faster than the HP PSC 1210
. And the Canon makes copies in 18.7 seconds; that's almost twice as fast the HP PSC 1210.
Unfortunately, the MP730 delivers a mixed bag on image quality. When
printing, better paper has a big effect. When we printed text on
ordinary paper, for instance, it looked grayish instead of black, and a
gray shadow haunted the edges of letterforms, while on coated (not
glossy) inkjet paper, text popped out in a solid black and looked much
cleaner. Our color photo on ordinary paper looked very dotty, had rough
transitions between shades, made a blob of detailed areas, printed
lines with jagged edges, and mixed inappropriate colors; coated inkjet
paper improved detail and let colors appear in the right hues, though
much too saturated. And on top-quality glossy paper, textures, shading,
and transitions suddenly looked right, and we saw sharp, clear detail.
Grayscale scans on the MP730 when compared with other scans
seemed overexposed, losing paler shades of gray along with some detail,
while color scans showed accurate colors and fairly good detail despite
somewhat grainy textures.