Canon PIXMA G660 MegaTank printer

      Photo Review 8.9

      In summary

      Essentially, the G660 is designed for people who simply want to print their photos at lower prices than using a lab. In that role, it does a great job and is particularly good at handling 6 x 4 inch paper, where it’s fast and economical to run and produces good results.

      Full review

      Having catered for office users with its MAXIFY range of printers with refillable ink tanks, Canon has turned its attention to consumers who like to print their photos at home but balk at the high costs of replaceable ink cartridges. The new PIXMA G660 MegaTank printer, announced on 5 April 2022, caters for this market. With six tanks for ChromaLife 100 dye-based inks and uses Canon’s FINE print head technology, it’s an affordable alternative to Epson’s similarly-specified EcoTank Photo ET-8500 printer, which we reviewed in June 2021.

      Angled view of the PIXMA G660 MegaTank printer in a home environment with its replacement inks included. (Source: Canon.)

      As we noted in our review of the Epson ET-8500, we still have a way to go before we have a ‘proper’ photo printer with refillable ink tanks. Two extra ink colours make the Canon and Epson printers are better than each company’s four-ink (CMYK) models. But users are stuck with A4 an output size, which means a maximum print width of 216 mm in borderless printing mode (which isn’t available for all media options).  Epson’s ET-8550 is able to print on media up to A3+ size (329 mm wide), which is a step towards the enthusiast user, but we’re still waiting for a model with A3+ output from Canon.

      Unfortunately, neither company makes its most durable dye-based ink usable in any of their refillable-ink printers – which is a pity.  Canon’s ChromaLife 100 inks, which are used in the G660, have been around since 2005, when they were launched with a claim of 25 year light-fastness for prints displayed behind glass or 100 years fade resistance in environmentally-controlled dark storage (such as a closed photo album).

      The Ink Set
      The G660 comes with six, 70 mL bottles of ink in the following colour: black, grey, cyan, magenta, yellow and red.  Installing these inks in their tanks will use up some of the ink because the printer has to draw some ink up into the ink lines feeding the print head.

      Canon claims a set of inks should be able to print up to 3,800 10 x 15 cm photos with ink costing less than five cents per print. It takes just 47 seconds to produce a borderless photo print at this output size.

      The ChromaLife 100 inks were launched in 2005 to provide home users with more durable and better-looking inks than those available at the time. However, in 2008, further advancements were made with the release of the current ChromaLife 100+ ink system, which is used in photo printers like the PIXMA PRO-200.

      Interestingly Canon’s view is that most fading is due to interaction with gases in the atmosphere, not exposure to light. On ‘unprotected’ prints, both the ChromaLife 100 and ChromaLife 100+ inks are said to withstand fading for up to 10 years. However, as usual, actual fade resistance depends as much on the paper on which the image is printed as on the inks.

      The newer ink set promises light-fastness of approximately 40 years for prints displayed behind glass or 200 years fade-resistance in a photo album. Gas-fastness (resistance to airborne pollutants) with the ChromaLife 100+ inks on newer papers is double the 10 years claimed for the original.

      Tests conducted by the leading authorities consistently show the ChromaLife 100+ inks are consistently more durable than the ChromaLife 100 inks, whatever paper they’re used with. Like Epson, Canon’s choice of the less-durable inks is driven by marketing and a desire to maintain its higher profits from its better-performing inks, which are currently only sold in replaceable (relatively small) cartridges.


      The user-replaceable maintenance cartridge is an important money-saver for photographers who print photos at home. (Source: Canon.)

      An interesting feature of the printer is its user-replaceable maintenance cartridge, which if it follows Canon’s usual practice will see the printer warn the user a little before it needs replacing.  The MC-G02 maintenance cartridge appears to sell for around AU$15 but the few re-sellers that stock it had it listed as ‘out of stock’ when this review was in progress. It’s easy to replace; you simply pull out the full cartridge from its slot low down on the back of the printer and push the new cartridge in

      Who’s it For?
      The G660 is designed for home users who require a more ecologically sound alternative to cartridge-based printers and want to produce decent quality photo prints as well as scanning and copying capabilities. Although initially quite expensive to purchase, this printer will soon provide lower running costs, along with the convenience of high-capacity ink tanks that simply require topping-up.

      However, there’s also no memory card slot or wired connection for printing photos directly from a camera, images stored in a computer can be printed via the USB connection. You can also print photos stored on a smartphone via Wi-Fi with the Canon Print app, which is available in Android and iOS versions.

      Aside from the savings provided by the refillable ink tanks, the G660 offers the following capabilities:
      – the rear paper tray can hold 100 sheets of plain paper, 80 sheets of high-resolution paper, 30 sheets of 4 x 6 inch photo paper or 10 sheets of 5 x 7 inch photo paper at a time;
      – the dye inks are supplied in 70 millilitre bottles with keyed connections to ensure foolproof ink installation;
      – the user-replaceable maintenance cartridge, reduces the need to send the printer away for servicing;
      – printing capacity of up to 3800 borderless 4 x 6 photo prints from a single set of ink bottles with ink priced at 4.7 cents per print and a printing time of 47 seconds per print;
      – the two-line LCD panel allows the device to be used as a stand-alone unit;
      – users can print on envelopes, Canon Restickable Photo Paper (RP 101), Magnetic Photo paper (MG 101), Photo Paper Pro Lustre (LU-101), 101), Photo Paper Plus Glossy II (PP 301), Matte Photo Paper (MP 101), Photo Paper Glossy (GP 701), Photo Paper Plus Semi-gloss (SG 201) and create banners or panoramic prints up to 1.2m in length.

      Unlike the multi-function MegaTank models, the G660 doesn’t include a cassette for loading sheets of paper in bulk. Nor is there a duplex unit for automatically printing on both sides of a sheet of paper – although the driver includes provision for manual duplexing. (You have to turn the paper over and insert it into the feed slot then press the OK button to start printing).

      The scanner is fairly basic but adequate for copying documents and photos, although no scanning software is provided with the printer, either in the box or via a download from the product page on Canon’s website. Consequently, both scanning and copying must be driven from the printer’s control panel, which has limited capabilities.

      Buyers of this printer should note that once the inks have been installed the printer shouldn’t be tilted. If you have to move the printer, re-pack it in the plastic bag it came in and keep it as level as possible. A guide to shipping (including using the supplied plastic bag) is supplied inside the box the printer came in.

      Setting Up
      Like most printers, the G660 comes in a cardboard carton, packed inside a large plastic bag and cradled in Styrofoam. Parts that might move during transit are secured by strips of orange sticky tape, which must be removed before the printer is connected to mains power. (Interestingly we found only three pieces of tape needed removing – a contrast from other printers we’ve reviewed.)
      Once clear of packing tape, the printer can be connected to mains power and switched on. The control panel is then used to select the language for the printer.


      The control panel includes a small monochrome LCD screen, which is used for the main operations. (Source: Canon.)

      The next step is to install the two print heads, which come individually packaged with their electronic contacts covered by orange tape. Each head carries an ‘L’ or an ‘R’ label to indicate which side of the head they go on.

      The locking cover on the head receptacle must be raised and the tapes removed carefully without touching the contacts before the print head is slipped into its dedicated slot. Once the print heads are installed, the cover can be lowered and the buttons on the top of each head can be pressed down to complete the installation.

      Once this has been done the scanning cover can be lifted again and you can start pouring the ink into the ink tanks. Each ink tank has a moulded top that only accepts the correct bottle and the tanks are colour coded for extra security.  The grey and black tanks are located on the left side of the printer with the red, cyan, magenta and yellow tanks on the right.

      The ink bottles are solidly constructed and each has its top keyed to fit into the designated colour slot. After uncapping an ink bottle it is upended onto the correct tank.  Pressing the bottle down causes its contents to flow out.


      Filling the ink tanks from the supplied bottles. (Source: Canon.)

      When the bottle is empty (which can take a minute or two), it should be carefully removed, re-capped and stored for recycling. The process is easy and mess-free and if you don’t totally empty the bottle the first time you can go back and finish the job later once the remaining ink has settled.

      Once all the inks are loaded, the scanner unit can be lowered and the printer is ready to test. The LCD screen will instruct you to load a few sheets of A4 or Letter sized plain paper in the feed slot, close its cover, extend the output tray and tap OK to complete the setup, which takes roughly eight minutes.

      During this process, the printer will carry out a print head alignment, which uses the sheets of paper.


      Paper feeding via the paper feed slot showing the pull-up paper support, flip-up cover and adjustable guides.

      Paper is loaded via the top feed slot, which is located right at the back of the printer. It has a short pull-up support and a cover flap that must be down before printing can start. Paper feeds into the centre of the slot, held in place by adjustable paper guides. The output tray is short but it includes a pop-up flap that stops printed pages falling onto the floor.


      The output tray and extension flap.

      Once the set-up is completed, the printer will spit out two alignment check sheets. (Interestingly, the printed setup guide doesn’t explain how to interpret them.) You can then connect the printer to your computer or other devices.

      We elected to connect the printer to our computer via a USB cable (not supplied) as it provides a wider range of adjustment options. Plugging the USB cable into the socket on the right side of the rear panel connects the computer to the internet and enables it to download the printer driver – which should happen seamlessly. If it doesn’t you can install the driver from the Canon website.

      If you decide to connect the printer to a smartphone you simply scan the QR code in the start-up guide with the phone to access the Canon website and download the Canon PRINT app and then open the smartphone’s Wi-Fi settings to connect the printer to the network. All other instructions are provided through the installed app.

      The Printer Driver
      We reviewed the G660 with a Windows computer, so the driver software reported on here is the Windows driver. Compared with other photo printers we’ve reviewed, it’s pretty basic. But then so are the controls provided by the two-line LCD screen on the printer’s control panel, which are used for stand-alone operations.

      The initial Quick Setup page in the driver contains basic control panels for task selection (where you set up photo printing, business documents, envelopes, etc), setting media type, paper size and orientation and output quality plus the number of copies. There’s only one paper source option, the rear tray, and users can check a box to save the settings for future use. Another check box selects a print preview for last-minute checking.

      Pre-loaded profiles are provided for six Canon-branded paper types, one of them being for ‘Photo Paper (Other Brands). There’s also a single profile in the Fine Art Papers section for Premium Fine Art Rough paper plus two profiles (Light Fabric and Dark Fabric) for iron-on transfers. Under Other Papers is a single profile for High Resolution Paper. Unlike some other Canon printers, the G660 has no provisions for printing on stickers (PS-101 or NL-101) or printable optical disks. In addition, we couldn’t find any profiles for printing on third-party media although, if you print through editing software like Photoshop, you could produce your own profiles and use them with the software’s interface.

      The Main page (shown above) is similarly sparse and duplicates some of the settings provided on the Quick Setup page. It includes a Manual Colour Adjustment check box, which opens a suite of adjustments for colours brightness and contrast (shown below). These adjustments are best carried out when editing images so they should only be used as a last resort.


      Manual colour  adjustments.


      The Page Setup page.

      The Page Setup page is similar to most Canon printers but, again, pared back to basic controls with absent features like duplexing greyed-out.  Interestingly, manual duplexing is supported and can be selected on the Quick Set-up page. Settings for duplexing, page size and number of copies are duplicated on this page.

      The final page in the driver (shown above) covers Maintenance and it’s very basic with only one setting. At the bottom of this page is a View Printer Status box, which when clicked on, opens the printer status monitor (shown below). Unfortunately, it doesn’t include an ink status display.


      The status monitor displays a line graph showing the remaining capacity in the maintenance tank – but provides no information in the ink levels in the refillable tanks.

      Because the printer’s status monitor doesn’t show the ink levels there’s no way to measure how much ink is in a tank. When filling a tank you should try to remove the bottle as soon as the tank appears to be full and be careful when topping up the tank to minimise the risk of spillage. When it comes to monitoring ink usage, the only way to see how much ink remains in the tanks is the rough estimate you get from each tank’s transparent front panel

      Printing
      Canon provided A4 sheets of Photo Paper Pro Lustre (LU-101), Photo Paper Plus Glossy II (PP-301 and PP-201), Matte Photo Paper (MP 101) and Fine Art Paper “Museum Etching (FA-ME1)  for use to use when testing the printer. We also printed on our own 6 x 4 inch matte paper and Ilford A4 Premium Matte Duo 200 gsm, a double-sided printer we use for book printing.

      The printer driver included ‘canned’ profiles for the Lustre, Glossy and Matte papers but not the heavier Museum Etching paper. We used the Glossy for the PP-301 and PP-201 glossy papers and the Matte setting for the MP 101 and FA-ME1, both of which have matte surfaces. These settings delivered good results on the whole.

      Print speeds were slightly slower than claimed in the printer’s specifications, which are based on the business-based ISO/I EC 24734 standard. Because the standard images contain text and graphics but little in the way of photo images they would take less time to print.

      Spooling times (the time taken to send data to the printer and for the printer to organise it prior to engaging the print head) ranged from barely measureable when a second print was made on the same media to several seconds.

      After an average spooling time of seven seconds, we measured the following average printing times for 15 x 10 cm snapshots which were printed without borders:

      Standard quality: 1.01 minutes; High quality: 1.47 minutes

      When printing on A4 paper with narrow white borders, the following average times were measured:
      Average spooling time: 10-15 seconds

      Standard quality on glossy and lustre papers: 1.35 minutes; on matte papers:  2.07 minutes

      High quality on glossy and lustre papers: 2.24 minutes; on matte papers:  3.42 minutes

      Greyscale prints with High quality setting: 3.52 on glossy papers, 3.54 minutes on matte papers

      Business documents took roughly 15 seconds on average to print, regardless of whether they were B&W or colour.

      Print Quality
      We compared photo prints from the G660 with those we had made with the more sophisticated Canon PIXMA PRO-200 printer using same image files and printing on the same papers. As expected, the prints from the PRO-200 had slightly better contrast and looked slightly sharper than those from the G660. But the differences between them were much less than we had expected, given their different ink sets and pricing.

      We also compared G660 photo prints made with the standard and high quality settings in the colour and greyscale modes. Interestingly we found very little difference between the standard and high quality prints for colour images.

      As a result, we’d recommend using standard quality for most colour printing since it’s a bit faster and probably uses a little less ink. However, with greyscale prints the high-quality prints were slightly sharper with deeper blacks and better tonal gradations so we’d recommend printing with the high quality setting when making B&W prints.

      The differences in the performance at the different quality levels arise because dye inks are used for all the colours in the G660. This means the black ink can’t achieve the density and depth that’s possible with pigment black inks.

      This problem is common to all dye based printers and one reason why office printers often use pigment ink for blacks while using dyes for colours. The G660 also uses the older Chromalife 100 inks, which don’t perform quite as well as the newer Chromalife 100+ inks used in the PRO-200.

      Nonetheless, it was quite difficult to see significant differences between prints made with the G660 when compared side-by-side with prints of the same images from the PIXMA PRO-200.  Consequently, the ink set of the G660 is certainly good enough to be used for printing photo books at up to A4 size, especially since the prints are stated to withstand fading for up to 100 years in album storage.

      However, a lot will depend on the paper used, which must be of high enough quality to retain the printer’s dynamic range and detail resolution. We particularly recommend Canon’s Museum Etching paper, which produced great-looking B&W prints and was able to resolve details and tonal nuances in the colour prints we made.

      Scanning and Copying
      The G660 includes basic scanning and copying functions, which appear to be similar to multi-function printers, although no details on scanning resolution are included in the printer’s specifications and we were unable to find any information in a web search. In addition, the product page on Canon’s website doesn’t provide a download for Canon’s ScanGear scanning software so scanning can only be done using the two-line LCD screen on the control panel.

      This can be frustrating as the interface is not particularly intuitive and it’s easy to enter the wrong setting and end up toggling back and forth until you find a combination that works. The copying process was also fairly slow overall.

      Copying documents was straightforward, with a typical A4 copy taking between 20 and 35 seconds to produce. However, we found the G660 does a good job when copying business documents, particularly those with coloured graphics. Magazine pages and brochures containing images took a little longer and we found copies usually had slightly less contrast and saturation than the originals.

      When copying photos we often found copying wouldn’t initiate until we had re-entered the parameters for the output paper, which could be frustrating.  But once the correct settings were engaged, the G660 produces surprisingly good results when copying photo prints. As always, the quality of copying relies on the quality of the paper on which they are reproduced.

      As a general observation, when printed images were copied, a comparison of the original and the scanned copy showed a slight loss of contrast, saturation and detail resolution. But you have to look closely to see these differences, which is remarkably good performance for a basic scanner/copier.

      Like most basic printers, the G660 can’t be used for scanning original images on film because it lacks the necessary film holders, light sources and resolution settings. Its resolution may also not be high enough for the degree of magnification required when scanning 35mm film frames.

      Consumables
      Without an ink status monitor, it’s difficult to gauge ink usage. The ink tanks have translucent panels that provide a visual check but this will only permit a rough estimation of the amount of ink remaining.

      In the course of our tests we produced a dozen 15 x 10 cm borderless photo prints, roughly 150 A4 photo prints and a similar number of document pages. At the end of the tests the black and grey ink levels had gone down by roughly one third, while the four colour ink tanks were down by less than 20%.

      Canon claims a set of inks should be able to print approximately 3,800 snapshot-sized (15 x 10 cm) photos. At an RRP of AU$29.95 per bottle, a set of inks will cost AU$179.70, which means the per-print cost works out at approximately 4.7 cents. (Multiply that figure by about four to gauge potential ink use when producing an A4 photo print.) Even with the cost of paper included, this is a lot less than having your photos printed by a commercial service.

      As is usual, a small amount of the supplied ink is used up during the setting-up process, but in the case of this printer it’s unlikely to have much effect on overall ink yields. Yields and costs are more likely to vary on the basis of the types of documents printed and whether the printer is used in the standard (default) or high quality mode.

      Overall, we think buyers of this printer will soon recoup their higher investment costs, particularly if they do a lot of printing. Photo enthusiasts who want to start printing their own photo books will find the savings quickly mount, making this printer a much better investment than a model that relies on non-replaceable ink cartridges.

      Conclusion

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      SPECS

      Printer type: Thermal inkjet printer/copier that uses ChromaLife 100 dye-based inks
      Ink system: 6 refillable dye-based ink tanks
      Ink bottles
      : GI-63BK, GI-63GY, GI-63C, GI-63M, GI-63Y, GI-63R
      Nozzle configuration: FINE  print head with 2,304 nozzles for BK/R/GY: 1152 nozzles for C/M/Y
      Resolution: Max. 1200 x 4800 dpi
      Paper sizes: A4, Letter, 4″x6″, 5″x7″, 8″x10″, 10″x12″, Square (89 x 89 mm, 127 x 127 mm), Card (91 x 55 mm), Envelopes (DL, C5), Custom size (width 89 mm – 329 mm, length 127 mm – 676 mm)
      Max. paper weight: Approx. 275 gsm, Photo Paper Plus Glossy II (PP-301)
      Media handling: Rear Paper Tray (up to 100 sheets plain paper, 80 sheets High Resolution Paper, 10 sheets Photo Paper),
      Printable width: Up to 216 mm (Borderless); Up to 203.2 mm (with borders)
      Scanner: Max scanning size: A4 / LTR (216 mm x 297 mm); resolution not specified
      Interfaces: 2 line Mono LCD display,  Hi-Speed USB (2.0), Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n),
      Power consumption
      : Off – approx. 0.2W, standby – 0.6-1.2W, operating – approx. 16W
      Acoustic noise: Approx. 50.5 dB(A); Quiet mode available
      Dimensions (wxhxd): Approx. 445 x 340 x 167 mm
      Weight: 6.6 kg

      Distributor: Canon Australia, 1800 021 167

       

      Rating

      RRP: AU$599

      • Build: 8.7
      • Features: 8.6
      • Print quality: 8.8
      • Scan quality: 8.7
      • Print speed: 8.5

       

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