The MP780 treats you to an automatic document feeder (ADF) and a cassette-style paper tray, each holding 150 sheets. If you load them with different paper types, you can switch between types easily. Combined, the automatic sheet feeder and the cassette paper tray hold 300 sheets of plain paper--more than enough to handle the incoming fax traffic maximum of 250 sheets. Like many all-in-ones, the ADF rests atop the flatbed scanner lid. You can raise this lid about an inch or remove it to scan hefty books. Closing the heavy scanning lid can be rocky, so support it with both hands to prevent it from crashing down under its own weight.
The MP780's control panel juts out under the scanner lid and features two keypads, one numeric, plus eight speed-dial faxing buttons. Sandwiched between the keypads is a small, 1-by-2.5-inch LCD panel for menu selections, current operations, and messages in black text and icons on a backlit field of glowing orange light. To the right of the LCD, an alarm LED flashes and lights up green to signal paper jams or improperly installed ink cartridges; shrill beeps accompany the alarm, though you can turn the volume down or off through the control panel.
Mode buttons above the LCD indicate copy, fax, scan, and photo functions. As with other multifunctions, these come in handy for using the MP780 without a PC. When you choose Photo, for example, the menu flashes the message Direct Photo, then tells you to connect your PictBridge-compatible digital camera to the printer.
At the base of the MP780, you touch the small, round button to smoothly open the front cover and turn it into the paper output tray. If you start to print or copy without opening the output tray, don't worry: the MP780 will open it for you before the print job arrives. Just underneath the MP780's control panel, you can tug a gray Scanning Unit Lever tab to lift up the scanner and the ADF, reveal the machine's innards, and access the printhead and the five ink cartridges.Like any modern all-in-one worthy of its title, the Canon Pixma MP780 serves as a standalone copier, photo printer, scanner, and fax machine. Connected to a PC or a Mac, the MP780 adds full service, automatic double-sided color printing to its repertoire. Only the HP OfficeJet 7410 includes a duplexer--but at more than twice the price.
Two features the Canon MP780 lacks, which both the more expensive HP OfficeJet 7410 and the less pricey Brother MFC-420cn offer, are built-in media-card readers and a network card. If you want to print photos without your computer, make sure your digital camera features PictBridge capability. However, when you plug your camera into the MP780, your photos show up on the display of your camera, unlike their appearance on the full-color LCD screens of printers such as the Lexmark P6250.
One of the Canon MP780's nicest features is its five separate ink tanks to handle all printing types, so there's no need to stop and swap cartridges when you're alternating between, say, printing a memo and a snapshot. The cyan, magenta, yellow, and large-size black cartridges contain pigment-based inks for text and graphics, while the fifth cartridge holds a dye-based ink that kicks in when you print photographs. The large black ink tank costs $13.95; the four smaller cartridges are $11.95 each; it costs $61.75 to replace the set. Canon estimates that the large black tank will last for 1,500 pages of text, nearly a penny per page of excellent inkjet value. We roughly estimate that nonphotographic color prints would run about 2 cents per page, low for an inkjet.