The front panel of the printer houses the output tray, which flips out smoothly with the touch of a button. An additional flap folds out to catch legal-length papers. A little door to the side of the output tray houses the media card reader, which accepts CompactFlash Types I and II, Microdrive, SmartMedia, Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro, SD, and MultiMediaCards. You can also use xD-Picture Card, Memory Stick Duo and Memory Stick Pro Duo, and MiniSD cards with an adapter. Under the card reader sits a USB port for printing directly from a digital camera, a digital video camcorder, or a compatible camera phone (with PictBridge). Below the output tray is the cassette feeder, or input tray. The input tray has adjustable paper guides and slides out of the printer's body smoothly--almost too smoothly, as there are no stops. An additional input tray flips out of the rear of the printer, for paper types you might use less commonly. This, too, has an adjustable paper guide, but we found it hard to slide.
Jutting out of the front of the printer is the control panel, which houses a wealth of buttons and a 2.5-inch color LCD, which flips up to allow easy viewing from a variety of angles. Dedicated function buttons allow you to switch between copy, fax, scan, and printing from a memory card. You can also switch between paper sources, enlarge or reduce pages, access a photo sheet, initiate two-sided printing, fax to up to eight preset numbers, and change the fax quality at the touch of a button. To the right of the LCD are buttons for accessing the menu: Menu, Settings, Back, and a four-way rocker switcher with an OK button in the center. The menu options change, depending on which function you're in. For example, if you press the Copy button, then hit Menu, you'll find yourself faced with various copy options. Common to all the menus is a maintenance and settings option, where you can perform routine tests, trigger a cleaning cycle, or change the date/time format. Menu options are conveyed through text and graphical representations. Drilling down through the menus is a simple task, and a dedicated back button makes tooling around the menus pain-free. Finally, a numeric keypad, a stop/reset, and two start buttons (one for black only and another for color) round out the control panel.
Replacing the five ink tanks (cyan, yellow, magenta, black dye, and black pigment) is a simple task. The top of the printer flips up to reveal the ink tanks and the printheads, and by flipping a lever, you can pull out each tank individually. Being able to replace individual tanks is a boon, as you won't waste colors you use less frequently. Also, you won't need separate photo ink to print photos, which we appreciate. Canon ships the Pixma MP830 with full ink tanks. Replacement color and dye-based black ink tanks cost $14.25 apiece, while the pigment-based black ink tank costs $16.25. Canon estimates the cost per page for both black text and color text to be an inexpensive 2 cents.The Canon Pixma MP830's wealth of features makes it attractive for a home office user. It prints, scans, faxes, and copies, and you have a broad range of options for each function. When you're copying and printing, you can shrink to fit, make double-sided copies with the built-in duplexer, or make two-on-one and four-on-one copies--that is, you can shrink the originals so that two or four pages fit on a single sheet of paper--and you can even restore colors on a faded original.
With faxing--a feature not found on the cheaper, home user-oriented MP500--you can program up to eight numbers for one-touch speed dialing and assign a two-number code for additional coded speed-dial numbers. You can also set up a one-touch or coded speed dial for groups for fax blasts, for example, though you have to register all the numbers in the group first. Depending on how you set up your telephone, fax, and answering machine, you can have the fax machine answer all incoming calls (if you have a dedicated fax line) or have the call ring first to the answering machine, which will boot the call over to the fax machine once it determines that it's an incoming fax. If your machine has paper problems or is low on ink when a fax comes in, it can hold the fax in memory until you rectify the problem.
For scanning, the included MP Navigator software can help you choose your task and find the right program for it: Easy PhotoPrint prints photos, ScanSoft OmniPage SE converts scanned documents to text using optical character recognition software, and Presto PageManager assists with organizing photos and documents. You can also scan through any TWAIN- or WIA-compliant software. Scans can be saved on your PC as JPEG, TIFF, PDF, or bitmap files.