ProsVery compact; good photo quality; the cost of ink is ~50x lower than standard inkjets
ConsMore work to set up than most printers; very limited features for the price
Let's get this out of the way first: despite having tested numerous inkjet printers over the past few years, this is the very first inkjet review we've published since this site was founded in 2013. Why? The answer is simple: inkjets strike us as a bit of a scam. In essence, they are marketed with a huge number of attractive features and then sold at a loss by manufacturers, who hope to recoup these losses with massively-overpriced ink refills. It's basically a subscription-based approach, but manufacturers are anything but upfront about it. And what's worse, these refills never, and we do mean never, last as long as they're rated for, in part because they often jam and need "self-cleaning" (which burns through ink), or because they simply dry up after a few months due to limited use.
The need to recoup losses led to an escalating (and maddening) arms race between manufacturers and consumers, with consumers attempting to get around pricers by buying generic cartridges or even unreliable refill kits, and manufacturers constantly reminding owners that such products would damage their printers. To goad owners into upgrading cartridges often, manufacturers set printers to report empty cartridges before ink was truly used up, and pulled the dirty trick of disabling printing (and sometimes even scanning) when just a single cartridge was empty. Most recently, HP took the shameful step of actually fully shutting down printers if owners installed anything but genuine HP cartridges in them. The inkjet had truly become a farce.
And this is all a great shame, because a good inkjet printer can produce photos worthy of framing for generations, and if inkjets were a bit more palatable as consumer products, we'd all have dozens of photos around our homes that we'd happily printed right at our own desks. Over the past few years, manufacturers have caught on to the fact that there are some consumers out there willing to make an honest investment in an inkjet printer for home use in order to avoid the huge annoyance of having yet another ink cartridge run out every few weeks, which of course brings an inkjet to its knees (or more accurately, brings its owners to their knees). Epson pioneered this with their Ecotank products in 2016, and in mid-2017, Canon released its competing MegaTank series. After throwing out (recycling) our last sample inkjet (which we received for free earlier this year, mind you), we went out and purchased Canon's new G3200 MegaTank Printer at Amazon for $250 (discounted from its $300 retail price), to see if the promise of many years of uninterrupted enjoyment of an inkjet printer was worth the costs (monetary and otherwise).
Read on to find out what we learned about this new breed of printer, and catch The Tech Buyer's Guru providing chatting about the G3200 on NBC's Portland Today Show, aired on September 20, 2017!
The Canon G3200 is quite compact for an all-in-one, measuring just 17.6" wide, 13" deep, and 6.5" tall. Of course, this is because it is fundamentally a very simple inkjet printer that happens to feature four oversized ink tanks. It has no dedicated paper trays, no sheet feeder, and uses just four colors of ink (black, cyan, magenta, and yellow), in an age when even $100 printers are using five or six colors. So this is the first clue that something had to give if Canon were to offer a printer at a "real cost" rather than a subsidized cost. Not surprisingly, the G3200 is also missing the attractive touchscreens that many of its $100 competitors have, relying instead on just a handful of cryptic control buttons. It doesn't even have built-in duplexing. In fact, if one were to dare compare what you could get if you took the bait on a cartridge-style printer, you'd find that Canon sells essentially the exact same printer for $45, in the guise of the Pixma MG3620, and in reality that printer has better features, being both faster and capable of duplexing. In other words, you're paying an extra $200 or so to relieve yourself of the cruel shackles of the inkjet cartridge scam.
Here's what you get in the G3200's box:
As you can see, the components look a bit different from any inkjet or laser printer, which we'll discuss in more depth on the next page.
We've covered what the G3200 doesn't include, so what in fact do you get for your money? Well, despite the fact that this is a very stripped down printer, you still get a lot. That includes copy and scan functionality via the included flatbed scanner, built-in 802.11n wireless networking, the ability to print up to 8" x 10" photos or 8.5" x 11" documents via the fold-out rear slot, and rated print speeds of 8.8 images per minute (black) and 5.0 images per minute (color). But the most important specification of all, and it's a biggie, is as follows:
Rated Page Yield: Up to 6,000 (Black & White)/7,000 (Color) Pages
We're putting that in quotes, because we can't honestly test it, but wow, that's a pretty bold claim. You're talking about nearly 4x the print yield of the average color laser printer here, and that brings into sharp focus how the G3200 should actually be judged. Yes, it's an inkjet, but given that it behaves in the real world more like a laser printer, it just doesn't make sense to compare it to standard inkjets in terms of cost, because it's not an apples-to-apples comparison. Put another way, there are now three classes of printers on the market: cartridge-based inkjet printers, toner-based laser and LED printers, and tank-based inkjet printers. We have to give credit to Canon for helping to create a new category of printers, just as it did with its original "Bubble Jet" printer in 1985, which first made printing with color ink possible.
Flip to the next page to learn how the G3200 actually works!