Design & Build
Canon puts a lot of attention to the design of its inkjet printers, but its laser printers tend to be much more basic. The cubical shape and rounded edges make the MF4890dw look more like a pro model, and its small size and weight (39 x 44 x 36 cm / 13 kg) make it easily classifiable as 'compact'. Its 128 MB of memory allow for convenient sharing in a group of up to 20 people. On top of the standard multifunction features (printing, copying, scanning and faxing), the Canon i-SENSYS MF4890dw features duplex printing, Wi-Fi, network capability and drivers for Windows, Mac and Linux. When we went to install the driver, we noticed the only Windows version it offers is 32-bit. If you have Windows 64-bit, you'll have to download the driver from Canon's website.
Our first disappointment with this printer was that it doesn't have a memory card reader. Also, the front panel has buttons all over the place, too many buttons, some of which have symbols that aren't immediately recognisable. The Lexmark X464DE may cost more than the MF4890dw, but at least it has a touchscreen.
Tiltable display and buttons panel
The Canon i-SENSYS MF4890dw supports UFR (Ultra Fast Rendering), Canon's proprietary printer language developed for 'small/home office' multifunctions. UFR behaves exactly the same as a PCL or PS driver. Canon claims that UFR makes the printer spool faster, reducing overall print speeds. More on that later...
At the bottom-left of the image below, you can see the ON/OFF button. The first time you use the printer you tend to look higher up near the button panel. We don't really see the logic behind putting it here.
The paper tray holds up to 250 sheets of varying type (thick paper, recycled paper, transparencies, labels, envelopes, etc.) and it's easy to set the printer up for the different sizes.
Unlike the MF4730, MF4750, MF4780w and MF4870dn, here the document feeder supports duplex and it's simple to use. Canon has entirely reworked the feeder since the previous generation, making it more compact and efficient. It now lays almost horizontally and has a cover that flips down to prevent dust from getting inside and messing with the mechanics. The paper cassette, output tray and button panel are all retractable, making the MF4890dw neat and compact when the parts are stowed and closed.
The MF4890dw can fit in between two shelf levels, because the cooling circuit doesn't use a fan and therefore doesn't need extra space for the air to evacuate. To get to the toner, you lift the cover beneath the scanning platform. It's a simple system for replacing empty cartridges.
The Canon i-SENSYS MF4890dw is one of the fastest multifunction laser printers we've reviewed. Only the Brother MFC-7860DW beats it, by a hair, at 27 pages per minute, compared to 26 ppm here. The Samsung SCX-3405W prints at 19 ppm, the HP LaserJet Pro M1212nf prints at 16 ppm and Canon's previous entry-level model, the i-SENSYS MF3010, prints at 12 ppm.
The MF4890dw's print quality is exactly the same as on the Canon i-SENSYS MF4570dn, which uses the same cartridge. It's good enough quality for basic text, and in our test graph below (we use it because it's more complex to print than basic text) the legend comes out perfectly clear, sharp and legible and the shadings of grey turn out especially well.
Where this printer has trouble is in images like the one below, in which the boy's head looks blurry and poorly defined. (Laser printers aren't made to print photographs, but this helps give an idea of the printer's overall ability.)
The blacks are really quite deep and the whole image lacks a great deal of detail and nuance. As shown by the Delta E 94, which measures colour accuracy, the blacks and greys seem to have a mind of their own (three and below is an ideal Delta E 94).
Average Delta E 94 (colour difference): 9.2
Scan & Copy
The scanner scans in colour and B&W. It's designed to be able to send scans to multiple PCs via server or e-mail. This is a great idea, but the process can be laborious and unintuitive on the MF4890dw.
Buttons for sending scans to PCs via server or e-mail
As usual, the copy mode on the MF4890dw is good for all-text documents. However, documents with legends, graphs or other graphical elements that require a certain amount of finesse come out too heavily altered to make it worth the trouble. The average Delta E 94 in copy mode is about the same as on other printers. Blacks look blacker than on the original and light colours look spotty, like a 'snowy' TV screen.
Power Use & Noise
Canon has kept it promise regarding power consumption. We picked up 480 W while on and running and 1 W on standby, which is quite low for a laser printer. It's noisy, though, at 53 dB. You can lower that to 47 dB by turning on Quiet Mode, but that reduces the print speed. The choice is up to you.
Cost Per Page
The good news: the all-in-one toner cartridge that comes with the Canon i-SENSYS MF4890dw also includes the drum and cleaning units that will last the printer's lifetime. The bad news: this cartridge contains only half as much toner (1,000 pages) as the cartridges sold in stores (2,100 pages). To calculate the cost per page, we use the lowest price we can find, shipping included. But prices fluctuate. As we write this, the cost per page according to our measurements is 0.9 pence. That's low.
- Wi-Fi, Ethernet
- Duplex in each mode
- Low cost per page
- Low power consumption
- Duplex document feeder
- Fast print speeds
- All-in-one toner cartridge includes drum and cleaning units
- Not very user-friendly
- Blacks too deep
- No touchscreen / Button panel looks like something you'd find in a cockpit
- 64-bit Windows driver not included (on website only)
- Some of the buttons unclearly marked
- Noisy when not in Quiet Mode
- Included toner cartridge only half full
The Canon i-SENSYS MF4890dw makes good on its word when it comes to print speed, responsiveness and power consumption, but it needs to be a lot more user-friendly to win over the general public.