The MP640 is a high-end printer, in that it combines a colour screen (albeit without touch-sensitive controls), WiFi, double-sided printing and five separate cartridges: as well as the usual cyan, magenta and yellow, there are two types of black ink, one for photos and the other for documents. Using separate cartridges for each colour ink can represent a saving of between 20% and 25% compared to entry-level models with just one cartridge.
This printer has got amateur photographers firmly in its sights, with ink droplets of just 1 picolitre, the smallest possible size and invisible to the naked eye in your photo prints. The built-in scanner has a higher resolution than normal at 2400 dpi.
It's got everything we'd look for in a modern multifunction, apart, perhaps, from two things: firstly, we prefer touschreen interfaces over buttons and dials, and secondly, since we tried them out, we really want more of the personally customisable features offered by Lexmark, especially on its S605.
Canon claims that the MP640 is fast, but unusually, we think they're being modest. The manufacturer suggests you'll reach speeds of nine pages per minute in black-and-white, but when we tried our test document, we found it was closer to 13 ppm! The same was true of colour printing:
Speeds for photo printing are also very good for average: 27 seconds to produce a 4 x 6'' photo is very fast. Better still though, photos from the MP640 are excellent quality: it works fast and does the job well.
Equally, noise levels of 50 dB while printing are perfectly normal, but not ridiculously quiet either. There's also a quiet mode, which we suggest you use, even if it does dramatically reduce printing speeds.
The MP640 has not just four, but five separate cartridges. It has two different sets of black ink for different jobs: one that uses pigment for office printing (the resin in pigment-based inks stands up better to handling) and a photo black for glossy prints with even gradients.
The result is a printer that's an excellent all-rounder:
- office documents have lots of detail, with just one problem: the pigmented black ink still struggles with clammy palms. Epson is the only manufacturer that knows how to get this right.
- photo prints are accurate, and much more so than the 2009 range, with the red tinge we criticised on the MP620 now a thing of the past. Once again, though, there's a small hitch: prints from the Epson Stylus Photo range are a little sharper, as are those produced using dye-sublimation printers.
Scanner and copier
The scanner is very fast: it takes 12 seconds to capture a preview, and just four for a 75 dpi scans; a 1200 dpi scan takes 14 seconds.
We were, however, a little disappointed by the quality. This is a scanner to fall back on, rather than a professional model, despite what its native resolution of 2400 dpi might suggest. We found it had a colour discrepancy of 8.2%, while other scanners are below 5%. More importantly, we found discrepancies above 10% for blacks, yellows and reds.
Copies take around twenty seconds, whether in colour or black-and-white.
Cost per page
The total cost per page using the MP640 is 7.6 p per page, compared to 9.5 p on the Epson PX810FW, 11.1 p on the Lexmark S605 (using XL cartridges) and 10.4 p on HP's Photosmart Wireless. That leaves lower than average running costs, and only the Kodak ESP 7 does better.
ISO lifespan test for text documents
- Very low running costs: 7.6 p per page
- Fast printing: 13 ppm in black-and-white, 25 seconds for a 4 x 6'' photo
- Low energy consumption: 18 W while working, 1 W on standby
- Excellent quality photo printing, invisible ink drops
- WiFi and double-sided printing
- Display not touchscreen
- Colours not very accurate on scanner
- Black-and-white photo prints look pink
- Printing speeds plummet (by three times!) when printing double-sided
This is a great printer for everybody, and it's perfectly at home with all sorts of printing. It's fast and accurate for documents and photos, cheap to run and has WiFi and double-sided printing. Will 2011 see a touchscreen interface, the only thing that's missing?