The entry-level Canon Pixma TR4520 Wireless Printer ($99.99) is designed for light-duty family and home-based-office use. As could be expected for an all-in-one at this price, it’s somewhat slow and expensive to use, but it comes with a strong feature set and prints exceptionally well, especially photos. Also, like a few other printers we’ve seen recently, it includes support for Amazon’s Alexa, allowing for hands-free printing. It’s a strong contender for home office users who need an inexpensive AIO for light-duty printing, copying, and scanning.
Room on the Desk
Entry-level home-based printers like the TR4520 spend most of the time sitting idle until you call on them to churn out the occasional photo, a few document pages here, a copy or two there—you get the idea. Hence Canon and its competitors design them to take up as little desk or counter-top real estate as possible. To that end, the TR4520 measures 7.5 by 17.7 by 11.7 inches (HWD) and weighs 13 pounds, which is in line with its low-cost competition.
As for paper handling, the TR4520 comes with one 100-sheet paper tray, and its manual-duplexing automatic document feeder (ADF) holds up to 20 letter-size sheets. Its sibling, the Pixma TR7520, on the other hand, holds up to 200 sheets, split between 100-sheet front and rear trays. The HP OfficeJet 3830 (the least-expensive of this group) holds the same number of sheets as the TR4520, but cannot print two-sided pages automatically. And finally, Epson’s WF-2860 holds up to 150 sheets from one input source.
Canon doesn’t publish monthly duty cycle and recommended monthly print volume specs for its consumer-grade inkjet printers. Given its print speed rating (which I’ll discuss below), low paper capacity, and high running costs (also coming up), you shouldn’t rely on this AIO for more than a couple hundred pages each month; though it can certainly churn out more now and then should you need to.
Basic connectivity consists of USB 2.0 and Wi-Fi, and drivers for Android, Fire OS, iOS, and Windows 10 mobile are available. Walk-up tasks, configuration, and navigation are handled from a very basic control panel, as shown below.
Pixma Software and Smart Home Features
In addition to the standard AIO printer driver, the TR4520’s software bundle consists of the following convenience and productivity software: Scan Utility for both Windows and Mac platforms, Scan Utility Lite for Mac, Easy-PhotoPrint Editor, Master Setup, My Printer, and Quick Menu for easy access to printer apps and settings.
You can also print, scan, and manipulate images from your Android or iOS device with the Canon Print and Easy-PhotoPrint Editor apps. Finally, Canon’s Message In Print app allows you to embed hidden messages—text, animations, music, video links, and other creative enhancements—directly within the image. You can then use your mobile device’s camera to view the embedded message in the printed image.
Canon has also begun to include smart home functionality via built-in support for Amazon’s Alexa, as well as support for Google Assistant and other automation services via IFTTT (If This Then That) technology. HP and Epson, too, have recently come onboard with IFTTT voice activation—HP with its Tango X and Epson with all of its machines that support the company’s Epson Connect service.
With IFTTT voice activation, you can tell your machine to print through an app on your smartphone, or via Smart Echo speaker and other IFTTT listening devices. So far, I’ve seen IFTTT technology built into three Pixmas, the TS9520, the TS9521C, and the TR4520.
Not Built for Speed
Canon rates the TR4520 at 8.8 pages per minute (ppm) for monochrome pages and 5ppm for color pages, which are, other than the HP 3830 (8.5ppm), the lowest print speed ratings I know of. I tested the TR4520 over USB from our standard Intel Core i5-equipped testbed PC running Windows 10 Professional. The TR4520 printed our standard 12-page Microsoft Word test document at the rate of 8.5ppm. That’s slower than every other entry-level printer mentioned here.
See How We Test Printers
Next, I printed a set of highly complex color Acrobat, Excel, and PowerPoint business documents comprised primarily of embedded graphics and embedded photos, and then combined those results with those from printing the 12-page text document in the previous test, to come up with a score of 4.5ppm for printing our entire suite. That score falls behind the TR7520 by a negligible 0.2ppm, and is 0.1ppm faster than the Brother MFC-J497DW, 1.9ppm ahead of the OfficeJet 3830, and 2.9ppm slower than the WF-2860.
Finally, the TR4520 printed our test 4-by-6-inch snapshots at an average of 58 seconds, which was about middle-of-the-road (and tied with the G4520) for this group of entry-level AIOs.
Output Worth Waiting For
While Canon’s TR printer line is not part of the company’s TS consumer-grade photo printer series, the TR4520 proves once again that when it comes to imaging, Canon is hard to beat. Not only does the TR4520 print colorful and vibrant photos, but it also supports borderless prints on media ranging from 4 by 6 inches up to 8.5 by 11 inches. You can also design and print polished and professional borderless flyers and brochures.
Photo output is not the only thing this little AIO does well, though. The text in our test documents came out well-shaped and highly legible, even at smaller sizes down to about 6 points. Our business graphics looked terrific, too, with evenly flowing gradients, smooth fills, and distinct, well-delineated hairlines (strokes less than 1 point thick). As usual, I’ve no complaints about this Pixma’s output.
High Running Costs
Granted, most entry-level models cost a lot to use, but at 8.7 cents for monochrome pages and 18.7 cents for color pages, the TR4520 is one of the most expensive I’ve seen. The Brother MFC-J497DW’s running costs are, for example, 2.7 cents less per monochrome page and 2.2 cents lower for color prints, and the Epson WF-2860 is, at 3.2 cents less for black prints and 2.4 cents cheaper for color, slightly better.
For real relief, when you subscribe to HP’s Instant Ink program, the OfficeJet 3830 can deliver both black and color pages, even photos, for as low as 3.5 each. Those are terrific savings, but, while the 3830 prints well enough; its photo output quality can’t touch the TR4520’s.
The Canon Pixma TR4520 is a low-volume printer, period. Nothing makes that clearer than its sky-high running costs, and of course, its small paper-input tray and slow print speeds. What it has going for it, though, is exceptional print quality, voice automation, the ability to edit photos from your mobile device, and automatic two-sided printing, which is not a given in this price range.
If you’re printing less than a couple hundred pages each month, the high running costs shouldn’t be that big of a deal. If you don’t require the excellent photo quality or automatic duplexing you get with the TR4520, and want to save a bit on consumables, the Brother MFC-J497DW and the Epson WF-2860 are both good alternatives that won’t hit your wallet as hard in the long term. (If you’re printing thousands of pages per month, you should spend more up front for a model like the Pixma G4210 that will end up costing you much less down the road.) Otherwise, the TR4520 is a great little printer for light-duty use at home.