Canon imageClass MF453dw Review

Canon imageClass MF453dw Review

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Epblogs verdict

The Canon imageClass MF453dw is a capable all-in-one printer for small offices because to its superior mono laser output quality and user-friendly color touch-screen control panel.

Quick Summary

The fastest of Canon’s three new imageClass MF450 series printers is the imageClass MF453dw. With a $349 asking price, it is also the most expensive. The MF452dw, the middle choice among the three and our top pick for a mono laser AIO for small or midsize offices, costs just $20 extra. However, while the little price increase buys marginally quicker speed, it omits a faxing feature.

Because the speed difference isn’t significant enough to matter for most papers, the MF452dw or the MF451dw (which is just the MF452dw without faxing) will be the superior option for most offices. However, the MF453dw’s higher performance may be worthwhile for companies that frequently print single documents with tens or hundreds of pages.

Easy Setup, Intuitive Software

The MF453dw has most of the same features as the MF452dw, starting with its simplicity of setup, with the exception of rated speed and fax capability. Its dimensions are 15.4 by 17.9 by 18.3 inches (HWD) and its weight is 35.7 pounds, making it both lightweight and substantial enough that two persons could be required to bring it into position.

Otherwise, physical setup essentially just entails loading paper and connecting wires. The toner cartridge is already loaded in the printer when it delivers, just like with other Canon printers we’ve seen.

The supplied driver and software disc includes an automated installation program (which worked swimmingly in my tests to install the printer drivers), plus a scan utility. In addition to letting you choose among USB, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi for the connection, it also gives you the choice of Canon’s proprietary driver (the default), or a PCL6 or PostScript driver for offices that require one or the other.

I also found it easy to set up the printer for mobile printing and scanning via a Wi-Fi Direct connection. (Note that you can also connect over the network if you prefer, via a Wi-Fi connection from your device to the network.) Most of the options for Wi-Fi Direct are easy to find in the menus on the 5-inch touch-screen control panel if you know what to look for, and explained clearly in the online user manual if you don’t.

One particularly nice touch is a control-panel command to show a QR code for easy Wi-Fi direct connection using Canon’s print app. Once the unit was connected, both printing from my phone and scanning files to it worked as promised. You can also use touch-screen commands to print from or scan to a USB drive.

Canon’s recommended monthly duty cycle for the MF453dw is 750 to 4,000 pages, which may be a little optimistic, but not wildly so. The base unit offers a single 250-sheet paper drawer, a 100-sheet multi-purpose tray, and automatic duplexing.

At the low end of the range, which translates to about 37 pages per business day, the 350-sheet capacity would need refilling roughly every two weeks. At the high end of the range, you’d want to add the $199 optional 550-sheet drawer, which boosts total capacity to 900 sheets and would need refilling a bit more often than once a week on average.

For scanning and copying, the printer offers a 50-sheet ADF for up to legal-size paper, and an 8.5-by-11.7-inch flatbed. A key advantage compared with most mono laser AIOs in this price range is that the ADF duplexes, meaning it scans both sides at once.

This more than doubles the scan speed when compared with reversing ADFs that offer matching speed for one-sided documents, but handle double-sided ones by scanning one side, turning the page over, and then scanning the other. Keep in mind also that some competing AIOs don’t offer even a reversing ADF.

The Lexmark MB2236i, for example, has a strictly single-sided ADF, and doesn’t even provide any software or firmware to let you flip over a stack of two-sided pages manually, scan the second side, and then automatically interfile pages in the right order.

The MF453dw also earns points for a low running cost, at 2.25 cents per page, using a cartridge that includes the drum as well as the toner. Some competing printers separate the two into toner cartridges and imaging units.

If you compare running costs between one of those models and the MF453dw, be sure to include the added cost per page for the imaging unit in your calculation. As always, also keep in mind that total cost of ownership—the initial price plus the running cost—is the more important comparison to make in any case, as we discuss in our guide to saving money on your next printer. (The article uses inkjets for its examples, but the same logic works for mono lasers.)

Testing the Canon imageClass MF453dw: Fast Speed, Top-Tier Quality

For performance testing, I connected both our standard testbed PC and the printer to the same network using Ethernet in both cases. For text speed, using our 12-page Word test file, the MF453dw came in at 38.8ppm (17 seconds total) not including the first page, which is a rounding error short of the rated 40ppm. (We round times to the nearest second, which in this case meant rounding up to the next-highest second.)

In comparison, the Lexmark MB2236i managed 36.7ppm (1 second slower) while the Canon MF452dw came in at 34.7 ppm (2 seconds slower), which is also consistent with their ratings. The Pantum BM5100ADN offers a little faster rating than the MF453dw, and came in a little faster on our tests as well, at 44ppm (15 seconds).

Of course, for shorter documents, you also need to consider the first page out (FPO) time, which can have a big effect on total speed when printing just a few pages. I measured the FPO time of both the MF453dw and the MF452dw at 7 seconds, compared with 10 seconds for the MB2236i and BM5100ADN. Adding the FPO time back in drops the range of speed for all 12 pages to just 25.7ppm to 30ppm (24 to 28 seconds). It also puts the MF453dw in first place. However, for anything short of a 100-page file, none of these differences is enough to notice in any practical sense.

On our business applications test suite, which includes several files of four or fewer pages, and also adds graphics and color to most, the faster FPO time for both Canon printers gave them an advantage that translated to a tie for first place in this group. I timed each at 1 minute and 12 seconds (20.8ppm). Next fastest was the BM5100ADN, at 1:23 (18.1ppm), followed by the MB2236i, at 1:29 (16.9ppm). On our photo suite, the MF452dw averaged 6 seconds for a 4-by-6-inch photo.

Text, graphics, and photo output quality in our tests were all in the top tier for mono lasers. Every font we test that you’re likely use in a business document was highly readable, with well-formed, properly spaced characters, even at 4 points. One of two stylized fonts with thick strokes was also easily readable at 5 points, which is unusual even for a laser printer. Another, which is harder to render well, was easily readable at 8 points.

Solid dark fills in graphics showed uneven pile height, but only when viewed from certain angles. The fills were impressively even otherwise. Single-pixel wide lines on a black background held up well, and gradients changed smoothly, with no banding or visible dithering patterns. Photos on plain paper also looked remarkably good for mono laser output, particularly for contrast and shadow detail. However, I saw obvious graininess in some of our test photos, and slight banding in one.

Canon imageClass MF453dw Review Verdict

The Canon imageClass MF453dw’s toughest competition is Canon’s own MF452dw, which matches it for paper handling and most other features, is effectively as fast for most purposes, adds faxing, and costs a bit less, a combination that makes it our top pick for mono laser AIOs for small or midsize offices.

Other options you might want to consider include the Canon MF451dw, which also lacks fax support but is otherwise essentially identical to the MF452dw; the Lexmark MB2236i, which lacks duplex scanning; and the Pantum BM5100ADN, which lacks faxing, but also offers a lower running cost.

That said, if your office prints a lot of documents in the range of tens to hundreds of pages and you need top-tier text quality—a common set of requirements in some types of law offices, for example—the imageClass MF453dw’s mix of speed and quality could be just what you need.

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