IT Pro Verdict
Innovative and compact packaging
Very low cost of ownership
Expensive to buy
Compromised scan platen
Underwhelming color print quality
We always list the dimensions of the devices we review, but that doesn't always tell the full story – Almost without exception, printers and multifunction peripherals (MFPs) need space for their cooling vents or paper trays. And even when they don't, you'll need some clearance just to simply get to their controls, trays, and cassettes. That can be a problem if you need to get a printer into a tight space – such as you might find on a reception desk or in retail environments.
Enter Canon's MAXIFY GX6550, offering an interesting solution. It's a compact and strange-looking inkjet MFP. Aside from its refillable tanks, the main feature of note is an automatic document feeder (ADF) that points to the front, rather than a more typical landscape orientation. So equipped, you can wiggle the GX6550 back into remarkably tight spaces, and still make quick work of prints, and single and multi-page copies.
Oddball arrangement aside, the GX6550 is a fairly typical refillable inkjet MFP. It's equipped with both wired and wireless networking, along with a fairly well-concealed USB host port on the front panel. It's strong on paper handling, with an enclosed 250-sheet paper cassette along with a 100-sheet tray at the rear. Both the printer and ADF offer duplexing, so you can make double-sided prints, scans, and copies. The only real omission is a fax modem, which could be more significant than usual given this MFP's other reception-friendly features.
This MFP's tiltable control panel combines a color touchscreen with a smattering of dedicated buttons. You can use it to print from or scan to an inserted USB stick, and to control other direct functions such as photocopies. It's clear and reasonably responsive, but the menu can be a little fiddly compared to the best.
Canon MAXIFY GX6550 review: Setting up
Canon's refillable ink system is branded MegaTank, and is broadly similar to competing technology from Epson and HP. One feature of the system is that you need to install the heads into a new printer – they're much like empty cartridges. With this done it's a case of inverting ink bottles over the relevant tanks, and waiting while their contents gurgle out. This is foolproof, with keying to prevent an expensive misfuelling mistake. Resist the temptation to squeeze a bottle and you won't spill a drop.
This printer comes with a full set of ink bottles, the contents of which are rated for 6,000 black, or 14,000 color pages. A deal of that is used in the initial ink system priming, which takes around 10 minutes, but you'll still get thousands of pages from just the ink that comes in the box. This alone should be enough to offset the GX6550's higher purchase price: it's about three times what we'd expect to pay for a cartridge-based equivalent.
At the time of our review, this MFP hadn't yet been included in Canon's long-running three-year warranty upgrade. The standard 12-month cover is something to consider if you expect to print in low-ish volumes: if the printer dies before you can use its included ink, you may not yet have recovered your initial outlay through lower running costs.
Over the long term, and in higher volume use, the savings could be considerable. A full new set of bottles comes in at less than £60 (ex VAT). That equates to an ongoing cost per page of just over half a penny for full-color prints, or about 0.16p in black only. Canon doesn't give an estimate of how long the replaceable maintenance cartridge will last, but it's only £14 for a new one.
It's easy enough to install the GX6550's driver package from the Canon website. It's immediately familiar to anyone who's used a Canon inkjet in the last 10 years or so and includes probably the best TWAIN interface around – a great mix of usability and decent features. That said, it's a shame this MFP doesn't come with a more office-orientated software package. Despite its high-speed, dual-sensor ADF, there's no batch scanning application, and no optical character recognition software.
One final point to mention here is that the GX6550's useful second paper tray is at the rear. If you are planning to place it in a cubby, you won't be able to access it.
Canon MAXIFY GX6550 review: Printing, scanning and copying
The MAXIFY GX6550 is fairly rapid by the standards of a compact inkjet MFP. It could deliver a first page of text in just 13 seconds, going on to hit 20.5 pages per minute (ppm) over a 25-page test. That includes the time taken to process the job, so the actual print speed was creditably close to Canon's claimed 24ppm. It's rated at 15.5ppm in color, but our taxing 24-page graphics test appeared at only 4.7ppm – that's still not a bad result for this class of device.
This printer doesn't offer a draft mode, but you can choose Economy, which Canon says will use 50% less ink. In theory, that could see a new set of bottles last for 9,000 black or 21,000 color pages. At 19.2ppm, the Economy was slightly slower than the normal mode in our tests. Like other inkjets, the GX6550 isn't a rapid duplexer, as there's an additional pause to allow ink from the first side to dry. It delivered 10 pages onto five sheets in a little over three minutes, a rate of 3.1 images (sides) per minute.
In monochrome, this MFP is a fairly quick copier, producing a single A4 page in 15 seconds, and needing just 68 seconds to copy 10 pages using the ADF. A single-color page took 16 seconds, but a 10-page copy needed two and a half minutes.
With a duplex scanner and printer, the GX6550 can make double-sided copies of double-sided originals. The dual-sensor scanner captures both sides of an original in a single pass, but the printer can't keep up: it needed five minutes to finish a 20-side, 10-page color copy.
Spend any time using the scanner and you'll discover that its forward-facing orientation is a compromise. Lift the lid and there's a small platen with a portrait orientation and a 5x7" (13x18cm) maximum area. You can't scan A4 pages on the glass, and there's a 600 dots per inch (dpi) maximum when using the ADF. The platen's big enough that you can scan or copy a passport or other ID card, but of course, you'll need to lift the ADF to do it, which won't be possible with the MFP in a particularly tight spot.
One further – and surprising – issue is rather more basic. The ADF input tray folds away completely, and before it can be used it needs to be extracted and clicked properly into place. This isn't immediately obvious as there's a very weak detent. Rely on this and it can fail, dropping the input tray so that it obstructs the ADF output, which can cause scanned pages to get crumpled. Canon has fitted a sticker drawing attention to the correct way to engage the tray, but even this doesn't make the proper position obvious.
The GX6550 can't preview an A4 page, so we couldn't complete our timed test, but the scanner previewed a 6x4" (15x10cm) photo from the platen in seven seconds. It needed 18 seconds to scan an A4 sheet at 150 or 300dpi, and 29 seconds to scan a 6x4" photo at a detailed 600dpi.
This printer's pigment-based inks should be ideal for plain paper prints. They're less so for glossy photo printing, where the bigger ink particles are too big to play nicely with coated papers. It's happy to try photos, and does a decent job on matte photo papers and high-quality, thicker stock, although it won't print borderless photos on any paper size. At the highest print quality, an A4 print took two and a half minutes, while six postcard-sized prints were completed in just over five minutes.
This is primarily an office MFP, and as we'd expect, its pigment black ink delivered dark and crisp text. This was about as good as we've seen from an inkjet, but the GX6550's graphics prints were altogether less convincing. While color images stood up strongly from the page, they lacked saturation when compared to the best inkjet or laser output, leaving them a little dull and uninspiring. It was a similar story with photocopies, where color prints were drab but usable.
Despite its strange configuration, there's little wrong with the GX6550's scanner. It did a particularly good job of capturing photographs, with a wide dynamic range that preserved detail across the full range of shades in our Q60 reference target. It's odd, then, that it did a little less well with documents, where it tended to underexpose the darkest shades. We also noticed a little distortion in A4 images from the ADF, where parts of the same image shifted slightly between scans of the same page. Overall, however, it's still likely to be good enough for the vast majority of office uses.
Canon MAXIFY GX6550 review: Is it worth it?
While $500 is a lot of money for a compact office inkjet, the GX6550's high asking price isn't a major concern. Provided you'll print enough to use up all or most of its bundled ink, you'll pay less overall than you would for a similar, but cartridge-based device. That leaves you free to relax and enjoy the other clear benefits of an ink tank printer – low maintenance, and long service intervals.
This MFP's design is certainly compact, and it could be ideal in confined spaces, but it's not quite as clever as it thinks it is. The scanner's portrait orientation limits what you can do on the platen, while if you take advantage of its ability to slot under a low shelf, you won't be able to use the second paper input. We wonder why Canon didn't pair a landscape scanner with a front-loading, landscape ADF and – as it did with the MAXIFY GX7050 – fit a second front-facing paper tray.
This slightly compromised packaging and underwhelming color printing means that the Canon MAXIFY GX6550 isn't ideal for general-purpose use in a home or small office. However, it could still be uniquely beneficial – a niche MFP, for literal niches.
Canon MAXIFY GX6550 specifications
|Maximum print size||A4|
After a brief career in corporate IT, Simon Handby combined his love of technology and writing when he made the move to Computer Shopper magazine. As a technology reviewer he's since tested everything from routers and switches, to smart air fryers and doorbells, and covered technology such as EVs, TVs, solar power and the singularity.
During more than 15 years as Shopper's long-time printer reviewer, Simon tried, tested and wrote up literally hundreds of home, small office and workgroup printers. He continues reviewing smart products and printers for a variety of publications, and has been an IT Pro contributor since 2010. Simon is almost never happier than when surrounded by printers and paper, applying his stopwatch and a seasoned eye to find the best performing, best value products for business users.