Introduction, Design Features
It’s been less than a year since we reviewed Canon’s last round of TS-series Pixma printers, which included the Pixma TS8020 Wireless Inkjet All-In-One. That model is the precursor to the machine we’re reviewing here, the $179.99-MSRP Pixma TS8120.
It’s unusual for a printer maker to refresh its line so soon. Speculating why Canon did so here would be, well, speculation. All we know for sure? Earlier in 2017, the Pixma TS series replaced the company’s MG-series Pixmas, a line of long-in-the-tooth photo-centric all-in-ones (AIOs) that we’ve reviewed year after year throughout the ’10s. Perhaps Canon felt that the first round of the new TS series wasn’t quite right. Or perhaps evolving market trends tipped the imaging giant’s hand.
In any case, the Pixma TS8120 is second from the top dog in Canon’s recent TS-line upgrade. This new line of five printers comprises the Pixma TS9120 ($199 MSRP, discounted to $149.99 as we wrote this in mid-October 2017), today’s Pixma TS8120 (discounted at many e-tailers to $139.99), the Pixma TS6120 ($149.99 MSRP, discounted to $99.99), the Pixma TS5120 ($99.99 MSRP, discounted to $79.99), and an all-new entry-level iteration, the Pixma TS3120 ($79.99 MSRP, discounted to $49.99). We’ll be reviewing four of the five; this is the first in our Canon review wave.
All but that last one are updates to existing models. And, as usual, from top to bottom, as the prices shrink, so do the feature sets. For a $20 higher list price than the Pixma TS8120, for example, the Pixma TS9120 adds Ethernet connectivity and has a 5-inch display, whereas the Pixma TS8120 does not support wired networking and comes with a 4.3-inch screen.
Because these models are positioned as photo printers, how well they print photos is paramount to everything else. As we’ve seen over the years, five- and six-ink printers tend to do a better job of printing across a wider variety of photos than standard four-ink (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, or CMYK) machines. With that in mind, the two top TS Pixmas, the TS9120 and TS8120, use six inks; the next two down the chain (the TS6120 and TS5120) use five inks; and the TS3120 uses the standard four inks.
A change this time around is that instead of the “photo gray” ink that six-ink Pixmas have been using for the past several years, the sixth ink is now a “photo blue.” Where the photo gray ink was claimed to increase the color gamut (or color range) somewhat and help print superior gray-scale images, the new photo blue, according to Canon, reduces graininess. (We assume that the photo blue ink should increase the color range, too.)
The TS8120 comes in three colors: black, red, and white, as shown below. Canon sent us the red one…
A standing difference between consumer-grade photo AIOs and their office-oriented counterparts is that the former generally cost more to use: The per-page ink cost is higher. Canon’s photo-centric Pixmas traditionally have had slightly higher running costs than their competitors, and printed some of the best-looking images among consumer-grade photo printers. Nothing has really changed on those fronts.
Whether the Pixma TS8120 is right for you depends on several factors. Positioned as a photo printer foremost, not only does it cost more to use than some other inkjet AIOs, but it also lacks an automatic document feeder (ADF) for sending multi-page documents to the scanner. ADF AWOL is not unusual with this class of printer, especially those under $200. That trend has begun to change of late, though, with newer models such as the HP Envy Photo 7855 All-in-One; we’ll look a little closer at this important development in the next section.
The bottom line on the Pixma TS8120? If you’re looking for a machine mainly for printing photos, it’s hard to beat this little AIO (aside from getting the stepped-up Pixma TS9120, which we’re also reviewing, or one of a few Epson photo-centric models to be discussed later). If, on the other hand, you also need your photo printer to be nimble at making copies, printing lots of documents, and scanning pages with regularity, the Pixma TS8120 has a few shortcomings in those areas.
How much should they affect your buying decision? That depends on just how much printing, copying, and scanning you need to do. Let’s dig in and judge.
Due in large part to its lack of an ADF, which adds width and depth, the Pixma TS8120 is a petite AIO that requires very little desktop space. Even so, it’s attractive enough (especially when closed up and out of service) to put just about anywhere, as shown in the following Canon “suggested placement” photos…
Hopefully you have that airy a den or office! The red one, of course, may be too loud for some settings. Perhaps the black one is a more appropriate complement to your decor…
Or perhaps the white would look better in your home or apartment…
In any case, the TS8120 measures 5.5 inches high by 14.7 inches across by 12.8 inches from front to back with its trays closed, and it weighs 14.2 pounds. When you put paper in the front drawer, the drawer (and subsequently, the footprint) extend forward slightly (about 2 inches) from the front of the chassis, as shown here…
With the rear paper tray extended, the Pixma TS8120’s height increases to 14.3 inches…
Notice in the above image that the output tray, too, extends several inches from the front of the chassis, beyond the paper-tray bump. (It pops out automatically when you print.) In other words, the printer needs much more space when working than when closed up and out of service; factor that in, when choosing a place to put it. And note that this is common among small inkjet printers. The recently released Epson Expression Photo XP-8500 Small-in-One, similar in size to the Pixma TS8120, also requires additional room to operate when in service.
Another consideration when trying to decide where to place the Pixma TS8120 is its mix of connectivity options. Most printers nowadays (even sub-$100 ones) support Wi-Fi, which, in most homes, means that your computing devices can connect to your printer wherever you park it. You get Wi-Fi here, or can connect to a single computer directly via USB cable. (Keep in mind that the USB connection does not connect the printer to the Internet, so you give up several cloud and mobile-device options if you go that route.)
Speaking of mobile-device options, the Pixma TS8120 forgoes support for Wi-Fi Direct and Near-Field Communications (NFC) peer-to-peer network connections; you just get a Bluetooth 4.0 radio. Depending on what and how much you’re printing from your mobile device, this substitution may or may not matter. Why? Well, because Wi-Fi Direct is rated at 10 times faster (250Mbps) than Bluetooth (25Mbps), and the former’s range is about three times further (656 feet versus 200 feet). We don’t think this will be a major issue for most buyers, but Bluetooth might come up a little short if you need to print large, high-definition images wirelessly from a device that does not support Wi-Fi.
Other mobile-connectivity features supported in this Pixma model include Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, Mopria (for printing from Android devices), the Canon Print app, and Pixma Cloud Link, the last of which lets you connect to a host of popular cloud sites. In addition, you can print directly from several Canon digital cameras via Wireless PictBridge, and there’s a port for SD cards on the left side of the chassis, next to the input tray…
Like the Pixma TS9020 and TS8020 before them, the TS9120 and TS8120 can print labels on pre-surfaced optical discs (recordable CDs, DVDs, and such, for those who still use them) via a caddy that slides in under the output tray…
The software for designing disc labels and jewel cases comes bundled on the included CD. Also on the disc, you’ll find programs and utilities for scanning media, touching up/enhancing photos, and creating calendars, greeting cards, and other specialty documents.
A feature new to this round of Pixmas is something that Canon calls “Message In Print,” which allows you to embed invisible “messages,” such as animations, music, text, or video, into your printed photo. Whomever you give the image to, then, can “decode,” or access, the message by holding an iPhone running Canon’s Message In Print app over the photo. Not only does this sound like fun, but creative users may actually come up with some practical uses for it.
You can configure the Pixma TS8120, as well as perform walkup tasks (such as making copies or printing from SD cards and the cloud), from its spacious, easy-to-navigate 4.3-inch control panel…
A panel this big is especially helpful for viewing and selecting images for printing from your camera’s (or smartphone’s) SD card. As we said about the Pixma TS8020 back when we reviewed it, the TS8120 isn’t all that different from its predecessor.
Setup Cost Per Page
Although you do have two extra ink tanks to install, setting up one of these little Pixmas is easy and fast. The Pixma TS8120 is small and light enough that getting it out of the box requires little effort. Once you plug it in and turn it on, animated demonstrations for loading paper and installing the ink cartridges walk you through each process. And it’s detailed to the point that, as you install each cartridge, the display shows you which ones you’ve installed and which cartridge slots on the printhead carriage are still empty.
Part of the installation process entails aligning the printhead. Near the end of the setup procedure, the TS8120 prints an alignment page that you place on the scanner. (This process is also well-demonstrated on the control panel.) The printer then uses the data from the scan to align the printhead—a method that is much easier, and no doubt much more accurate, than the more common procedure in which you tell the printer (usually via software) which elements on the alignment page meet certain specified criteria. In any case, the entire installation routine, including printhead alignment, took us no longer than 15 minutes.
Over the years, Canon’s photo-centric Pixmas have had some of the highest per-page running costs for this class of printer. That is why we haven’t recommended them (nor any other six-ink photo printer) as an everyday document printer. It might work for that situation only if your print volume is low: say, under a couple of hundred pages or so per month. In addition, until now the company has always provided estimated page yields for its ink cartridges—that is, general statements regarding how many pages the black cartridge is good for, and how many pages the color cartridges should yield. We then used that data to calculate the printer’s running costs: so much per page on the black cartridge, and so much for the color and black cartridges combined.
This time around, rather than publishing general page-yield estimates for each cartridge, Canon has provided us with page yields for each cartridge based on printing certain types of documents: mixed text/graphics pages, and 4×6-inch photos. So, while this data does not allow us to report our traditional monochrome-page and color-page running costs, it does allow us to calculate and report costs for printing those kinds of mixed-output pages, and for snapshots.
That said, we wouldn’t call that a problem. Compared to the method described above, these calculations will provide more precise running costs—at least for these two types of documents. But since the data and methodology involved in reaching these figures are so different from what we use for nearly all other printers we have reviewed, we can’t make meaningful cost per page (CPP) comparisons between the Pixma TS8120 and its competitors.
That said, here goes. Canon provides three yield-size versions for each of the six TS8120 cartridges: Standard, XL, and XXL. You’ll get more pages and, of course, the lowest CPP from XXL tanks. Keep in mind that our calculations include all six inks; five- and six-ink printers by their nature tend to be more costly to use than machines that use the standard four ink tanks.
Using Canon’s page yields and prices for the XXL ink cartridges, the TS8120 prints the industry standard International Organization for Standardization (ISO) #24711 letter-size (8.5×11-inch) test pages (shown in the top row of images below) for 16.6 cents per page. It prints the ISO 29102 4×6-inch photos (the second row of images below) for 31.9 cents per photo. Again, we can’t really compare these CPPs to competing models, but we’re reasonably sure that the TS8120’s running costs are neither significantly higher nor significantly lower than those of most other six-ink photo printers (including previous six-ink Pixmas).
The Pixma TS8120’s maximum paper capacity is 200 sheets, split between two sources: a 100-sheet cassette up front and a 100-sheet tray that extends out from the back of the chassis at an angle…
The rear tray can also hold up to 20 sheets of premium photo paper. Printed pages land on an output tray that extends out front, just below the control panel. As mentioned, the output tray extends automatically as needed. In doing so, when the front cover is closed, it also gently pushes the cover upward and out of the way…
In other words, you can print when the machine is completely buttoned up, and it will ready itself. By the same token, the TS8120 also has the ability to turn itself on when it senses data coming its way, even wirelessly. That allows you to print without having to walk over and power the printer on.