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Technology Untangled: Multifunction copier lacks key functions

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Usually if I am writing an article about a piece of technology, it is because I like it. Most of my reviews concentrate on the positive aspects of a device, but today we will look at a multifunction copier from Canon that disappointed me. I hope some of the things I learned will help you when shopping for your next small office copier.

The Canon ImageCLASS D1120 black and white laser multifunction copier boasts a long list of features and a reasonable price, but overall its performance did not impress me. On sale for only $400, I thought this Canon was worth a look.

It seems like a relatively robust unit for this price. The rated duty cycle is 20,000 pages a month, a good rating for small office use. This copier is a good notch above a “personal copier” in quality, at a price that is similar to many light-duty copiers. The quality of the D1120 seems fine, but its many operational quirks turned me off to it.

Like many digital copiers, at its heart this machine is essentially a digital scanner married to a laser printer. What first attracted me to it was the automatic two-sided document copying, printing and scanning. The next intriguing feature was the advertised network capability, but that turned out to be rather limited. Yes, the unit can function as a network printer, but not wirelessly.

One big disappointment was learning that the scanning functions specifically would not operate over the network. The scanner works only in conjunction with the one computer that it is tethered to via USB. The scanner will scan both black and white and color documents, but that feature is limited without an automatic detection capability for color pages. You have to tell the scanner in advance whether you want to scan in all color or all black and white. Auto color detection is an important feature for recognizing highlighted or colored pen markings on discovery documents, for example. Yes, you can scan everything in color, but that leads to unwieldy file sizes compared to black and white scans.

The two-sided scanning feature has a quirk, also. It cannot be set to auto-detect for two-sided originals. You can only choose all one-sided, or all two-sided. Scanning always in two-sided mode can lead to many blank pages in your electronic document set. Good scanning software should have the ability to remove blank pages automatically, but the Canon software does not. When scanning for copying, defaulting to two-sided mode doesn’t matter as much, although it does put excessive wear and tear on the paper transport mechanism by feeding and “printing” a lot of blank backsides of pages.

I was also dismayed to learn that the D1120 has no copy counter of any kind, not for individual projects, nor for a lifetime total. To me that is an important feature of an office copier, especially one advertising on its box as “Heavy Duty”. An hour on the phone with Canon tech support revealed that this feature was only available on Canons’ next higher, more expensive line of ImageRUNNER copiers. Even the most inexpensive laser printer has the ability to tell you how many total pages have printed through it. Curiously, the D1120 does have the capability to set up to 99 individual user codes so limits can be imposed on the number of copies each user can run. So it is clear that the unit does know how to count. It is my opinion that Canon purposely omitted the counter feature so people would not hold them to task on over-specifying the number of copies you can get between toner replacements. So far it seems that the cartridges only last one-half to two-thirds of their rated life.

Another miss: this multifunction device cannot scan and copy simultaneously. If you need both hard copies and electronic copies, you must run your stack of papers through the document feeder twice! That is just dumb, because there is no technical reason that the scanned image data couldn’t be sent to both the copier for printing and out the USB port for saving to computer. Since virtually all of the copies made in our office are also saved electronically, this feature deficiency makes the Canon D1120 hopelessly inefficient.

What finally and completely knocked the Canon ImageCLASS D1120 out of contention as a useful office tool for me was the excessive non-printable area of the page margins. Many, many of the pages I tried to copy had the edges of the images cut off around the margins, with almost a quarter inch of unprintable area. The aggravating thing about this was that the scanned images looked just fine on the computer. This means that the scanner captures more area of the page image than the printer/copier is capable of reproducing. The only “fix” is to reduce all copies to 97 percent.

If you are currently shopping for a copier, my advice is to take a pass on the Canon ImageCLASS D1120.•
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Stephen Bour (bourtech@iquest.net) is an engineer and legal technology consultant in Indianapolis. His company, the Alliance for Litigation Support Inc., includes Bour Technical Services and Alliance Court Reporting. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.

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