Canon has long found itself in a tough position: building a printer and MFP business as a company that positioned itself in the office channels with copier technology.
The Lake Success, N.Y.-based company first began efforts to tackle the situation a few years ago, when it began delivering printers and MFPs and then added a software customization platform -- Multifunctional Embedded Application Platform (MEAP.) A key hurdle for the company was its technology, which tended to focus on higher-end solutions, while it missed out on a wider swath of SMB opportunities.
One step toward correcting that is Canon's delivery of the ImageClass 9170c -- a multifunction printer that combines nice functionality and performance with a price-point that could easily target workgroups or businesses that are consolidating multiple devices throughout an enterprise. The 9170c is an enterprise device, but maintains the ease-of-use that's required for smaller groups that can't afford a lot of hands-on help.
Our verdict: The 9170c is a fine device for small businesses or workgroups, especially those without dedicated IT resources. Some of its functions (like scanning documents to PDF to memory stick) may be more than what most businesses call for, but with street prices in the $2,000 range, that's fine.
Here's what we found when trying out the ImageClass 9170c:
The printer is not a speed demon, but it's workmanlike. Its time to first print on a cold start is 27 seconds. In a minute, it printed 17 pages (Canon says the device can reach as much as 22 pages per minute) and it printed a 50-page document in 3:11. Monochrome prints were clear.
When printing color, we found colors appeared a little flat -- but largely accurate. Color printing reached about the same speed as monochrome, as well, which was nice.
Set-up was straightforward and simple: Each of four toner cartridges needed a gentle shaking prior to startup, but slid in and out of the console with relative ease. The box is very network-friendly. Finding and displaying the IP address on the 3.5-inch LCD display during the wizard-based setup was a piece of cake. The browser-based administration console isn't as robust as those from other vendors we've seen, but it hits the basics. (We'd like to see vendors make drivers available for download straight from these consoles, but Canon, like most others, isn't there yet.)
The on-board devices we tested all worked fine. The 9170c provides two USB ports to which users can send document scans, in addition to flash card readers.
Canon says the toner provides for up to 6,000 pages per cartridge with a monthly duty cycle of 65,000 pages. Scans to PDF format could have been a little crisper, we believe, but otherwise scanning is quick, snappy and easy, with the LCD management screen providing a simple walk-through. Scans to .TIFF and .JPG formats were clear and fast.
The bottom line: This is a tough, competitive space with a lot of aggressive companies vying for an increasingly price-and-cost-aware market. Canon starts at a little bit of a disadvantage in trying to advance into the IT space from its facilities/copier legacy, even though it's been working hard at it for several years. However, the 9170c could give VARs a nice option to consider, and it's a device that works well enough to recommend.