Compact. Connects via USB, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi Direct. Port for USB thumb drive. Above-par graphics.
Limited paper capacity.
- Bottom Line
Geared toward micro and home office users, the Canon Color imageClass LBP612Cdw is a moderately priced powerhouse laser, with a good feature set, solid output quality, and respectable speed.
A moderately priced color laser printer is a good addition to a micro or home office, and the Canon Color imageClass LBP612Cdw ($279) is one of the best we have seen in recent years. It offers a good mix of features and print quality, particularly for graphics. Although the LBP612Cdw is not going to set any speed records, it comes very close to its rated speeds for both simplex and duplex printing. It's about as evenly matched to the HP Color LaserJet Pro M252dw, our Editors' Choice color laser for micro or home offices, in price, features, and performance as you can get. One feature seen in the HP M252 that the LBP612Cdw lacks is NFC touch-to-print. The HP holds on to its Editors' Choice, but by a hair.
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A Versatile, Value-Priced Phenom
Light gray with a nearly black top, the LBP612Cdw measures a reasonably compact 10.8 by 17 by 16.5 inches (HWD)—small enough to fit on most desks—and weighs 34.1 lbs. It is slightly higher in back than in the front, giving it a swept-back appearance, which is enhanced by the look of its front panel, to the right of the output tray, with its five-line monochrome LCD tilted upward for easy viewing. The panel includes an alphanumeric keypad—which can be used for setup and to enter PINs for password-protected printing—along with a four-way rocker switch and standard function buttons. On the other side of the output tray, out of sight beneath a small door, is a port for a USB flash drive. From it, you can print files in JPEG, PDF, and TIFF formats from a thumb drive.
It has a standard paper capacity of 151 sheets, between a 150-sheet main tray and a single-sheet multi-purpose feeder, and it has an automatic duplexer for printing on both sides of a sheet of paper. That paper capacity is relatively low, but not surprising considering the budget price.
The LBP612Cdw can connect to a computer via USB or to a LAN by Ethernet or Wi-Fi. It also supports direct printing over a peer-to-peer connection with a compatible device via Wi-Fi Direct. Supported mobile printing applications and protocols include Canon Print Business, Mopria Print Service, Apple AirPrint, and Google Cloud Print. One connectivity mode that it lacks, which the HP M252dw has, is Near Field Communication (NFC) touch-to-print capability. I tested the LBP612Cdw over an Ethernet connection with its driver installed on a computer running Windows 10 Professional.
Duplex by Default
Our standard procedure for testing business printing speed is to use the printer's default settings. Canon makes duplexing (double-sided printing) the default on most of its recent printers. In its default duplex mode, I timed the LBP612Cdw on the text-only part of our business applications suite at 9.7 pages per minute (ppm). Running the same tests in simplex mode, I timed it at 17.8ppm. Both speeds are reasonably close to the printer's rated speeds of 11ppm for duplex and 19ppm for simplex printing, both black-and-white and color. Rated speeds are based on printing text documents without graphics or photos.
The rest of our business applications suite combines text pages, graphics pages, and pages with mixed content. For the full suite, the printer averaged 8ppm in duplex and 10.8ppm in simplex. The duplex number is very good, as the LBP612Cdw lost little time in the more graphics-intensive part of the test.
We can't directly test the LBP612Cdw's printing speed against the HP M252dw, as the latter was tested using our old test protocol. As a point of comparison, though, the M252dw has a 19ppm rated speed, the same as the Canon. (Although the M252dw has an auto-duplexer, HP doesn't give a separate figure for two-sided printing.)
Output quality counts as a plus, with above-par graphics, and average text and graphics. Fortunately, average text quality for a laser is still very good, and the LBP612Cdw should be fine for any business printing short of demanding desktop publishing applications and other uses requiring tiny type.
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With graphics, the colors are well-saturated, and the printer does a good job in maintaining ink density in solid backgrounds. It didn't do as well as many printers in rendering a blue colored line against a black background on one illustration in our testing. Graphics quality is good enough for PowerPoint handouts, including ones meant to try to impress an important client.
Photos are of average quality for a color laser. Colors are bright, sometimes to the point of punchiness, which some people prefer but is not to everyone's taste.
Running costs, based on Canon's prices and yields for its most economical toner cartridges, are 3.2 cents per black page and 16.3 cents per color page. Both figures are identical to the HP M252dw's costs per monochrome and color pages. They are also considerably less—particularly the color figure—than the Canon Color imageClass LBP7110Cw, which the LBP612Cdw is replacing in Canon's line-up. That printer's cost per black page is 3.6 cents and cost per color page is 20.6 cents, a whopping figure for a color laser.
If there were an award for the printer that's most improved over the model it is replacing, the LBP612Cdw would be a shoo-in. When we tested the LBP7110Cw in 2014, we gave it a two-star rating, somewhere between "meh" and "dismal." The LBP612Cdw adds an auto-duplexer, Wi-Fi Direct, the one-sheet feeder, and the port for a USB thumb drive. Its rated speed is also higher than the LBP7110Cw's 14ppm (simplex) rated speed, and its output quality is better.
The Canon Color imageClass LBP612Cdw has similar output quality, and the same running costs and rated speed, as the HP M252dw. One feature found in that Editors' Choice model that the LBP612Cdw lacks is NFC touch-to-print connectivity. If you use that peer-to-peer connection mode, the M252dw is the obvious pick, and it retains its Editors' Choice, but just barely.
As Analyst for printers, scanners, and projectors, Tony Hoffman tests and reviews these products and provides news coverage for these categories. Tony has worked at PC Magazine since 2004, first as a Staff Editor, then as Reviews Editor, and more recently as Managing Editor for the printers, scanners, and projectors team. In addition to editing, Tony has written articles on digital photography and reviews of digital cameras, PCs, and iPhone apps Prior to joining the PCMag team, Tony worked for 17 years in magazine and journal… More »
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