At a Glance
Delivered great print quality and was fun to operate, but it prints on only one size of paper and can't run on batteries.
The $199 PictureMate's design suggests portability and recreation: It has a handle and looks like a small silver-and-black boombox. The PictureMate doesn't run on batteries, though you can buy an optional car adapter for $50. It prints only on 4-by-6-inch paper, but you can have it make two wallet-size prints on one sheet.
Nonetheless, we found the PictureMate a pleasure to use. It has a USB 1.1 port, which can support a camera, an external CD writer, or a Bluetooth module ($69), as well as slots for most common memory cards. Navigating on-board menus with the four-way toggle button was easy. The menus let you print a proof sheet, pick images by number (the LCD doesn't display images), and print multiple pictures on the same sheet. But the LCD isn't backlit and suffers from distracting reflections, which can complicate reading the menus. You can convert prints to black-and-white or sepia-tone, and you can apply various cropping templates. The Save Photo button lets you write images from your memory card to a disc loaded in an external CD burner.
Most dedicated snapshot printers use dye-sublimation technology, but the PictureMate is an inkjet, with a six-ink cartridge that includes Epson's new red and blue inks. The flat, wide cartridge slides into the back of the printer. Epson provides a 20-sheet pack of paper and an ink cartridge with the printer; 100-sheet replacement packs include ink and cost $29, or 29 cents per print.
The PictureMate took 2 minutes and 22 seconds to print a photo from a PC--noticeably longer than either of the other snapshot printers we have tested. But the output was worth waiting for: Colors in the photo looked bright and luminous, detail popped out in sharp focus, and highlights and shadows looked natural.
The PictureMate is a good fit if you want affordable, top-quality snapshots without fiddling with your camera.