capsule review

Epson PictureMate Snap PM240

At a Glance
  • Epson PictureMate 240

    PCWorld Rating

    Well designed and easy to use, but narrow banding mars otherwise decent prints.

With a 2.5-inch color screen and excellent in-printer photo editing, the $200 (as of 11/3/2006) PictureMate Snap PM240 is one of three new models in a newly revamped portable snapshot printer line from Epson. It joins the more-basic PictureMate Pal PM200 ($150) and the PictureMate Flash PM280 ($300), which has a built-in CD burner. All three models have a boxier design than the original PictureMate, with a flattened top.

A newly designed flip-open top offers better protection for the control panel. When open, it forms the paper tray and reveals the flip-up 2.5-inch color LCD. The fold-down front panel acts as the output tray and covers two media slots, which accept all the major memory card formats.

Four directional buttons with an OK button in the center make navigating the menus simple, while two smaller buttons offer access to functions tailored to what you're viewing. Using these clearly labeled buttons, you can edit your photos; in addition to fixing the color balance, removing red-eye, and cropping your images, the Snap PM240 can apply a wide variety of fun effects, such as Disney-themed borders.

You can use the Snap PM240's PictBridge compatibility to print directly from your digital camera, print images stored on a USB flash drive, and archive images from your memory cards. You can also hook up a USB-hosted CD burner or Zip drive. An optional $39 Bluetooth adapter connects to the same USB port for printing wirelessly from Bluetooth-enabled camera phones and PDAs. The Snap becomes truly portable with the optional $50 rechargeable battery pack, which slides neatly inside the printer. Epson says the Snap can print up to 140 photos on battery power, or remain on standby for 6 hours.

The Snap prints only 4-by-6-inch snapshots and comes with enough ink and paper for 20 starter prints. Epson guarantees that the four-color (including black) cartridges in its dye-based ink-and-paper bundles will last for all 150 sheets of glossy paper in its most economical bundle, giving an estimated cost per print of just over 25 cents--a cost that's competitive with the prices of online photo processors when you factor in their shipping costs. You can also buy a pack containing 100 sheets of matte paper for $35.

In two informal moisture tests, we looked for defects after sprinkling water on week-old (and therefore dry) snapshot prints. Then we dunked them in water for 30 seconds and wiped them dry. The Snap's prints didn't show any obvious ill effects after either test.

A recently completed study by Wilhelm Imaging Research, an independent laboratory that tests photo print longevity, estimates the life of the Snap's prints to be 96 years when displayed under glass--surprisingly long for prints from a snapshot printer.

We conducted our speed tests using images stored on an SD Card. The Snap printed quickly, going at 1.0 pages per minute for black-and-white prints (matching the speed of the Canon Pixma Mini260) and at 1.1 ppm for color prints (the fastest speed we measured). Unfortunately, our judges weren't impressed with the results. At a distance, color prints looked attractive, with accurate colors and smooth tones; close up, however, we could clearly see narrow banding across the whole of the print. Our black-and-white sample suffered from a greenish tint, some graininess in graduated tones, and the same narrow banding.

The Snap comes with Arcsoft PhotoImpression 5 software, which lets you organize and edit your photos in addition to printing them from your PC. Epson's colorful documentation includes a Start Here poster and an illustrated Basics booklet that gets you set up and printing quickly.

Paul Jasper

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Well designed and easy to use, but narrow banding mars otherwise decent prints.

    Pros

    • Good value prints
    • Extensive in-printer editing

    Cons

    • Narrow banding on prints
    • Inconsistent quality
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