capsule review

Epson PictureMate Zoom Snapshot Photo Printer

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder PictureMate Zoom

    PCWorld Rating

The Epson PictureMate Zoom snapshot photo printer closely resembles its lower-cost cousin, the Epson PictureMate Dash, but it adds a notable feature: an integrated CD burner. This distinctive feature causes the price to balloon, but when you consider the printer's speed and other attributes, the PictureMate Zoom is a tempting upgrade from other snapshot printers we've tested.

The PictureMate Zoom's design is boxy and efficient. The top lid flips up to reveal the 3.6-inch, tiltable LCD and control panel; it also functions as the input tray. A gentle push opens the front panel (also the output tray) and reveals two media-card slots for most major formats. The PictBridge/USB port in the rear allows printing from a digital camera. The 6.6-pound printer has a handle, but if you plan to tote it to places without power, you should note that the optional battery costs a hefty $50.

Although the even higher-priced HP Photosmart A826 takes the control-panel prize with its large, intuitive, touch-screen display, the PictureMate Zoom's more traditional design is still quite good. Buttons either have plain-English labels or (like the four navigation buttons surrounding the OK button) are easy to understand. Menu items, settings, status messages, and other data appear on the LCD, along with the selected photo. That's a lot of stuff to cram into a small space; despite the many helpful on-screen prompts, determining which button to push is hard sometimes. Fun-to-use editing tools include those that change the palette to monochrome or sepia, or that add clip art or preset phrases.

Using the CD burner is easy: You insert a disc into the sturdy tray that pops out from the printer's side, select photos from your media, and then press the 'Save to CD' button on the control panel. You can choose to save all the photos on the card or print an index. Once you've burned the CD, of course, you can print photos from the disc as well.

In tests, both the color and monochrome photo-printing speeds of the PictureMate Zoom averaged 1.5 pages per minute (ppm), faster than any other snapshot printer currently in our rankings. The photos looked good generally. Sharp edges fell slightly short of crisp, and the printer's palette was a little pale. The latter effect helped bring out finer details--we felt like we could see every needle and leaf in a landscape, for instance--but it also made flesh tones look washed out.

The installer includes a full copy of ArcSoft PhotoImpression for photo organizing and editing, as well as ArcSoft Print Creations, an umbrella application for downloadable templates to which you can add photos; a calendar template is included. The documentation is excellent: The printed guide covers installation and features, and the on-screen guide is exhaustively detailed.

The candy-bar-shaped, tricolor ink cartridge inserts easily into a rear bay. A starter cartridge prints approximately 20 photos. Replacement costs vary: A pack with ink and paper for 150 4-by-6-inch glossy photos costs $40, or a reasonable 27 cents per print. A $35 pack of 100 4-by-6-inch matte photos plus ink is significantly pricier, at 35 cents per photo.

The PictureMate Zoom offers more--and costs more--than your average snapshot photo printer. But saving photos straight to CD media could be a worthwhile upgrade, especially for users who take scads of snaps.

--Melissa Riofrio

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    An integrated CD burner makes this printer pricey, but it simplifies mass-quantity photo backups.


    • Very fast; has built-in CD burner


    • Expensive; flesh tones a little pale
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