SLIDESHOW

Top 5 Snapshot Printers

We bring you five of the best snapshot printers, in terms of versatility, ink-and-paper costs, and photo quality.

Top 5 Snapshot Printers

If you don't print much beyond photos, you might want to look at a dedicated snapshot printer. Compact snapshot printers produce cost-effective photos (usually 4 by 6 inches, though some offer other size options), and can print straight from your camera or memory card (as well as from a computer). They're a great deal if you plan on printing a lot of shots. But as you think about which model might be the best for you, consider this: Do you want top-quality photos, or cool features?

In this slideshow we've outlined our top five snapshot printers, starting with number five. To see them in action, check out Melissa Riofrio's "Snapshot Photo Printers for the Holiday Season" video.

#5: HP Photosmart A646 Compact Photo Printer

The HP Photosmart A646 Compact Photo Printer, $99 as of 12/11/09, is stocked with some pretty cool features. It accepts three paper sizes (most snapshot printers accept only one): 4 by 6 inches, 4 by 12 inches (panoramic), and 5 by 7 inches. It also features a 3.45-inch touchscreen LCD for photo enhancements (including borders, clip art, and filters) and menu navigation. The compact printer has two media slots for Memory Stick, SD Card, and XD-Picture Card, as well as a PictBridge port and built-in Bluetooth support. Though the printer is portable, it lacks an optional battery pack.

The Photosmart A646 is easy to use (with a built-in driver--no CD!), and it prints 4-by-6-inch photos in less than a minute. The image quality is good--colors are bright and well balanced (although flesh tones are orangey), and the images show a nice level of detail. The ink is a bit pricey: A 50-photo ink cartridge costs $24 (48 cents per print, without paper), but the 140-sheet paper-and-ink combo pack is better at $47 (32 cents per print, with paper).

#4: Canon Selphy CP790

The Canon Selphy CP790, $150 as of 12/11/09, is cleverly disguised as a green bucket. I'm not kidding--it actually is a bucket (well, the printer is the lid, and the bucket itself is for holding accessories and supplies). The Selphy CP790 features a 3-inch color LCD positioned above five control buttons. It also sports three media-card readers and a PictBridge port for printing pictures (as well as a PC connection). A USB cable, rechargeable battery pack ($80), and Bluetooth adapter ($50) are not included.

The Selphy CP790 prints postcard-size prints (and credit-card-size prints) in just about a minute, with good quality (though landscape shots were too yellow and lacked detail). The printer comes with a five-print starter kit (postcard-size); a 108-sheet replacement kit costs $35 (32 cents per print). A 36-print replacement pack is a bit pricier at $15 (41.6 cents per print).

#3: Epson PictureMate Charm

The Epson PictureMate Charm, $140 as of 12/11/09, is easy to work with and uses cheaper ink and paper than similarly priced models (such as the HP Photosmart A646). The Charm has a 20-sheet input tray for 4-by-6-inch prints; two media slots for Compact Flash, Memory Stick, SD Card, and XD-Picture Card; and a PictBridge option. Bluetooth is an extra $39. On the Charm you'll find a 2.5-inch color LCD with eight labeled buttons, and the Stop/Clear button takes care of all cancel/back functions.

The PictureMate Charm takes from 54 to 70 seconds to print a 4-by-6-inch photo, but the picture quality is great: Flesh tones appear normal, fast-motion and landscape shots look good, and lights and darks are balanced. The printer comes with a 20-image starter ink cartridge, and 150-photo ink-and-paper packs cost $38 (25 cents per photo).

#2: Epson PictureMate Zoom

The Epson PictureMate Zoom ($220 as of 12/11/09) is a bit on the heavy side (6.6 pounds), but it features an integrated CD burner for multimedia aficionados. The printer has two media-card slots for most major formats, a PictBridge/USB port in the rear, and a 3.6-inch, tiltable LCD with labeled buttons. The integrated CD burner is easy to use: Just pop a disc in and press the 'Save to CD' button to create a quick CD album of your photos. An extra battery costs $50.

The PictureMate Zoom averages 1.5 pages per minute, making it the fastest snapshot printer in our current rankings. The photo quality is generally good, although the palette is a bit pale, and images could be sharper. The printer comes with a 20-photo starter ink cartridge, and a 150-photo ink-and-paper pack costs just $40 (27 cents per print). A 100-photo matte ink-and-paper pack is $35 (35 cents per photo).

#1: Epson PictureMate Dash

The Epson PictureMate Dash ($153 as of 12/11/09) may be two years old, but it's still at the top of our list. Like Epson's other PictureMate printers, it has a convenient carrying handle, and the optional battery costs $50. The printer features two media slots (compatible with most major formats), a PictBridge-compatible USB port, a 3.6-inch tiltable LCD screen, and labeled buttons.

The PictureMate Dash prints photos at a speed of 1.5 pages per minute (very fast, like the PictureMate Zoom), with good output. Though the palette is universally pale (one of the only drawbacks), images show a lot of detail in dark areas. The pictures could be a tad sharper, as well. Bundled with the Dash is ArcSoft Photo Impression software for managing and manipulating photos. Ink and paper are cheap: A 150-photo ink-and-paper pack costs just $40, or 26 cents per photo.

Want to know more about photo printers? Check out:

* Shopping for a Photo Printer

* Photo Printers Buying Guide

* How to Buy a Printer