Epson PictureMate Show: Printer or Game-Changer?
At a Glance
The PictureMate Show is a snapshot printer and more: Epson has integrated a digital frame into its design. Getting two products in one makes the PictureMate Show's relatively high price--$300 as of January 15, 2010--more palatable.
Insert a memory card or key drive, or upload photos to the printer's 270MB of internal memory, and the PictureMate Show can display them on its 7-inch, WVGA (480-by-800-pixel), 15:9-aspect-ratio color LCD. A dozen slideshow formats let you incorporate a clock, a calendar, simple animation, and other effects.
You can also print, of course, and the PictureMate Show does a great job of that. In our tests, it printed color photos as fast as 1.4 pages per minute (ppm), with natural fleshtones, vivid landscapes, and attractive objects; black-and-white photos showed smooth grayscales. Its less-expensive cousin, the PictureMate Charm, is slower but produces equally outstanding photos. An infrared remote that comes with a CR2025 lithium button battery controls the printer and frame; menus appear on the LCD. The remote worked well from many angles but not from the cradle where it rests on top of the printer; Epson claims that it has a range of 16 feet, though we didn't test this. If you lose the remote, you can buy a replacement from Epson for $30.
The PictureMate Show is designed to work independently of any computer. But in standalone mode, it has a few quirks. The cropping tool requires a lot of tedious zooming and shifting. For layouts smaller than 4 by 6 inches, you can't choose photos at random; instead, you have to print a single photo, all photos taken within a certain date or month, or all photos on the media. For greater flexibility, you must install the printer on your PC or Mac and use Epson's bundled Easy Photo Print or another application.
Standard printer features include a rear 20-sheet input tray and front output tray. Two slots take CompactFlash, Memory Stick, SD Card, and XD-Picture Card media; there's a USB/PictBridge port, too, and Epson sells a Bluetooth adapter for $39. The unit comes with a carrying handle, but the PictureMate Show is not truly portable--it lacks a battery option. The single ink cartridge is a wide bar that slides in and out of a rear bay. Epson includes a starter-size, 20-print cartridge and 20 sheets of paper with the printer. A replacement pack containing a 150-print cartridge and 150 sheets of paper costs $38, which works out to about 25 cents per print--very economical compared to other snapshot printers we've tested.
I just wish that the PictureMate Show could print in photo-paper sizes other than 4 by 6 inches. HP sells some snapshot printers, such as the HP Photosmart A646, that can print on 5-by-7-inch and 4-by-12-inch photo paper, as well as on 4-by-6-inch sheets. That limitation aside, however, the PictureMate Show is a standout in its category, offering great performance and innovation.