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?
#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.
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