This revamped personal photo lab retains its predecessor's lunchbox shape with a convenient carrying handle, a 104-year-rated lifespan for its output (according to Wilhelm Imaging), and 29-cents-per-print economy. Epson sells its PictureMate Print Packs with enough paper and ink for 100 photos for $29.
Setup is easy. Just fold back the handle, plug in the AC power adapter, and flip down the front output tray and the rear 20-sheet paper input tray; the two trays expand the 10-by-6-by-6.4-inch printer by a total of 6 inches front and rear. It takes no more than five minutes to install the printer drivers--Mac or PC--if you want to connect the device to a personal computer.
You won't even need your computer for most printing tasks. The PictureMate Deluxe recognizes JPEG and uncompressed TIFF files automatically when you link a PictBridge- or USB Direct Print-compatible digital camera, or slip any of a variety of memory cards (xD, SD/MMC, CompactFlash Type I or II, Memory Stick, or SmartMedia--remember those?) into one of the printer's slots. It can also accept photos from Bluetooth-enabled PDAs, cell phones, or computers via the optional $69 Bluetooth Photo Print adapter.
A scrolling menu offers the option of printing all the photos, individually selected shots, a range of photos, or pictures by date. You can also view a slide show or add terminally cute Walt Disney borders to your pictures. A layout menu offers the option of printing with or without borders, printing two-up on one sheet, outputting wallet- or miniwallet-size prints or proof sheets with tiny thumbnails.
You can also crop photos down to one-third of their original size but using only the default 4:6 aspect ratio; the crop borders aren't individually adjustable. You can, however, use the cursor keys to move the crop window anywhere in the frame. Other corrections include automatic or manual adjustment of sharpness, brightness, and saturation. The logically laid-out buttons make selections fast and easy. In addition to a top-mounted cursor array with center OK button, there are Print and Cancel keys, menu and Back buttons, a set of plus and minus keys for zooming in or out, and a power switch. When printing from your computer, the driver offers the same basic controls, plus maintenance tasks such as nozzle cleaning and head alignment.
Epson has speeded up printing a bit, but the PictureMate Deluxe still takes about 75 seconds to output a 4x6-inch print directly and 96 seconds via a PC. The printer's 2.5-picoliter ink droplets produced sharp, colorful prints with smooth gradients and only faint horizontal banding. Some of our prints initially had a distinct blue cast, but the problem turned out to be partially clogged yellow printer nozzles; a quick cleaning fixed the problem right up.
Epson's one-year warranty includes the Epson Exchange, which provides for quick replacement of a defective printer. Automated technical support is available around the clock through a toll-free number, but human beings are available through e-mail or toll calls Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. PT and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. PT on Saturdays. There are plentiful downloads, FAQs, and troubleshooting tips.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Minutes per photo|