Epson PictureMate

With its compact design and handle, the Epson PictureMate looks like a portable CD player or a lunch box. But it’s actually a $199 photo printer that uses six pigment-based inks to print on 4-by-6-inch glossy photo paper—with or without the assistance of your Mac.

Slots o’ Fun

The PictureMate can accommodate all major types of flash memory—for example, CompactFlash Types 1 and 2, Memory Stick, Secure Digital, and others. In OS X 10.3.3, the cards mount on your Mac’s desktop without the need of software. The printer has a USB port for cameras that support PictBridge and USB direct connections. And you can hook up flash, Zip, and CD-RW drives to the USB port to save photos to an external device.

Price of Prints

Epson sells a $29 box that includes 100 sheets of 4-by-6 photo paper and one cartridge that contains enough of each ink color to print 100 photos. The price per print comes to 29 cents.

Once printed, the photos should last longer than you will. The prints are both smudge-resistant and waterproof, and independent longevity tests show that the PictureMate’s prints should last 200 years in a photo album and as many as 100 years behind glass in a frame.

Easy Proofs

Contact sheets are easy to produce. Plug in a camera or a memory card, and use the PictureMate’s wizard to print a proof sheet containing numbered thumbnails of each picture. Then you select your photos and print them. Options include bordered, borderless, wallet-size, black-and-white, and sepia-tone prints. You can also select one of 18 ways to crop your pictures. Each photo takes a little more than two minutes to print without the help of a Mac.

Picture Quality

I printed images from several cameras and found that their overall quality was very good, though they were a little heavy on the magenta—especially in skin tones. There were also very faint lines visible in the prints that were taken directly from the card. They disappeared when I used the enhanced-detail mode, which is available only when you print from a Mac, but this took about twice as long (5 minutes, compared with 2.5 minutes).

Macworld’s Buying Advice

The Epson PictureMate is a great printer for people who want to immediately print good-looking photographs from their digital cameras.

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