Epson PictureMate Zoom PM 290 photo printer

The PictureMate Zoom PM 290 portable photo printer is Epson’s upgrade of its PictureMate Flash PM 280 (   ), which has been Macworld’ s Top Product in the portable photo printer category for almost a year. By following in the footsteps of its predecessor and offering excellent print quality, fast print speeds, a great user interface, and a valuable built-in CD burner, the PictureMate Zoom allows Epson to keep the throne. This handy device truly makes the experience of printing photos fun and easy, without compromising on quality.

The PictureMate lineup has changed a lot over the years in terms of appearance, quality, and speed. While the original PictureMate was shaped like a small, rounded boom box, the Zoom’s boxy form resembles a car battery. Most editors at Macworld I queried agreed that this new design is not as aesthetically pleasing as that of the older generations.

Despite the PictureMate Zoom’s somewhat bulky design, it’s very convenient. A large handle allows you to easily tote the printer around on trips. To set up the PictureMate Zoom, you plug it in, flip up its 3.6-inch LCD screen, install its single four-color ink cartridge, and load some photo paper. Insert your photo card, choose one or more photos to print, and voilà! Using the PictureMate Zoom’s straightforward control panel, you can apply edits to your photos, such as cropping, red-eye removal, color effects, and so forth.

The PictureMate Flash sold for $300 when it was released in 2006, and the cost per print was 25 cents. The PictureMate Zoom’s cost per print remains at 25 cents, but thankfully the printer is now a more affordable $200. With its built-in CD burner, the PictureMate Zoom packs a great value. You also have the option of purchasing a rechargeable battery for $50.

As in our previous batch of compact photo printer tests, the PictureMate Zoom beat its competitors in quality and speed. The PictureMate Zoom’s photos appeared crisp and clear, with accurate colors and excellent shadow detail. As for speed, the PictureMate Zoom printed a single photo in 42 seconds in my testing. By way of comparison, competing photo printers each took at least 1 minute and 20 seconds to do the same. The PictureMate Zoom is also slightly faster than the PictureMate Flash, which took 46 seconds to print a single photo.

I was extremely close to giving the PictureMate Zoom a perfect rating; it would have been the first printer to ever receive a five-mouse rating by Macworld. The main problem with the PictureMate Zoom’s predecessor, the PictureMate Flash, was its paper-jamming issues, which I did not encounter with the PictureMate Zoom. However, the Zoom, like its predecessor, is still limited to one paper size: 4 by 6 inches. Nonetheless, the Zoom is a superb and impressive device.

timed trials

4-by-6-inch photo 0:42
Five 4-by-6-inch photos 3:09

Scale = Minutes:Seconds

jury tests

Color photo quality Very Good
Black-and-white photo quality Very Good

Scale is Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor.

How we tested: We printed all test files from a SanDisk Compact Flash card inserted in the printer. We recorded the time it took to print a 4-by-6-inch photo and the time it took to print five 4-by-6-inch photos. A panel of experts examined samples of the printer’s output to rate its print quality as Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, or Poor in comparison to the output of past compact photo printers we’ve tested.—Macworld Lab testing by Brian Chen

specifications

Number of inks 4 inks, 1 cartridge
Cost per 4-by-6-inch print 25 cents (Glossy Print Pack costs $38 and yields 150 prints)
Memory cards CompactFlash (Type I and II), Secure Digital, SDHC, MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, Microdrive, xD-Picture Card
Connections USB 2.0, Bluetooth (optional)
Printer resolution 5,760 x 1,440 dpi
Special features Handle, built-in CD burner, optional battery

Macworld’s buying advice

The PictureMate Zoom PM 290’s improvements over its predecessor are subtle but significant. Faster, more affordable, and problem-free, the Zoom is the best portable photo printer you can currently buy, if you don’t mind its print-size limitation.

[ Brian Chen is an assistant editor at Macworld.]

Epson PictureMate Zoom PM 290

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