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9/10

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Photo printers, or as Epson chooses to call them, portable photo labs, are popular accessory for the home-based digital photographer. Epson's new pair of printers, the PictureMate 240 and PictureMate 280 are similar machines, but the more expensive 280 model includes a CD-RW drive, so you can back up your photos from camera or memory card.

Looking like a small cool-box, or perhaps an isotope container, and coloured a silver-grey, the PictureMate 280 has modern, functional styling. The lid, which inexplicably has a small, clear window in it, lifts to become the support for up to 20 sheets of 15 x 10cm photo paper. This loads at the back of the top panel and feeds out to the front, where the drawbridge-like front cover becomes the paper output tray.

With the drawbridge down, you can see two memory card slots, which between them cater for all the main card types, though you’ll need adapters for Mini SD and several of the MemoryStick variants. There’s no PictBridge socket alongside these card slots; for that you have to go to the back of the printer, where it sits next to the USB 2.0 socket. The Pictbridge socket can also take memory drives for direct print.



At the base of the printer, on the right-hand side, is a slot loading CD-RW drive, which can be used with both CD-ROMs, for reading image files into the device, and CD-R/RW discs, for offloading and backing up files from cameras or cards.

The control panel on top includes six big buttons, for major functions like power, saving to CD-RW and starting and cancelling print jobs, and the usual four-way button ring for menu navigation, with an OK button in the middle. Finally, there are two function buttons, which work with changing legends on the display.

You can use the PictureMate 280 straight out of the box, without the need to connect to a PC and there are options for Bluetooth and battery power for extra portability. Mains power is provided by a black brick, so you need to carry this and photo blanks around with you, as well as the printer.

PC software installation is straightforward and Epson provides its Creativity Suite and a couple of minor utilities. It’s all pretty simple stuff so you’ll need a separate photo editor to make any serious changes to your images.

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