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The so-called ‘appliance’ photo printer, designed like a domestic toaster, is one of the fastest growing markets for manufacturers and Epson joined the fray early on. Its latest PictureMate printer, the 500, goes some way further than the competition by offering six-colour printing, where others offer three or four.
This convenient printer is around the size of a small ghetto blaster and comes with a handy carrying handle, though the rechargeable battery pack giving it full portability is an optional extra. If you can have a ‘traditional’ layout on a type of printer which has only been around for a couple of years, the PictureMate 500 follows it.
At the top is a 2.4-inch colour LCD screen, which can be pulled up to any convenient angle, with a small control panel of buttons just in front. These are used to work through the on-screen menus and to select images for printing. A second fold-down panel at the front reveals a set of memory card slots, so you can print directly from a card full of photo images.
A feed tray folds out from the back panel of the printer and the front panel folds down to catch the prints on exit. You can load up to 20 sheets of photo paper at a time. At the back are sockets for a PictBridge camera and a USB 2.0 connection to a PC.
The optional lithium-ion battery pack slides in under a hatch cover at the back of the printer and ensures you can print away from the mains. However, it’ll set you back around £50, so it’s not a trivial extra. There’s a carrying case as well, if you need to regularly take the printer from site to site.
Unlike most Epson inkjet printers, where the tanks of ink clip into a carrier on the back of the print head itself, the PictureMate 500 joins previous PictureMates in using a single-piece cartridge which runs the full width of the printer and slides into a slot at the back. Ink is pumped to the print head through flexible tubes and the cartridge contains six different colours, supplementing cyan, magenta, yellow and black with light cyan and light magenta.
With less complication than a general-purpose inkjet printer – only one print size and no need for complex paper options – the Windows print driver is comparatively simple. It does all that’s needed to be able to print images directly from your PC and uses a fuel-gauge style display to show ink usage.