Epson has had quite a bit of success with its dedicated, small-format photo printers. Its new range of PictureMate devices builds on the successful design of earlier models, right down to the odd, clear plastic windows in their lids. The PictureMate PM290 is the top of the new range and includes Bluetooth connectivity and a CD/DVD combo drive as standard.
About the same size as a child's lunchbox and coloured in silver and dark grey, the PictureMate PM290 has a serviceable, if slightly oversize design. Lift the lid and there's a good-sized, 91mm LCD display, which folds up to any convenient angle and displays thumbnails, menus and a number of different animated instruction videos.
Around 25 standard 10 x 15cm photo blanks load in a slot behind the LCD display and feed out to the fold-down front cover of the machine, which reveals twin memory card slots when you open it. These slots cater for most of the common card types, though mini-SD and Memory Stick Duo need adaptors, which are not supplied.
The control panel consists of a four-way arrow square with an OK button in the middle and a set of eight membrane buttons, which give the printer a degree of protection against spillages. At the back are sockets for the external mains block power supply, a USB connection for a PC or Mac and a PictBridge socket, while at the base of the left-hand side is a laptop-style CD-RW/DVD combo drive. This can be used for archiving photos from memory cards and loading photos for printing, from CD or DVD.
Hardware setup is easier than most, particularly if you intend to use the printer as a standalone device. There's a single photo cartridge which slots in at the back of the printer and provides all four ink colours, with a minimum of fiddling. It's good for 50 or 150 photos, depending on the consumables you buy. Just above the battery slot is a second one, for an optional lithium ion battery, so you can use the printer away from the mains.
Epson's standard suite of photo software is supplied with the PictureMate and the driver is geared to the particular needs of a small-format printer. For example, this machine can take 18 x 10cm panoramic photo blanks and stickers as well as the standard format photo paper.
The built-in Bluetooth wireless connection is easy enough to establish, using the menu system on the printer and typing in a pass code for each Bluetooth device you want to pair with it. This is a very easy way of producing hard copy from camera phones and suitably equipped cameras.