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There's more and more interest in the ‘photo lab’ style of printer for digital photographs. These mini ink-jet printers are designed specifically for photo printing and offer little, if anything, in the way of plain paper print. Lexmark's P315 goes one step further by dispensing with the PC altogether. You can print from a variety of memory cards or from any camera that supports the PictBridge standard, but you can't print from a desktop, notebook or PDA.
This solid-looking, squat little machine – shorter but with about the same footprint as a domestic toaster – sits on a flat, rubber base. There’s a retractable handle on top, so you can transport it easily.
Print blanks of up to 15 x 10cm (6 x 4 inch) are loaded in a near-vertical feed tray at the rear and are ejected at the front of the printer. Memory card slots, for all the main formats including IBM's MicroDrive and Fujifilm’s xD card, sit under this output slot, alongside a PictBridge connector, compatible with most modern digital cameras.
The control panel on top is comprised of a four way jog-dial with three buttons above and four below. The jog dial negotiates Lexmark's sensibly-designed menu structure, with select and stop buttons to accept and reject menu options. There's a one-stop button to rotate images and a green Start button to begin a print job.
To the left of the control panel is a 65mm colour LCD panel, which shows thumbnails of the images on a memory card or in a camera and also displays menu options. To the right is a hinged cover providing access to the three-colour Lexmark ink cartridge.
Running the P315 couldn't be much simpler. You plug in a cartridge, load up to 25 sheets of photo paper at a time, select the images you want to print and press Start. As there's no PC connection there's no software to install.
A nice touch are the three sample photos built into the firmware of the printer and you can slideshow these on the LCD display. However, whenever we tried to print the samples, the printer refused, saying the option was unavailable. A print preview of the samples also appeared to be corrupt, though it was fine for regular images.
You can print a sheet of thumbnails from a memory card as an index to help select pictures to print. You can’t adjust the size or number of thumbnails to the page though – the default 16 images is the only option.