You don’t need to install any software, of course, if you only want to print from a camera or memory card. If you want the extra flexibility of being able to manipulate your images before printing them, Epson provides a driver and its Creativity Suite, so you can work from a PC, too.
The Creativity Suite is a bit of a misnomer, as it offers little more than image selection and very basic editing, such as red-eye removal. It does enable useful image management, though, so you can keep your photo collection in order.
Epson claims a print speed of just 90 seconds for the PictureMate 100 and when printing from a PictBridge camera and a PC we got very close to this time. When we printed from an SD card, though, the same one that had been in the successful camera test, the printer took over three minutes to complete the print. It seemed to hesitate after each pass of the print head, as if data transfer from the card couldn’t keep up with the print speed. We tried printing the same images from a CompactFlash card and saw similar times.
Epson commented that the files it used in obtaining its quoted times were of a similar size to ours (around 1MB) and that it had repeatedly achieved a 91 second print time from the printer.
Print quality from the four-colour inks is very good. There’s little noticeable cast to the colours, which look natural and true to the originals. Our test print showed a smooth colour gradation in the sky and fine detail in foreground trees. Some detail was lost in shadowed areas. Against that, having the fourth black ink – Epson’s main rivals use three-ink cartridges – improves the density of darker colours.
Consumables for the PictureMate 100 come together in one pack, with a single ink cartridge and 135 sheets of 15 x 10cm glossy photo paper bundled in the box. The cheapest we could find this pack for was just under £22.50p. This gives a cost per print of under 17p, a very good price, when you compare it with similar print costs from HP or Lexmark. Both of these are hovering around the 20p per print mark.
Sitting between its Lexmark (cheaper) and HP (dearer) competitors, Epson’s PictureMate 100 is a well-designed, portable photo lab. The LCD display is a bit small and printing from memory cards is unaccountably slow, but we still think this is the best of the sub-£100, photo-only printers we’ve tested.