This printer is remarkably consistent, producing standard photo prints in around 45 seconds, whatever the source. It’s quickest when working from an SD memory card and slowest from its PictBridge socket, but even then, it’s not far off the 37 seconds claimed by Epson. This is noticeably quicker than, for example, the recently tested HP Photosmart A826, which took over a minute for nearly every print.
One of the main advantages of the Epson printer is its built-in CD-RW drive, which can be used very conveniently to archive photos from a memory card. We backed up 48, 4 megapixel photos from an SD card to a CD-R disc in just 1 minute 13 seconds, making it a very efficient way to offload images.
The prints that come out of this PictureMake are good quality, with smooth gradations of tone and plenty of detail in darker, as well as fully-illuminated, areas. Most dedicated photo printers use just three inks, combining all of them to produce black. Epson includes a dedicated black ink in its cartridge, which makes darker colours more solid and less susceptible to casts.
Prints are touch-dry when they arrive on the printer’s output tray and you can safely leave the machine printing a batch of photos, without worrying about any print-through on the backs of overlaying prints.
Epson claims running costs of 20p a print, when you’re using its PicturePack consumables. These are available in two capacities, each containing an ink cartridge and enough paper for either 50 or 150 prints. Using the 150 print pack, which gives better economy, we found it at a price which gives a cost per print of 14.7p, considerably less than claimed and a very reasonable cost, compared with the competition.
Epson’s PictureMate PM290 is a neat and effective small-format photo printer. With its built-in CD rewriter and Bluetooth capabilities, it can handle most needs of any enthusiastic photo taker. Improvements could be made, such as bundling in the battery which makes this machine fully portable and redesigning the printer so both paper and power supply are carried internally. Even so, it stands up well against its competition and running costs remain low.