- Review Price: £298.00
This is not a normal printer. For a start, it uses dye sublimation to produce a print with no dots – not even under a magnifying glass. You operate it with a small, handheld controller and it rolls sheets of photo paper backwards and forwards under its print head four times for each print. It uses no ink and no toner, but you pay a constant price for each print, no matter how much of the paper is covered. Intrigued?
This printer is from the upper end of a range of products from the Taiwanese company Hi-Touch, which are now available in the UK. They vary in price and specification, such as the size of prints they can produce, the resolution they print at and whether they print from camera memory cards, a PC, or both.
The 730PS is coloured metallic blue and is much more upright than typical photo printer designs. A paper tray slots into the front of the device and paper eventually ejects from a slot just above, to rest on top of the tray’s lid.
Directly above the paper slot is a hinged cover, giving access to the film cartridge. This quite flimsy consumable is all the printer needs to print. It consists of a length of thin, clear-plastic film, coated with strips of dye in the three primary print colours, plus a clear coating.
The 730PS can handle several different sizes of print: 6 x 4, 7 x 5 and 8 x 6in, and you simply remove the film cartridge and paper and replace them with different consumables to swap between them. Hi-Touch helpfully provides resealable bags to keep the consumables in when they’re not in use.
To the right of the cartridge cover are two memory card slots, where you can plug in most of the common formats, except Fuji’s xD format. More importantly, there’s no support for direct connection of a PictBridge camera, which would definitely increase the versatility of the printer. This feature is available on the Hi-Touch 641PS, but that’s a lower resolution device.
The so-called Wizard Window, actually a tethered remote control for the printer, could be seen as a gimmick – the controls could as easily have been worked into the main body of its case. In fact, though, it’s much easier to use the colour LCD and simple controls for viewing thumbnails and controlling the printer’s menu system, with the remote in your hand.
The driver and application software are easy to install and the PhotoDesirée software is both well-designed and well-geared to the 730PS. It includes facilities to emboss the special clear coating which protects each print with a design to personalise it. By default, these designs include all the symbols of the Zodiac and Chinese year animals.
The 730PS takes in sheets of photo paper from a tray at the front and feeds them to a start position at the back. The paper is then fed through the machine to come into contact with the thin sheet of plastic, coated with solid, coloured dye. A full-width thermal print head heats the dye very fast, so it sublimes – turns to vapour – and transfers from the plastic sheet to the photo paper. The printer lays down all the yellow in the image, then backs the paper up and repeats with magenta and cyan, before overlaying with an invisible gloss coating to protect the print.
You might expect print times, because of the four-part process, to be long, but in fact the 730PS produced an 8 x 6in print in a respectable one minute 36 seconds. Working from a memory card took only a little while longer, completing in one minute 49 seconds.
Print quality in resolution terms is excellent, but we were disappointed with the colours, which came through with a brown, rather lacklustre hue. You can, of course, correct for this, but we’d expect a more accurate rendition at the default settings. The brownish tint applied to prints from both PC and memory cards.
Running costs are very easy to calculate, as you buy consumables in a pack of either 30 or 50, including paper and film cartridge, depending on size of print. For 8 x 6in prints, a 30 print pack costs £21, giving a cost per print of 71p. This doesn’t compare too well with a typical inkjet print, such as from the Lexmark P315, which is around 29p. Admittedly, this is for a smaller, 6 x 4in print, but if you double the cost, for double the area, you’re still looking at only 58p.
This is a novel approach to producing as close to true photographic print from a computer printer as is possible. It’s very easy to use and Hi-Touch claims the printer is popular with professional photographers. They must be able to get more natural colour reproduction than we achieved, though.
Score in detail
Print Speed 7
Print Quality 7