So how was it in use? Well, to be honest it was a mixed bag. The 375 operates much faster than the PictureMate with photo prints taking roughly 55 seconds as opposed to just under two minutes. It is also quieter and switches on and warms up much faster than the PictureMate. There are also nice little touches such as the front flap which switches off the printer if closed, eliminating the chance of prints getting jammed or crumpled up on their way out.
The downside is that there is a noticeable drop off in print quality when compared to the PictureMate. Photos come out still looking wet (even though they aren’t) and against the light it is possible to see ridges of ink between different colours. In particular flesh tones are noticeably more fragmented and if you look closely enough you can see where they are broken down into separate oranges and pinks. Let me stress, the quality is not bad as such, it is perfectly useable and no doubt acceptable to the majority of users, it is just not up to the standard of the PictureMate or today’s full size photo printers.
Another area where the PictureMate scored highly was photo durability and here the 375 also cannot match it. Water spots smear the photos and it is possible to accidentally scratch them with your nails. They are no less durable than your average lab prints, but I would recommend buying photo paper with print tabs so you can handle them, whereas this is completely unnecessary with the PictureMate photos which are not only incredibly hard-wearing but also seem to be almost immune from water splashes and fingerprints. Ultimately, though both manufacturers have produced miniature models where the same old Epson quality verses hp speed issue remains.
Bearing in mind that this conflict has kept the two manufacturers pretty much neck and neck in the market place over the last decade one final factor must be taken into account: running cost. Here Epson has a slight edge. With a retail price of £28.99 but available for as little as £22 on some websites Epson offers a “PictureMate PicturePack” which contains a cartridge capable of printing 100 photos and 100 sheets of photo paper. By contrast, HP sells cartridges capable of producing up to 125 photos and separate photo paper in packs of 60. Obviously, this is less convenient and it costs around £29 for a cartridge and 60 sheets of photo paper. From my research, online retailers seemed less inclined to carry large discounts on these separate purchases than they did for buying the Epson PicturePack, though obviously that could change.
In conclusion, I have to say that the PictureMate is the better quality printer with its clearer branding, superior prints and simpler way of purchasing consumables. It is also considerably cheaper than the 375 at around £125 including VAT – that said, the Photosmart 375 is bringing a 2.5in colour screen and bundled Bluetooth adapter to the party, which justifies some of the cost. The tiny size of the 375 is also a major plus if you are going to be on the move, while the Photosmart series’ built in battery will no doubt be a hit with anyone that needs a mobile dark room.
hp has created a stylish and unbelievably portable photo printer but the picture quality is average compared to the Epson PictureMate. The price of the 375 may seem high, but you are getting a built-in battery, Bluetooth adapter and a colour screen for previewing, making the higher price less of an issue. But ultimately, if the quality of your photo prints is important to you, and it should be, then we would recommend going for the PictureMate.