Epson – PictureMate PM280 review

good quality portable inkjet photo printer
Photo of Epson – PictureMate PM280

The current drift in printer technology is towards enabling the maximum amount of digital images to be printed without the aid of a PC connection, especially with the portable models that are designed to be taken with you to parties, holidays and general social gatherings.

Epson’s PictureMate PM280 is a compact rectangular box with a convenient handle, weighing a solid 3.1kg and measuring 215 x 152 x 178mm. For some inexplicable reason there’s a window cut into the lid that is completely redundant, but under the lid is a bright 2.5-inch LCD screen with a maximum 70-degree angle for easy viewing.

It takes 10 x 15cm (4 x 6-inch) paper up to 280gsm in weight and the starter pack comes with a 4-colour printer cartridge (Black, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow) and 20 sheets of photo paper. Further packs can be bought with 50 or 150 sheets – they both come with a new printer cartridge – and costs work out to an attractive 20p per print.

Around the screen are controls for Display (single image or batches of thumbnails), the main menu, instant print and Save. The latter is the most interesting as it enables all your photos on a memory card to be copied to CD via the recorder built into the base of the unit. Images stored on DVD can also be printed off from the same source, but despite the fact that we’re living in a DVD recordable age, you can’t burn to DVDs.

A panel drops down at the front of the printer to act as the receive tray for finished prints and it also reveals memory card slots that will accommodate 11 different cards (including X-D Picture Card, CompactFlash and SD) immediately and a further seven with additional adaptors. Round the back is the USB port for PC connection (naturally there’s no USB lead supplied) and a separate USB port to attach to digital cameras with USB Direct-Print or PictBridge capability, and for an optional Bluetooth adaptor.

Print time is remarkably fast – about 50 seconds per print – and the quality, colour balance and sharpness of the images are considerably above average. If you use the supplied Epson Easy Photo Print software and print via the PC, you have a slower, more refined Quality setting which does give you noticeably increased detail and depth of colour, but the default Speed setting on the PictureMate still looks like it might be lab produced, with no evidence of horizontal banding.

If, however, you want to alter your images entirely without PC help, then the printer’s menu contains editing commands that will let you fix brightness, saturation and sharpness, allow cropping and remove red-eye, rotate, add frames and even bring in some colour effects (Sepia and Black and White). Obviously it’s not as thorough as specialist photo editing packages like Paint Shop Pro, but within its limited scope it works admirably.

Company: Epson

Contact: 08702 416900

As a portable printing solution for small snaps without using a PC, the PictureMate PM280 produces cost effective, good quality results with useful built-in editing tools. If you don't need the option to save to CD, though, go for the cheaper PM240 model.