Epson's new PictureMate 500 rectifies the two main deficiencies we noted in the review of its predecessor, the PictureMate, in issue 19: a colour preview monitor and battery support. The new model's flip-up 2.4-inch QVGA colour LCD screen lets users view image files before printing them. You can also zoom in on a displayed photo and print a selected area without cropping the original image. . . [more]
Epson's new PictureMate 500 rectifies the two main deficiencies we noted in the review of its predecessor, the PictureMate, in issue 19: a colour preview monitor; and battery support. The new model's flip-up 2.4-inch QVGA colour LCD screen lets users view image files before printing them. You can also zoom in on a displayed photo and print a selected area without cropping the original image.
A rechargeable lithium-ion battery is now available as an option, allowing use of the PictureMate 500 without the supplied AC adaptor. However, if you want to connect the PictureMate 500 to a digital camera or computer you must supply your own USB cable.
The new model is as compact and portable as the original PictureMate, and uses the same printing technology and long-lasting media. However, it's somewhat faster. In our tests, a 1.5MB image file was printed from a memory card in just under a minute and a half, while a set of three similarly-sized files took four minutes and 29 seconds. A few seconds are taken up by paper loading between each print.
The built-in display has enabled Espon to give the control panel a more comprehensive menu system, which provides step-by-step instructions that make printing a photo easy. Users can select from seven printing options: print all, print selected images, print a sequence of images, print a 20-shot index of photos stored in memory (camera or card), print photos selected by date, add a frame, and print a set of images selected with the DPOF function in a digital camera.
When printing from a PC, the driver allows you to choose between borderless and bordered prints, auto correct print colours, or convert the print to sepia or B&W. You can also enhance print quality by checking the Digital Camera Correction or Enhance Fine Details box. The former smoothed out the 'jaggies' and reduced the noise in low-resolution images, while the latter extended the overall printing time to three minutes and 48 seconds, but noticeably improved fine detail.
Some of the driver functions are also provided via the printer's menu button, including a Colour Effect setting for choosing between colour, B&W and sepia prints, and the Auto Correct mode, which lets users select Epson's P.I.M. (Print Image Matching) or the ExifPrint function, or apply Epson's PhotoEnhance adjustments. These three image-optimisation systems use the printer driver to achieve a better match between the original image colours and the printed output.
The PictureMate 500 offers the same choice between bordered and borderless prints as its predecessor and users can also print two copies of an image on a single sheet (with or without borders) or select a four-shot Photo ID. The latter is handy when printing images from low-resolution mobile phone cameras. For this facility, an optional Bluetooth adapter allows direct transfer of images from the phone to the PictureMate 500.
Prints from the PictureMate 500 are quick-drying and water, smudge and fingerprint resistant. Tests conducted by the independent Wilhelm Imaging Research have shown they can resist fading for more than 100 years, which is two to four times longer than the leading brands of photo lab prints and between four and 20 times longer than prints from other dedicated 10 x 15cm snapshot printers. Quality-wise they are as good as prints from film or the best dye-sublimation prints, but with more natural-looking colour saturation. An accurate loading system minimises wastage so, with the 100-sheet ink-and-paper Epson PicturePack priced at $43.95, each 10 x 15cm print costs about 45 cents.
Like its predecessor, the PictureMate 500 has card slots that support all major memory card formats (some via adaptors). Users can also print photos from PictBridge and USB Direct Print-enabled cameras via the USB cable supplied with the camera, or connect the PictureMate 500 to a Windows or Mac PC.
While the low per-print cost and high print durability allowed the first PictureMate to create a revolution in photo printing, the latest model adds a new level of convenience for users through its viewing screen and optional lithium-ion battery, along with some smart adjustments that can improve print quality. In the PictureMate 500, Epson has delivered a truly portable snapshot printer that anyone can use, whatever their background or capabilities. Its water and smudge-proof prints will stay brilliant for years longer than any other digital printing option. Highly recommended! 
Maximum resolution: Up to 5760 x 1440dpi optimised dpi on suitable media using RPM (Resolution Performance Management)
Interfaces: USB 2.0 (PC and Mac) plus CF, SM, MS (incl. MS Pro), SD/MMC, xD. MS Duo and MiniSD via adaptors. PictBridge, USB Direct Print. Bluetooth adaptor option.
Printable file formats: JPEG and uncompressed TIFF (up to 4600 x 4600 pixels)
Paper size: 10 x 15 cm only
Media: T557090 PicturePack (contains T55709G 6-ink cartridge plus 100 sheets PictureMate Photo paper)
Print speed: 77 seconds/print
Dimensions (w x h x d): 256 x 167 x 305 mm (in printing mode)
Weight: 2.8 kg (without battery and photo cartridge)
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