Epson’s PictureMate Zoom (PM 290); A Handy, Portable 4x6 Inkjet Printer Page 2

The display can be raised to an optimum viewing angle. Once you're familiar with the buttons, which should take no time, you can cycle through the display options to show thumbnails or, better yet, the full-screen image (getting rid of the clutter) to get a clearer sense of the picture before printing. You can also crop by hitting the Zoom button and using the cursor keys to optimally position the image. But you can only crop in a pre-defined fashion and in pre-defined steps. After printing, the image returns to its original proportions.

Raise the color monitor to a comfy viewing level, play with the touchpad to make settings and start printing, then sit back and enjoy the ride. The two memory card slots are visible below the top panel.

While everything is fairly straightforward, the printer as a stand-alone device is not without a few options, revealed after hitting the Menu button. First and foremost, the Print Settings menu offers a seemingly endless array of layout choices, ranging from borderless to wallet, proof sheet, US passport, and CD index--all printing on 4x6. Many of these prints will have to be trimmed and in numerous layouts some cropping is involved--so select pictures carefully.

Also found under Print Settings is photo enhancement. You can choose to switch this feature off, but I found prints benefited from it, if subtly. For instance, when the Landscape Enhance option was selected, landscape shots printed more neutral (less blue). Night Scene gave the scene enhanced clarity. Print Settings apply globally to all prints selected for output at any one time.

Under the Menu/Edit function, there is the option of black and white and sepia printing, as well as redeye correction and rotation, brightness, saturation, and sharpness adjustments. Edit settings can be applied to one or all images. After printing, all Print and Edit functions default to factory settings: borderless, standard enhance, but without rotation or other adjustments applied, so keep that in mind when reprinting or selecting the next group of pictures for printing.

The only one of the Edit functions I found myself using regularly was rotation, which was necessary when printing from vertical shots.

Print times varied. One print from a TIFF file exceeding 70MB took as little as 42 seconds without enhancements (my time trials usually began when I activated printing). But I did clock a JPEG as printing at the rated 37 seconds (when timed from the moment the paper started feeding, as Epson recommends). In fact, I timed four vertical borderless prints (the one just mentioned included) at 3 minutes, 17 seconds total time--in Standard Enhance mode (file sizes starting at just over 30MB). On the other hand, and inexplicably (although tonal and detail complexity may have been a factor), some TIFF files took considerably longer--up to 5 minutes or more.

As a CD reader, this device can be a little slow with large TIFF files, but otherwise operates efficiently with JPEGs. It took a little over 5 minutes to write 15 large TIFF files to CD--not bad. The beauty of the CD writer is that you can save files from a memory card to a CD while on the road (AC operation recommended), freeing your memory card for the next leg of the journey.

The key print settings are layout and photo enhancement. The default settings are borderless and standard enhance, which can be used for the bulk of your printing with great satisfaction.

Final Output
In the end, I was thrilled with just about every feature built into this machine, but mostly by the output. Prints were dry to the touch and quality was very satisfying. Granted, the prints were just a tiny bit grainier than output from my Epson R260, but only when viewed under magnification. Contrast and color were otherwise very pleasing. I wasn't expecting 4x6 prints I'd hang in the Louvre; I wanted prints I could share with family and friends--and take on my travels, and in that respect the PictureMate is a winner. Which model should you get? Zoom adds CD capability if you need it, but at twice the price. Personally, I'm making a mad dash to my retailer to buy the Dash version so I can free up my desktop printers to do the job they were intended to do. It'll be nice to have a dedicated 4x6 printer that I can easily shuttle around.

Technical Specifications
PictureMate Zoom
Type: 4x6 advanced MicroPiezo inkjet printer (one 200-series four-color cartridge)
Maximum Resolution: 5760x1440dpi
Minimum Ink Droplet Size: 3 picoliters
Additional Features:
Memory card reader/writer; CD reader/writer; 3.6" adjustable tilt color LCD
Weight: 6.6 lbs
Storage/Closed: 9.1x6.5x9.9"
Printing/Open: 9.1x13.6x11.6"

For more information, contact Epson America, Inc., Pre-Sales Support, PO Box 93012, Long Beach, CA 90806; (800) 463-7766;,