Epson first came out with the PictureMate a year ago (see Sept 04 issue for full review). We praised its dinky dimensions, sturdy carry handle and creditable ease of use.

This updated version offers more of the same but with extra functions on the 2.4in LCD screen, which has itself had a makeover and is now full colour rather than monochrome.

The 500 also operates more quickly than its predecessor. On average, we found prints took one minute and 34 seconds to appear - that's a full 10 seconds faster than the claimed churn rate of the first PictureMate (a speed that we were unable to replicate).

Assuming the original photo is of sufficient resolution and you use Epson's recommended paper, the 4x6in results are more than acceptable. Prints look realistic thanks to the combination of the six-colour printing process and Epson's UltraChrome inks and paper.

Should you choose, you can jazz up your photos with borders (although these are a bit cheesy), mono or sepia effects or zoom in on the best bits.

The PictureMate 500 will read USB keys as well as many flavours of media card - but this version still requires an adapter for Memory Stick Duo and MiniSD support lacking in the PictureMate's first iteration.

Epson PictureMate 500: Specs

  • Max res 5,760x1,440dpi
  • claimed print speed 77 seconds
  • actual print speed 83-136 seconds
  • replacement ink cartridge £29 (with 100 sheets of 6x4in photo paper)
  • 256x154x167mm
  • 2.8kg
  • Max res 5,760x1,440dpi
  • claimed print speed 77 seconds
  • actual print speed 83-136 seconds
  • replacement ink cartridge £29 (with 100 sheets of 6x4in photo paper)
  • 256x154x167mm
  • 2.8kg

OUR VERDICT

We'd be happier if the PictureMate didn't install itself as our default printer - it's rather trying constantly having to cancel print jobs for Word documents - and we found the flimsy build a disappointment. Otherwise, Epson has improved on a very decent photo printer, even if the price seems a little steep.

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