Panasonic’s dye-sub boasts a 3.6in colour display with a 170-degree viewing angle, a side slot for SD media and a remote control.

  • Print quality: 3/5
  • Average print time: 90 seconds
  • Average cost per print: 28p

Though SD is currently the dominant camera media, the PX20 is also compatible with the larger-capacity SDHC cards. Still, Panasonic is narrowing its audience by including just the one slot.

There is PictBridge compatibility, however. And, since Panasonic is also in the TV business, there’s an AV cable (but no USB lead) to enable your telly to be used as an extra-large monitor.

Somewhat inelegantly, you have to open the side compartment housing the print cartridge to insert your SD card. However, the PX20 is boxy but neat with it, and features a front-mounted paper tray that allows for both postcard-sized and wider-format prints.

Switching between these means removing the cover, which is rather fiddly to reinstate. Over time it could also cause damage to the plastic hinges. Its depth requires extra space on your desktop, and it’s important to correctly match ink cartridge to paper – there are two options – or it won’t print. Print times averaged 90 seconds.

There are 36 prints per cartridge, averaging 35p per print; if you opt for a five-cartridge/180-sheet pack then this figure drops to a reasonable 22p. Panasonic claims prints will last for 100 years.

Rudimentary image adjustments can be executed via the bright, clear LCD screen. Opting for Simple mode does away with everything except the ability to print or run a slideshow. Quality-wise, prints fall somewhere between the Canon and the Kodak: distinctly average.

Compact photo printers: buying advice

Compact photo printers: how we test

See also:

Canon Selphy ES2 compact photo printer

Epson Picturemate 290 compact photo printer

HP Photosmart A626 compact photo printer

Kodak Easyshare G610 compact photo printer

Sony DPP-FP70 compact photo printer

Compact photo printers: buying advice

The vast majority of us do very little with the photos captured by our digital cameras – except downloading them to our desktop and leaving them languishing on our hard drive. They have to be pretty special for us to go to the bother of creating a print.

But the process doesn’t need to be painful or time-consuming. A handful of camera and electronics manufacturers continue to produce compact and user-friendly home photo printers that can be used independently of a PC.

Featuring slots for common media cards, the ability to wirelessly transmit images via Bluetooth and USB connectivity, they’ll churn out sparkling snaps without you switching on your PC. Instead of your monitor, you view the pics on the printer’s built-in LCD screen or that of your camera.

Standalone printers have been available for five years. The original models – at least those that could accurately be described as portable – were all dye-sublimation models. But things have got more complicated…

Dye-sub or inkjet?

Dye-subs remain the most common type of compact printer, using a heat process to transfer dye from an acetate sheet on to glossy photo paper. Traditionally, dye-subs take up less desk space than general-purpose inkjets and, although they rarely print photos larger than postcards, that’s easily big enough for most of us.

But lately, the likes of Epson and HP have shoehorned their pioneering inkjet technology into ever more portable devices that give dye-subs a run for their money as regards size, design and quality of output.

Inkjets fire microscopic spots of ink through a nozzle to construct an image from a series of dots; dye-sub models gradually build the image via three coloured layers (yellow, magenta and cyan, followed by a fourth protective coating). Inkjet images are generally sharper: the more dots per inch (dpi), the finer the detail.

Epson and HP’s compact inkjets offer higher resolutions than the standard 300dpi offered by dye-subs, but a 300dpi resolution is sufficient to deliver what we’d consider to be photo-quality prints.

Home or high street?

If you’re printing a batch of pics, doing the job yourself will work out as a costlier process. While most high-street labs offer a discount when you buy prints in bulk – gradually dropping down to less than 10p per copy – the price per print stays the same when you’re using a portable device.

For occasional output, however, compact devices regain the lead in economic terms – a typical cost per print for the models we’ve tested is 20p to 30p, compared with around 50p for a one-off 6x4in print at a lab.

If you’re going to be processing more than 50 images at a time, taking your camera card or CD of images to the high-street photo lab will be more cost- and time-effective. But for small batches or the occasional print, dedicated home photo printers offer real benefits.

Panasonic KX-PX20 compact photo printer: expert review

Compact photo printers: how we test

See also:

Canon Selphy ES2 compact photo printer

Epson Picturemate 290 compact photo printer

HP Photosmart A626 compact photo printer

Kodak Easyshare G610 compact photo printer

Sony DPP-FP70 compact photo printer

Compact photo printers: how we test

The average print times listed here relate to the time elapsed from hitting print to the completion of the process: a dry-to-the-touch hard copy in our hands.

These times are, for the most part, slightly longer than those quoted by the manufacturers, which often don’t include the period that it takes the paper to load and the machine to warm up. But they’re nevertheless a fair indication of how long you’ll actually have to wait, whether printing direct from a memory card or via your PC.

For the latter we used Samsung’s equally compact and sleek new Q45 laptop PC running Photoshop CS2 as the hub of our digital darkroom. And, to ensure as level a playing field as possible, we also used the same test shot as a starting point for each printer, so we could directly compare colour saturation, fidelity and, of course, overall sharpness.

For exactly the same reason, although many of the compact photo printers here offer the ability to perform rudimentary image editing and enhancements, we left the printers on their out-of-the-box, fully automatic factory settings.

Panasonic KX-PX20 compact photo printer: expert review

Compact photo printers: buying advice

See also:

Canon Selphy ES2 compact photo printer

Epson Picturemate 290 compact photo printer

HP Photosmart A626 compact photo printer

Kodak Easyshare G610 compact photo printer

Sony DPP-FP70 compact photo printer

Panasonic KX-PX20: Specs

  • Max print size: 6x4in
  • max resoultion: 300dpi
  • printing method: thermal dye transfer
  • cartridge: three-colour all-in-one
  • actual/claimed print speed: 90/65-75 seconds
  • LCD size: 3.6in
  • PictBridge
  • storage formats: SD
  • 69x173x131mm
  • 1.1kg
  • Max print size: 6x4in
  • max resoultion: 300dpi
  • printing method: thermal dye transfer
  • cartridge: three-colour all-in-one
  • actual/claimed print speed: 90/65-75 seconds
  • LCD size: 3.6in
  • PictBridge
  • storage formats: SD
  • 69x173x131mm
  • 1.1kg

OUR VERDICT

Ideal for Panasonic Lumix camera owners, the KX-PX20 is well-constructed, feature-packed and easy to use. However, prints are of average quality and pricey – and you’re limited to SD media.

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