By adding onscreen editing and storage capabilities to its PictureMate PM280 photo printer, Epson is trying to take the computer out of the equation. It isn't the first manufacturer to do this: Lexmark had a go with the P450, which, like the PM280, has a built-in CD writer so that you can take pictures on your digital camera or memory card and burn them directly to a CD for storage. But with the PM280, Epson has refined the whole concept quite a bit.
Firstly, there's the size of the unit. While the P450 is quite bulky, the PM280 measures just 215x152x180mm and weighs a little over 3.1kg. When twinned with a carry handle, this makes it genuinely portable. There's even an optional battery, enabling you to manage without a power supply.
The other areas where the PictureMate differs from the P450 are print quality and speed. The PM280 produces superb prints. The four-ink cartridge turns out images that are sharp, vivid and crisp, with excellent reproduction of light, shadows and skin tones. By contrast, the P450 produces noisy images marred by banding.
When it comes to speed, it took the PM280 just 50 seconds to print a borderless 6x4in colour photo. This task took the P450 more than two minutes.
The device is aimed at non-techies, so Epson has taken steps to make it easy to use. You can apply simple effects such as frames and tints to your photo, as well as doing some editing, including cropping and the removal of red-eye. True, the 2.5in screen is rather cramped for this kind of work. But it does mean the device really can work independently of a computer.
CD burning is just as simple. You click on the save button and it automatically burns to an inserted disc. Alternatively, you can back up to an external device.