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1st November 2007
Epson PictureMate 290 printer review
by Ian Burley

Speed and value added features make the Epson PictureMate 290 stand out

But is its toughest competitor one of the family?

Epson PictureMate 290 6x4 inch ink jet photo printer. Typical pricing:

Amazon UK pricing

Pricegrabber UK pricing

PM290: UKŁ169, US$200, EU€249

For comparison - PM260: UKŁ89, US$99, EU€135

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Epson has been rapidly developing its ink jet mini photo printer line since the original PictureMate was launched three and a half years ago. The current design and look came out last year but the new PictureMate 290, replacing the 280 model, sports a considerably larger colour screen - 3.6 inches instead of 2.5, while print speed has been improved from an already nifty 42 seconds to just 37 seconds.

If you are familiar with the original PictureMate models, you will find the ink cartridge is more compact. Print speed is much faster, though print quality has not been sacrificed. The new design is more boxy than before and it looks bigger and bulkier. As before, an external power supply is needed..

A thin plastic lid, hinged at the back, with a small dark plastic window serves as a dust cover when the printer isn't in use and as a paper rest when it's in action. The control buttons are revealed under the lid, along with the big 3.6 inch colour display, which can be tilted through a generous angle for optimal viewing.

PM 290 or PM 260?

Underneath the main unit is a an extra section that incorporates a CD/DVD writer which can be used to archive photos from camera memory cards and for later viewing via the colour screen. There is also the option of a lithium ion battery for printing on the move. Bluetooth connectivity for wireless printing from suitably equipped mobile phones is standard. In all the key specifications, the PM 290 is identical to the much cheaper PM 260 model. The PM 260 is just as fast, has the same print quality, same 3.6 inch screen and is smaller and lighter. What you don't get with the PM 260 is Bluetooth or the CD/DVD writer. If you don't need those features, the PM 260 represents much better value.

In use, the PictureMate 290 proved to be very easy to operate. The menus and controls are well designed and we had no difficulty working out how to use the printer thanks to contextual help displayed on-screen. All the usual camera memory card formats are catered for via card slots at the front of the unit and a PictBridge port for printing via a USB cable direct from a camera can be found at the rear, along with a PC-USB port for printing from a computer.

Speed and running costs

Epson claim a print can be produced in 37 seconds; when printing a batch we timed an average of 38 seconds per print. What's a second between friends? The fact is that this is the fastest mini photo printer we have yet come across and if you have a lot of prints to make, the PictureMate 290 will process around 95 of them per hour.

Running costs are pretty good too, with 50 and 150 sheet PicturePacks on offer, each including both ink and paper. The 50 sheet pack costs around Ł13.49, which works out at 27p per print. The 150 sheet pack is priced Ł29.48 and the per sheet cost is just under 20p.

Product views gallery

Below is a thumbnail gallery that you can use to familiarise yourself with the detail features of the PM 290. Click on a thumbnail to see the full size image:

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Epson PictureMate 290 printer review

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Epson's PictureMate 290 is the fastest ink jet mini photo printer yet and includes a CD/DVD writer f... (more)

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