A decent ink jet, but it can't compete with the dye subs
Of the four printers here, Epson’s PictureMate is the only ink jet. Unlike a dye sub, which uses a ribbon to lay down continuous layers of color, an ink jet creates an image by spraying closely arrayed dots onto paper. We expected the PictureMate to face an uphill battle against the dye subs, and we were right. Even with a resolution of 5760x1440, the PictureMate couldn’t match the output of the Canon, Sony, and Olympus printers. While we did get surprisingly good results from the PictureMate, close inspection of the test photos revealed signs of banding from the ink-head passes as well as the dotted stippling that’s characteristic of ink jets. One thing’s for sure—after experiencing the benefits of the dye subs, we’re not inclined to ever opt for ink jet.
Not all is bad for the PictureMate, though. The printer kicks ass when it comes to media costs. All three dye-sub printers cost more than 50 cents a picture, while the PictureMate’s consumables are in the 26 cent range. This makes the PictureMate a more affordable proposition. And even though the PictureMate is about $30 more than the others, it comes with enough ink and paper to print 20 prints.
The PictureMate also features slots for xD, Smart Media, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Compact Flash, and SD. Even better, you can use the printer as a media reader (something Sony should have done with the EX-50), although data transfer rates are slowed by the USB 1.1 speeds.
But, unless you’re really concerned about consumables, the PictureMate just doesn’t make sense next to the faster and sharper mini dye subs. --Gordon Mah Ung
+ Dye sub: Cheaper consumables and still very good output.
- Ink jet: Slight banding, and resolution doesn’t match dye subs.