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Dashing out photos on a PictureMate printer
Newsday (New York)

When I finally got around to hooking up the PictureMate to my PC, the drivers installed without a problem under Windows XP. For real editing, Epson bundles a version of ArcSoft PhotoImpression, a quirky but reasonably competent entry-level program. It produced excellent prints, as did Adobe PhotoShop Elements and Microsoft's Digital Imaging, the two photo-editing programs I normally use.

For prints with a long life, I usually recommend photofinishing services, which use real photographic paper and chemistry, instead of ink. But Epson now claims its inks will last 96 years under glass and 200 years in a closed album - a lot longer than I'll last.

Can you believe those claims? Who knows, since tests can only simulate the effects of time. But there's no doubt that today's inks are more permanent than early formulas, which were prone to smudging and fading.

Unlike most competitors, Epson bundles its ink cartridge and paper in PrintPaks, which cost $40 for 150 glossy photos (26 cents a shot) or $35 for 100 matte prints (35 cents each). That makes Epson consumable supplies hard to compare directly with Hewlett-Packard, Canon and other vendors who sell ink and paper separately. But my take is that the per-print price is on the low end, considering the quality.

For those with bigger budgets and more ambition, Epson makes a $200 version of this printer called the PictureMate Zoom with a built-in CD burner. This accessory allows users to make photo CDs for friends and family, but it sounds pretty expensive for marginal additional utility.

Bottom line: Given its reasonable upfront cost, superb images and economy of operation, it's hard to find much fault with the basic PictureMate Dash.

If you're getting started with digital photography and don't want to use a computer as middleman, the PictureMate Dash does a great job with images straight out of the camera. If you're an experienced digital photographer and want a gadget that can spit out a stream of high-quality snapshots in short order, it's a nifty gadget.