Today's desktop inkjets offer high-enough photo quality that most people don't need a dedicated photo printer like the Epson PictureMate PM-400 Personal Photo Lab ($249.99). For those who do, however, the PM-400 ($222.95 at Amazon) is one of the few that can print both 4-by-6- and 5-by-7-inch photos. The larger-than-typical print size, along with the high-quality output you would expect from a photo printer, makes the Epson model a strong contender.
Alternatives to the PM-400 include the HP Photosmart A646 Compact Printer ($222.95 at Amazon) and Epson's own Epson PictureMate Show ($222.95 at Amazon) , and Epson PictureMate Charm ($222.95 at Amazon) , our Editors' Choice low-cost dedicated small-format photo printer. The HP model is the only one of the three that can also print at up to 5 by 7 inches, but if you don't need to print photos larger than 4 by 6, the two Epson models are the PM-400's toughest competition, with better speed and a lower cost per photo.Our Experts Have Tested 53 Products in the Printers Category in the Past YearSince 1982, PCMag has tested and rated thousands of products to help you make better buying decisions. (See how we test.)
The BasicsThe PM-400 measures 3.3 by 9.8 by 6.8 inches (HWD), and weighs just 4 pounds. Surprisingly, that makes it both smaller and lighter than the Epson Show and the Epson Charm, despite its ability to print on larger paper. It also lacks the optional battery you can get for the Epson Charm, as well as the handle that both 4-by-6 models have to make them easy to carry.
In keeping with its description as a personal photo lab, the PM-400 can print from a variety of sources, including a computer, a memory card, a USB memory key, a PictBridge camera, and an iOS or Android phone or tablet. Connection choices include Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, and USB. The one obvious trick that's missing is NFC for easier connection to mobile devices, but that's a small oversight.4.5Outstanding $539.99See Itat AmazonRead Our Epson PictureMate Charm Review4.0Excellent $199.99See Itat EpsonRead Our Epson WorkForce WF-7110 Review 4.0Excellent $299.99See Itat EpsonRead Our Epson WorkForce Pro WF-5620 Review 4.0Excellent$399.99See Itat AmazonRead Our Canon Maxify iB4020 Wireless Small Office Inkjet Printer Review 4.0ExcellentCheck Stockat AmazonRead Our HP Officejet 5740 e-All-in-One Review 4.0Excellent $159.99Check Stockat AmazonRead Our HP Officejet Pro 6230 ePrinter Review4.0Excellent $1,129.99See Itat AmazonRead Our Canon Pixma PRO-10 Review 4.0Excellent $838.50See Itat AmazonRead Our Brother MFC-J4320DW Review 4.0Excellent $259.68Check Stockat WalmartRead Our Brother MFC-J5720DW Review 4.0Excellent $149.99See Itat AdoramaRead Our Canon Pixma iP110 Wireless Mobile Printer Review 4.0Excellent $1,189.99See Itat AmazonRead Our Epson WorkForce ET-4550 EcoTank All-in-One Printer Review
Setup and SpeedSetting up the PM-400 is standard fare for a dedicated photo printer. Simply install the single ink cartridge, load some paper, and you're ready to print. One important touch is that each time you load or change paper, the printer asks you to confirm the size and type (glossy or matte) so it can automatically set everything properly for the paper.
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The speed is impressive for a consumer-level dedicated photo printer and is consistent for almost all sources. For 4-by-6-inch prints on glossy paper, all but one photo came in at times between 40.8 and 42.3 seconds. That single outlier took 48.8 seconds, with the extra time taken up by an apparent housekeeping task the printer needed to handle before it started printing.
For 5-by-7-inch prints on glossy paper, the times ranged from 50.3 to 52.2 seconds in all cases. Oddly, printing from an Android phone over a Wi-Fi Direct connection was both faster (for 4-by-6 prints) and slower (for 5-by-7 prints) in testing compared with printing from other sources. Printing a 4-by-6-inch photo averaged 34 seconds. The larger size averaged 62 seconds each.
Notably, the PM-400's speed for for printing 4-by-6 output from everything but a mobile device at least—is a close match to the speeds for the Epson Show and the Epson Charm. That makes all three essentially tied for first place among consumer-oriented dedicated photo printers, and faster in particular than the HP A646, which I timed for 4-by-6 printing at a range of 1 minute 23 seconds to 1:42, depending on the photo and the source. For 5-by-7-inch prints, the HP printer took between 1:53 and 2:07.
Output QualityOutput quality for the PM-400 is at the high end of the range you would expect from drugstore prints. That translates to impressively high quality for most images. However, I saw an obvious loss of shadow detail (details based on shading in dark areas) with one image, which largely destroyed the visual impact of the photo.
That said, the problem came up only with 4-by-6 prints, which is to say that it's related to the 4-by-6 photo paper that comes with Epson's combined packs of ink and paper. Even before I printed anything, I noticed that the 4-by-6 paper from the Print Pack was an obviously lighter weight than the 5-by-7-inch Epson Premium Photo Paper Glossy I used for the larger prints.
Running Costs and Photo RuggednessPredicting running costs for the PM-400 is complicated by the possibility that you might want to buy ink and paper separately to get better-looking output. If you get the 4-by-6 Print Packs ($38.99), with enough ink and paper per pack for 100 prints, the cost works out to 39 cents per photo. Buy the ink and paper separately, at $32.99 for the ink cartridge and a range of prices for the paper, and the cost per photo will depend on which paper you get. There are no 5-by-7 Print Packs, which means the cost will vary, once again, depending on which paper you get.
How rugged the photos are will also depend on the paper you print on. The two papers I used for testing are both water resistant, and Epson rates both at 200 years in dark storage (as in an album). Epson doesn't rate the lifetime for either if you put them in a frame behind glass or leave them exposed to both light and air.
ConclusionIf you're only interested in printing at 4 by 6, and particularly if you also have a desktop inkjet you can use for larger sizes, the obvious choice is the Epson Charm, our Editors' Choice low-cost, small-format, dedicated photo printer. It's less expensive than the PM-400 and has a lower running cost. That said, you should also take a look at the Epson Show, which is essentially the same printer with a large LCD added to preview images or use as a photo frame.
Consider the HP A646 if you need to print at 5 by 7, as it has both a lower initial cost and lower cost per photo than the Epson PictureMate PM-400 Personal Photo Lab. Compared with the HP model, however, the PM-400 is notably faster. It's also the only one of these printers that will let you connect with Wi-Fi Direct to easily print the photos from your phone or tablet.4.0See It$222.95 at AmazonMSRP $249.99 View More
The Epson PictureMate PM-400 Personal Photo Lab prints high-quality photos at up to 5 by 7 inches, but the cost of even 4-by-6 photos is higher than with Epson's 4-by-6 dedicated photo printers.
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