In the main menu, you can select all the photos or just those taken on a certain date or within a range of dates. You can even select by source, if you have both a memory card and a storage device plugged in. The USB drive can be used not only to connect PictBridge cameras, but also flash thumbdrives, USB hard drives, and even USB CD/DVD drives. Once an external device is connected, you can transfer images from your memory card to the storage device, or you can print photos from the storage device. This even works for CDs and DVDs: If you've connected a USB disc burner, you can burn the contents of your memory card to disc, and you can print images saved to a disc.
Once you've picked photos, you get plenty of layout and editing options. Layout choices include a proofsheet, wallet prints (various sizes), passport prints, four-image and 10-image portrait packages, and a CD index, among others. You can also choose between automatic and manual photo enhancements. Automatic choices include standard, people, landscape, and night scene. Manual options are brightness, sharpness, and saturation. You can rotate and crop photos, add color effects (black and white or sepia), remove red eye, or add decorations. The decorations are limited and random. They include thought bubbles, framed white space for adding handwritten text to a print (there's no way to add text using the printer), and a few odd icons such as hearts, bubbles, and tiaras. Like we said: random, and not particularly useful.
The feature set on the PictureMate Dash is solid. It offers a lot more than the competition, in terms of PC-free operation.
Compared to similarly priced snapshot printers, the Epson PictureMate Dash was fast, improving on the speeds of the previous generations of PictureMates. It produced 4x6 photos at a rate of 1.42 prints per minute. The 2006 low-end PictureMate, the Pal, scored 1.0 pages per minute, while the higher-end PictureMate Snap scored 1.24 pages per minute. Canon's $100 offering, the Selphy CP740 scored 0.92 page per minute, while the HP Photosmart A526 only managed 0.7 page per minute--half the speed of the Dash.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Unfortunately, the PictureMate Dash's print quality is nowhere near as impressive as its print speed. Our 4x6 prints were grainy, to the point that some items in the picture looked fuzzy around the edges. Additionally, the grayscale showed severe compression in the dark end, and we noticed that lots of details were lost in the shadow area. The color was a bit bland overall and didn't pop. The quality is fine for casual snapshots for the refrigerator, but we would want better quality for framing or photo albums.
Service and support
Epson backs the PictureMate Dash with a standard one-year warranty. If you need tech support, you can call on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. (PT). Unfortunately, it's a toll call. Alternatively, you can e-mail tech support using the online form at Epson's site. Other support options include manuals and documentation, FAQs, and drivers and downloads.