With its good-looking 4x6-inch dye-sub prints, compact chassis, easy standalone operation, and multiple connectivity options, the Samsung SPP-2040 is a photo printer you'll be tempted to carry with you everywhere. However, this 300x300dpi photo lab is more transportable than portable and probably should come with a carry case for the bulky paper tray, the AC adapter, and the other accessories you may need.
Like many dye-sublimation printers with a horizontal paper path, the squat, cubelike, 2.5-pound SPP-2040 looks deceptively small when first unpacked but expands to commandeer extra desktop space when you attach the 20-sheet, 7-inch-long paper tray in front and allow equal clearance in back for paper travel. Samsung recommends allocating an extra 8 inches of space at the sides to allow installation and removal of the three-color (cyan, magenta, yellow, plus clear overcoat) dye-sublimation ribbon cartridge and to provide room for plugging in the power cord, a USB cable, a PictBridge-compatible camera, or Bluetooth devices (via an optional wireless adapter).
Installation went smoothly once we ignored the printed user guide and the cryptic quick-install guide, each page of which is printed in two dozen different languages. We found a more thorough PDF manual on the supplied CD, which contains additional instructions and charts. It was a snap to load the cartridge, pop paper into the tray, and install the Windows printer driver (the SPP-2040 also includes drivers for Mac OS X), the Photo Thru editing software, and a status-monitor program. Insert a Compact Flash Type I or II, SD/MMC, xD-Picture, Memory Stick/Memory Stick Pro, or SmartMedia card, turn on the power, and you're ready to go.
The printer locates any JPEG or uncompressed TIFF files on the card and presents them on the flip-up 2-inch LCD. Press the left/right buttons on the four-way cursor pad to view the images. Tap the center OK key to select an image for printing, and use the up/down keys to choose the number of prints for that image. The Print and Cancel buttons start and stop the printing process. You can speed image selection by pressing the Zoom Out button to switch to a four- or nine-image thumbnail view. The Zoom In button crops the image using six fixed increments from 1.25X to 3X, all using the 4:6 aspect ratio. The cursor keys can shift the frame around your image for custom placement of the crop.
The only other control to fuss with is a Menu button, which provides access to a limited number of special effects, including Black And White, Sepia, Antique, Vivid, Red, Green, and Blue tones, as well as Warmer, Cooler, Less Blue, and Less Yellow adjustments. You can also change sharpness and brightness, in addition to switching between bordered or borderless printing on the special paper, which has snap-off tabs at each end. Layout options let you squeeze 4, 6, 8, or 16 images onto a single 4x6-inch sheet.
When connected to a computer, the driver provides access to the same basic features plus some additional tweaks, such as sliders to control brightness, contrast, saturation, and color balance. You can also add frames or text to your images in the font and the color of your choice.
Prints emerged in about 65 seconds, with accurate, neutral colors that reproduced flesh tones especially well. Saturation was rich but not exaggerated, and the prints showed good detail in highlights and shadows. The composite blacks (the ribbon lacks a black panel) looked dark and neutral. We saw some banding under 10X magnification, but it wasn't disturbing to the naked eye. With ribbon cartridge/paper packages that we expect to cost approximately $22 for 40 sheets or $47 for $120 sheets, snapshots from this printer should average between 39 cents and 55 cents each.
Although we experienced no problems requiring technical support, a visit to the Web site mentioned in the instructions produced a vast wasteland of noninformation with no references at all to this model, Samsung's first nonlaser printer. After a Google search, we finally found it listed with the multifunction models. The U.S. warranty registration card lists an 800 number, but the URL provided for online registration also proved to be a dead end. So don't buy this printer if you need hand-holding.