The Sony DPP-EX50 belongs to the nebulous category of snapshot printers designed to roost among your home-theater components as well as your PC--the Panasonic SV-AP10 is another--so that you can share and print your photos in couch-potato comfort. It prints quite well and quite quickly, but we're not quite sold on the idea of a living-room printer, and it's far less convenient than truly portable snapshot printers such as the Canon CP-330 and the . Plus, Sony could stand to rethink some of its design decisions.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.Like its predecessor, the , the Sony DPP-EX50 looks like a small microtower-style CPU. At 11 by 8 by 2.5 inches, the DPP-EX50 is bigger than most portable snapshot printers we've reviewed, but it stands upright to slip into your entertainment center next to your TV. It can also lie flat (if you position it that way, it looks like a small DVD player), but since most of the controls are on the top of the device, we advise against it. The paper input/output tray sticks out from the front like a sideways disc drive; you might appreciate its front-loading tray in the living room, but we found it a bit awkward on the desk.
On top of the printer, you'll see an LCD with an array of buttons below it for switching inputs (camera, PC, TV, or media card) and navigating through the editing and print menus. Unlike many snapshot printers, the DPP-EX50 doesn't display your photos on the LCD; all you can do is print an index sheet or select individual pictures by number. To view and edit images for printing, you must hook up the printer to your television via the video-out jack on the back of the printer and the supplied cable or use your PictBridge-compatible camera's LCD via a USB connection. We can see how being able to remove red-eye or crop and resize on a big-screen TV might be useful--especially for the farsighted among us--but we're not totally convinced of the concept. Sony doesn't yet offer a version of the DPP-EX50 with a preview LCD. For that, you'll have to look to its last-generation DPP-EX7.
On the front panel, above the input/output tray (which holds 30 sheets), you'll find slots for CompactFlash and Memory Stick media. If your camera takes another format, you'll have to buy an adapter from a third-party manufacturer. With many full-size photo printers nowadays, the media slots act as card readers so that you can view and transfer photos to your PC. This is not the case with the DPP-EX50--all you can do is print from the cards. The Sony DPP-EX50's in-printer editing capabilities are fairly extensive. You can change the size of photos, rotate them, improve the picture quality, correct red-eye, add filters, and superimpose titles. You can also make cards, calendars, or stamps; add fancy wallpaper or a frame; and split the image to produce tiny stickers.
If you just want to make prints without messing with the tube, you can connect any PictBridge-enabled digital camera and fire away. Sony's PictureGear Studio software, which is included on the PC's installation CD, contains a few photo-management features, as well as basic editing functionality. You can also create postcards, cards, and labels from within the software.
Regrettably, the Sony DPP-EX50 doesn't come with any ribbon cartridges or paper. Even the skimpy five-print starter packs that ship with most snapshot printers would be better than nothing. Photo or sticker print packs that include paper and ribbons are sold separately and range in price from $14.95 to $42.95 for the "value" size. Each print consumes the same amount of ribbon, and the cost of a 4x6 print runs roughly 68 cents, which is fairly reasonable. The Sony DPP-EX50 performed really well overall. It took only 1.5 minutes to print our standard 4x6-inch borderless photo, or about 0.7 page per minute (ppm), which makes it one of the fastest snapshot printers we've tested and only a tad slower than our current portable champion, the . The printer worked flawlessly, but it was a little noisy for its size.
CNET Labs project leader Dong Van Ngo wrote this section.
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Despite its design quirks, the Sony DPP-EX50 cranks out first-rate prints. The DPP-EX50 uses dye-sublimation technology, which means that it melts together three layers of dye to create each dot. Skin tones were smooth, warm, and natural-looking, while colors were vibrant. The printer also did a great job capturing details such as a white egg against a white background, metallic elements, and the intricate design of a postage stamp. The printer comes with a standard one-year warranty. Sony's phone tech support is available 24/7 via its &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fciscdb%2Esel%2Esony%2Ecom%2Fcgi%2Dbin%2Fselect%2Ddi%2Epl">Web site. Sony also offers live chat with a tech-support representative, e-mail support, documentation, drivers, a searchable knowledge base, and tutorials.