After a day of chasing hyenas all over the Serengeti Plain with your digital camera, why sit down at a computer all night downloading the images? Owners of the Kodak Personal Picture Maker 200 (PPM200) by Lexmark need never download. This photo inkjet comes with a built-in LCD screen and two PC Card reader slots so that users can view, select, and edit their photos without ever turning on a PC. However, the natives may get restless waiting for the results, due to the tortoiselike printing speeds and, at times, indifferent print quality. After a day of chasing hyenas all over the Serengeti Plain with your digital camera, why sit down at a computer all night downloading the images? Owners of the Kodak Personal Picture Maker 200 (PPM200) by Lexmark need never download. This photo inkjet comes with a built-in LCD screen and two PC Card reader slots so that users can view, select, and edit their photos without ever turning on a PC. However, the natives may get restless waiting for the results, due to the tortoiselike printing speeds and, at times, indifferent print quality.
Look Ma, no computer
That's right, you don't even need a PC to start printing with the $199 Kodak PPM200. Once the printer is on and the inks are installed, printing photographs is simply a matter of placing the flash memory card from a digital camera into the appropriate slot on the printer's front cover. (The printer supports both CompactFlash and SmartMedia, the two most popular memory cards.) This activates the Kodak PPM200's mighty 1.8-inch LCD panel and voilà, the printer reads the card, counts the photos, and displays the Quick Start menu. From there, using the arrow button, users can view the photos on the LCD screen, print out a numbered index of all the photos, or simply print everything on the memory card. Pressing the adjacent Menu button unveils a host of photo editing choices, including crop, rotate, add border, and add text.
You can also connect the Kodak PPM200 to a PC or a Mac via its USB port (cable not included) and load images directly from the printer to your computer. First, you must download and install the drivers for the PC Card reader utility from Kodak's support site. Then you can view your photographs on your monitor and save them to your hard drive. (According to Kodak, the drivers will be available on the included CD-ROM in June 2001.) The PC Card reader--which can be activated from the printer's main menu--lets you view the printer's memory slots as removable drives on your computer. You can then use your own image-viewing software or the bundled Kodak Picture Page photo-editing software to view, download, and save your photos to your hard drive. Alternatively, you can attach an Iomega Zip Drive via the printer's USB port and read, save, or print images to and from the storage device.
Unfortunately, the time saved readying your photographs is squandered by the PPM200's slow printing speeds. On CNET Labs' tests, it took more than 18 minutes to print an 8-by-10-inch color photograph at the default resolution of 600 by 600dpi (dots per inch). By comparison, the Epson Stylus Photo 875DC printed the same photograph at 720 by 720dpi in 3.5 minutes, and the HP PhotoSmart 1215 took only 6.5 minutes to print it at 2,400 by 1,200dpi.
Even though it takes a long time for the Kodak PPM200 to print, the photographs are far from flawless. In Normal mode (600dpi) on Kodak's Premium Picture paper, prints showed vertical banding throughout the image. These unsightly lines disappeared when printing in High mode (1,200dpi), but sadly, the colors at both resolutions were oversaturated.
The Kodak PPM200's color cost per page was also slightly higher than that of other photo printers we've tested. It cost about 32 cents per color page compared to 27 cents per color page for both the HP PhotoSmart 1215 and Epson Stylus Photo 875DC.
The Kodak PPM200 comes with a short one-year warranty. Toll-free technical support is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET and Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET. The Kodak Web site offers driver downloads, manuals, and FAQs.
The Kodak Personal Picture Maker 200 by Lexmark is easy to use and full of conveniences. Anyone who can take a flash memory card out of a camera can easily edit and print a photograph without even turning on the computer. However, its slow performance and merely adequate output is disappointing.