Sagem's arguably best known in this country for inexpensive mobile phones, such as the MyC2-3, but that's not all the company makes. A case in point are its two recently launched dye sublimation photo printers, the PhotoEasy 160 and PhotoEasy 260. Sagem provided us with a review sample of the cheaper of the two printers, the AU$249 PhotoEasy 160.
It's a mid-sized printer, measuring in at 174mm by 94mm by 201mm without the paper tray installed. Adding the 20 sheet capacity paper tray seriously increases the PhotoEasy's size, as it juts straight out from the front of the printer itself, effectively doubling the amount of desk space you'll need to accommodate the unit. When you bear in mind that the dye sublimation process involves having the paper also feed out of the rear of the printer, you'll need far more desk space than the bare dimensions of the PhotoEasy 160 would otherwise suggest.
The top of the PhotoEasy houses all the printer's basic control functions for printing and selecting print options, along with a simple LCD screen used for shot selection. It's worth noting that this doesn't give you any visual indication of your shots, simply a shot number based on scanning any card placed into the 9-in-1 photo card reader that sits on the PhotoEasy 160's left hand side. If you want a visual indication of what you're printing, you'll need to step up a model to the AU$299 PhotoEasy 260.
Connectivity is a central feature of the PhotoEasy 160, as it'll print directly from nine types of memory card, through Pictbridge compatible cameras and even optionally via Bluetooth, although you'll need to plug in a bluetooth adaptor (not included) in order to activate this. It's also compatible with IR sending from camera phones, although we shudder at the idea of sending a 2-megapixel shot via IR. Software is also provided for connection to PCs and Macs, along with ArcSoft Photo Impression 5 for image manipulation.
The PhotoEasy features what Sagem refers to as its "Crystal Image" technology; this is an inbuilt filter that will enhance photographic images, correcting errors in contrast, colour saturation and red-eye automatically without the need for a software package.
A word here about the PhotoEasy 160's printing supplies. As with other dye sublimation printers, you've got to buy the paper and ribbons in specific packs, and each ribbon is precisely good enough for the number of prints on the pack you've purchased. Sagem sells packs of 40 sheets of 4x6 paper for an RRP of AU$39 or packs of 120 4x6 sheets for AU$79. We'll leave it up to your maths skills to work out which is better value.
Reloading paper into the PhotoEasy 160 is rather fiddly. It's easy enough to pop out the printer cartridge and pop in a new one, along with paper. The PhotoEasy 160 is even bright enough to work out when the printer ribbon's done its allocated 20 print run. It's not smart enough, however, to work out that you've put a new printer ribbon in. In order to tell it to keep on printing, you've got to insert a SIM card into the side of the printer. The manual's not much help in letting you know the orientation of the SIM card (although, thankfully like us, you'll never get it wrong twice) but it'll steadfastly refuse to print unless this step is undertaken.
While the controls and display on the PhotoEasy 160 do give you a reasonable amount of control over your printing experience, in our testing we found them, and the printer itself, rather clunky and irritating to use in a standalone capacity. That's more a function of the overall build quality than any individual factor, and certainly using it with a connected PC or Pictbridge camera made it an much more enjoyable process.
The PhotoEasy does have a saving grace in the form of its print speed. Sagem claims an average of 60 seconds for a 4x6 print, and our testing, which included memory card printing, Pictbridge printing from a Kodak V610 camera and direct printing from a PC we hit that mark quite consistently. Print quality was quite good, and one of the key benefits of dye sublimation is that there's little in the way of ink leakage on paper, so prints don't smear and they're good to touch as soon as they've been printed.
Dye Sublimation printers like the PhotoEasy 160 have never been particularly cheap, and with an asking price of AU$249 for a unit that lacks an LCD screen for shot preview, it's hard to recommend the PhotoEasy 160; even if you are particularly busy and need fast prints it'd have to be a better bet to spring for the PhotoEasy 260 which only costs AU$50 more.