If you want to be a hit at your next party, whip out the SiPix PocketColor 200. This incredibly small printer, which could easily slip into an inside jacket pocket, produces the most amazingly clear and durable 2.0x2.5 images that we've seen from a printer of this size. But the novelty quickly wears off when you run out of ideas for what to do with its tiny prints. If you want to be a hit at your next party, whip out the SiPix PocketColor 200. This incredibly small printer, which could easily slip into an inside jacket pocket, produces the most amazingly clear and durable 2.0x2.5 images that we've seen from a printer of this size. But the novelty quickly wears off when you run out of ideas for what to do with its tiny prints.
The eight-ounce PocketColor 200 prints out surprisingly small but clear 254dpi prints onto a specially developed paper that can withstand being bent, dropped, lightly scratched, and placed under running water. Sure, the prints are tiny, but they are just large enough to fit in the picture windows of most wallets, and they're extremely thin.
You also get an ink-and-photo-paper package that's good for 20 prints, a power adapter, and a copy of MGI PhotoSuite III SE. For the record, the ink cartridges and paper packs are sold together, and each cartridge contains only enough ink for exactly 20 prints. The good news about this approach is that, thanks to the way that the wax-thermal ribbon unrolls from the cartridge, you'll never have to worry about running out of a color midway through your paper pack. Additional paper-and-ink packs (for 20 prints) are $9.99 (or 50 cents per print). If you're more of an investment spender, you can buy three packs for $24.99 (or 42 cents per print).
Setting up the printer is straightforward: slide the ink cartridge into the side of the unit, attach the power cord, install the software, power up the printer, and you're ready to go. Like most software bundled with digicams, this package lets you perform some light image modification, such as rotate, crop, remove red-eye, sharpen, and stitch multiple pictures together.
So what's not to like?
The printer itself is extremely sensitive to dust, which can easily get inside the unit. If there's even the tiniest speck on the photo paper, you'll get a color anomaly on the final print. At least SiPix had the good sense to include a head cleaner in the box.
As far as picture quality goes, it's passable. The only times the unit printed a bad photo for us was when it was the result of poor originals. For example, the printer has a hard time translating hot spots and it washes out images, so it's best to use images that aren't too brightly lit. Another anomaly was that some of the colors on our prints didn't match the colors we saw on the computer screen. For example, we printed out a photo of a little girl who was wearing a green shirt, but in the final print, her shirt came out blue.
The biggest disappointment with this printer is that you can't plug it in directly to any old, USB-enabled digital camera. Why not? After all, the PocketColor 200 can operate on four AA batteries, so, technically, you could take it anywhere. SiPix says that its new USB camera will let you print from the camera, but SiPix is the only vendor that currently supports that capability.
Overall, the PocketColor 200 is an intriguing device with a slightly high list price: $179. The small prints it produces are clear and practically indestructible, and they have a unique novelty factor that can't be denied. It's a good fit for early adopters with money to burn or companies that want a cheap way to take photos for ID badges. Until the price drops, stick with another quick and relatively inexpensive solution: Polaroid's P-500.