Tuesday, September 18, 2018

REVIEW: Epson PictureMate PM-400 - A Great Whole Family Photo Printer

Epson PictureMate 400

Despite my history of printing my own images and even writing a book on the subject as part of my Printing Series, my beautiful wife has no desire to geek out on printing like me. As a result, she's been frustrated with the bottleneck (me) in getting prints made from her iPhone pics or from the photos I share with her from my DSLR and mirrorless cameras. To address this frustration, I decided to test the wildly popular Epson PictureMate PM-400 wireless compact color photo printer to see if it would meet her needs.


The nice thing about this printer is you don't need a computer, so you just turn it on - plug in the 4 color ink cartridge and you are in business. You can then quickly print to Epson 4x6 or 5x7 photo paper directly from your cell phone or SD card.

The wireless networking setup was easy and my Windows 10 PC had no problems discovering the printer. I also connected it via USB and saw no noticeable performance difference so I decided to take advantage of wireless printing so I could put the printer anywhere in the house where we were sitting when we wanted to crank out some pics while talking or watching TV.

AirPrint vs Windows

AirPrint is known for being easy and reliable, but it's also known for being very simplistic. With this in mind, I decided to print some photos off of my iPhone X and everything went pretty smooth. For large photos not taken on the phone it did seem to take nearly an extra 30 seconds to print a photo via AirPrint vs Windows, but if you aren't hovering over it like someone trying to watch water boil, the difference was tolerable.

Test Images & Performance

For comparison, I also pitted the inexpensive PM-400 against the excellent Epson SureColor P800 which costs nearly $1000 more just to see how wide the quality and performance gap was between the two - and the results surprised me!

Into the Light by Ron Martinsen on 500px.com

For my first image, I thought I'd start with an excellent photo with a wide range of tones to see what was the best this printer could do. The PM-400, which had been turned off for a couple weeks took  2 minutes 17 seconds for first print with 46.5 seconds for head prep before paper feed from cold start. This means roughly a minute and 30 seconds for this image to print for a roughly 36mb print job which was NOT specially prepared for this printer - I just threw an original JPEG at it.

PM-400 From Photoshop with Printer Manages Colors & Default Settings

The quality was average viewer good, but obviously with 4 colors you aren't going to get a match to the original. It actually looks quite a bit better in real life than the scan of the print here, so don't let the quality here scare you - in real life it seems "good enough" for most users and I think better than what you get from discount photo printing labs like Costco, Walgreens, Target, etc...

For my photography geek friends, here's the Photoshop and printer driver settings I used:

Epson PM-400 Photoshop Print Settings

Epson PM-400 Windows Print Driver Settings

Surprisingly the P800 took 2 minutes and 3 seconds with 11 seconds before the paper feed on a cold start. This means it took one minute and 52 seconds, but the tonal range was significantly better in the highlight areas on the cheeks.

Epson SureColor P800 from Photoshop with Printer Manages Color using the sRGB preset

Despite being printed on the same Epson 4 Stars Premium Glossy paper and not using any ICC profiles or complex print features, the P800 was pretty darn close the original photo. Had I used an ICC profile I could have got an identical match.

Again, for my printing geek friends here's the settings I used to get this print:


Epson Windows P800 V3 Driver Settings

Black & White Test

To the novice who has never done fine art printing, one would think that Black & White printing would be very easy and there's no difference between the two. However, the reality is that B&W printing is actually rather complicated and hard to get right simply because printers aren't using just black ink to print out a "black and white" image (which is really a grayscale image).

Here's the source image I used:


When the PM-400 was warm it only took 10 seconds before the paper had been pulled into position and it started printing resulting in a total print time of 1 minute 37 seconds for a 57.4 mb job over a wireless network connection.  The P800 ABW did it in 2 minutes 2 seconds with 11 seconds which was the real kicker that I'd see consistently in my testing - the PM-400 was actually faster at cranking out a 4x6 photo!

Epson PM-400 Grayscale

No, your eyes aren't deceiving you - the black and white images often taken on a blue/purple tone depending on the ambient light that you view them under. It doesn't look quite as extreme as what you get from a scan in real life, but it's off - way off - from reality. Again, my wife thought it was fine but this one that was tough for me to accept.

I used the same Photoshop settings as above but here's the settings I used for the driver:

Epson PM-400 Windows Print Driver Settings

This time there was no contest in terms of tonal fidelity - the extra $1000 made a huge difference as you'd expect from a high end photo printer:

Epson P800 using Epson's Advanced Black & White (ABW) Mode

Epson P800 Windows V3 Driver using Advanced B&W Photo mode
Epson P800 Windows V3 Driver using Advanced B&W Photo mode

For more information about Epson Advanced B&W Photo mode see my ABW article.

Casual Print Test

Here's a 100% unedited photo I took with my iPhone X:


I printed directly from from my phone using AirPrint to the PM-400 and in 1 minute 30 seconds I had a nice borderless print.

Using my P800 via AirPrint on my phone was 1 minute 56 seconds which was surprising.

Windows Print Pictures Wizard

On Windows with Photoshop even when I told the driver to do borderless with max expansion, the aspect ratio of the photo caused me to get white bars on both the left and right side. To fix this problem I simply tried right-clicking on the photo in Explorer and choosing Print to use the Windows Print Pictures Wizard which resulted me in getting the same borderless results as AirPrint.  This is primarily due to the aspect ratio of iPhone prints vs digital camera prints which means that a true borderless print is going to crop more off the top and bottom of the print than one with white bars on the side. Keep this in mind when choosing borderless!

Quality-wise I saw the same differences in skin tones especially in the hot spots of the photos and in the cheeks as I saw with the model shot above, but it was less noticeable in a natural light photo.


In the end my wife loved the PM-400 so it was EXACTLY what she wanted and it works for her. I appreciated it for its ease of use and speed when the kids need a quick print of a photo that's on my iPhone for a school project where quality doesn't matter. It was also great for sending pics to the grandparents who don't really give a hoot about the quality as long as the pics are of their precious grandchildren!

For me, I obviously won't be giving up my P800 for the photos I care about. With that said, you don't need to spend a fortune as my P600 is almost as good for substantially less than the P800.

For the price, I loved the speed and ease of use I got out of the PM-400 so I can easily give it a strong recommendation for everyday non-color critical use. It's fast and certainly worth the great reviews it gets on Amazon for printer that cost less than a set of ink for my P800!

Where to Buy?

CLICK HERE to learn more or buy a Epson PictureMate PM-400 today.

Other articles you may enjoy

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy my printing series. Also be sure to check out my Reviews tab as well as Ron's Recommendations.


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