Although the high street remains the cheapest place to get your digital photos turned into glossies, there's always been an appeal to developing photos at home. The romance of darkrooms and chemical solutions is long gone for most amateur photographers, and we're left with this clinical-looking device: the photo printer.
The HiTi 641PS is an especially clunky-looking example of the new range of dye-sublimation printers which are capable of results matching prints from traditional developers. Despite looking like an air-conditioning unit, it's better featured than many of its ilk: there's compatibility with most memory cards, PictBridge functions and a built-in photo preview screen.
We don't expect Philippe Starck design credentials from our printers, but the HiTi really pushes the boundaries of good taste. It's a plastic monolith with a huge slatted grill down the front and what looks like a CB radio handset hanging off the side. What it lacks in style it makes up for in clear layout. The memory card slots are easily visible and accessible to the right of the paper tray.
The paper tray loads into the front of the machine, increasing the footprint to approximately 300 by 300mm. Considering the rest of the unit has been designed in a vertical orientation it seems like a bizarre decision to feed the paper horizontally. This means that HiTi has inadvertently tripled the size of the 641PS in comparison to other photoprinters. Considering the HiTi produces standard 152x102mm photographs, it's massive. This is definitely not for the space-conscious.
The HiTi uses cartridges which are specifically designed to fit its range of printers. These are large plastic containers that look like binoculars and contain a spooling film of inks. The front of the HiTi flips down to expose the printer's feeder rollers and the cartridge bay. It's tricky to insert the print cartridge the first time round -- the HiTi's manual lacks some detail and contains some mildly unnerving translation mistakes. After a few cartridge changes you'll have no problem fitting replacements, but the manual could have been clearer on the procedure.
The detachable handset is useful for cursory examination of digital photographs prior to printing, but the screen is so small (40mm) that we found it impractical for anything more.