The Auto Enhance feature is rather opaque -- a search through the user guide didn't clarify exactly what Auto Enhance does. We suspect it tries to improve an image, but we're not sure how. When we used Auto Enhance to adjust a few pictures that were too dark, slightly blurry or badly lit, we didn't see a noticeable improvement. If anything, in one photo, we saw that the printer had reduced some glare on people's faces, but overall, the picture was slightly less sharp than the unenhanced print.
Of the three printers discussed here, the Canon Selphy DS810 has the best range of image-optimisation choices. Aside from turning on the Canon's general 'autoenhance' feature, you can tweak contrast and hue, brighten faces, change colour saturation, and perform colour balancing. The Lexmark's frame feature is one we haven't seen before -- it simply adds one of four frame designs (in 20 colours) to the four sides of your photo. The designs are limited and fairly cheesy, so we don't see ourselves using it much.
If you want to print photos on your PC's hard drive, you can print straight from your preferred photo-editing program, or use Lexmark's Fast Pics utility, which helps you pick photos and make adjustments to them. Oddly enough, you get fewer photo tweaking options in Fast Pics than you do working straight on the P350. For example, you can reduce red-eye, crop and 'autofix' images, but you can't adjust brightness or add frames. The Epson PictureMate Pal also has limited image-enhancement options in stand-alone mode, but at least the included imaging software gives you more control over your photos.
Once you've connected the P350 to your PC, you can also transfer photos from a memory card via Fast Pics. By comparison, the Epson PictureMate Pal also lets you transfer photos in the reverse direction. Another alternative is to transfer photos from a memory card to a USB storage device, such as a flash thumbdrive -- the PictureMate Pal doesn't allow for this.
Like Epson, Lexmark sells a photo kit that includes a single three-colour ink cartridge and 100 sheets of 100x150mm photo paper. While we couldn't locate supplies online, the recommended price for consumables is £19.99 for a cartridge and 100 sheets of paper -- making the cost 20p per print. This is in line with the per-print cost for the Epson PictureMate Pal and the Canon Selphy DS810 (not counting the initial cost of the printer, of course).
The Lexmark P350 took nearly twice as long as either the Epson or Canon models to print photos. It printed borderless 100x150mm images at a rate of 0.56 pages per minute (ppm), while the PictureMate Pal managed 1.0ppm and the Canon gave us 1.11ppm.
As far as quality goes, it's in the middle of the pack. The recommended paper is neither glossy nor matte like traditional photo paper. It has a sort of flat look to it that reminds us of magazine prints or postcards -- this is neither good nor bad, just different. Still, the images had a nice sharpness, and we liked the printer's colour handling better than that of the Epson PictureMate Pal, though it suffered from some of the same graininess. Overall, the print quality should satisfy casual snapshot users.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Edited by Matthew Elliott
Additional editing by Elizabeth Griffin