The Sony DPP-EX50 belongs to the nebulous category of photo printers designed to roost among your home-theatre components as well as your PC -- the Panasonic SV-AP10 is another -- so that you can share and print your photos in couch-potato comfort. It prints quite well and quite quickly, but we're not quite sold on the idea of a living-room printer, and it's far less convenient than truly portable photo printers such as the Canon CP-330 and the Epson PictureMate. Plus, Sony could do with rethinking some of its design decisions.
Like its predecessor the DPP-EX5, the Sony DPP-EX50 looks like a small microtower CPU. At 279 by 203 by 64mm, the DPP-EX50 is bigger than most portable photo printers we've reviewed, but it stands upright to slip into your entertainment centre next to your TV. It can also lie flat (if you position it that way, it looks like a small DVD player), but since most of the controls are on the top of the device, we advise against it. The paper input/output tray sticks out from the front like a sideways disc drive; you might appreciate its front-loading tray in the living room, but we found it a bit awkward on the desk.
On top of the printer, you'll see an LCD with an array of buttons below it for alternating between inputs (camera, PC, TV, or media card) and navigating through the editing and print menus. Unlike many snapshot printers, the DPP-EX50 doesn't display your photos on the LCD; all you can do is print an index sheet or select individual pictures by number. To view and edit images for printing, you must hook up the printer to your television via the video-out jack on the back of the printer and the supplied cable or use your PictBridge-compatible camera's LCD via a USB connection. We can see how being able to remove red-eye or crop and resize on a big-screen TV might be useful -- especially for the farsighted among us -- but we're not totally convinced of the concept. Sony doesn't yet offer a version of the DPP-EX50 with a preview LCD. For that, you'll have to look to its last-generation DPP-EX7.
On the front panel, above the input/output tray (which holds 30 sheets), you'll find slots for CompactFlash and Memory Stick media. If your camera takes another format, you'll have to buy an adaptor from a third-party manufacturer. With many full-size photo printers nowadays, the media slots act as card readers so that you can view and transfer photos to your PC. This is not the case with the DPP-EX50 -- all you can do is print from the cards.
The Sony DPP-EX50's in-printer editing capabilities are fairly extensive. You can change the size of photos, rotate them, improve the picture quality, correct red-eye, add filters, and superimpose titles. You can also make cards, calendars, or stamps; add fancy wallpaper or a frame; and split the image to produce tiny stickers.
If you just want to make prints without messing about, you can connect any PictBridge-enabled digital camera and fire away. Sony's PictureGear Studio software, which is included on the PC's installation CD, contains a few photo-management features, as well as basic editing function. You can also create postcards, cards, and labels with the software.
Regrettably, the Sony DPP-EX50 doesn't come with any ribbon cartridges or paper. Even the skimpy five-print starter packs that come with most photo printers would be better than nothing. Photo or sticker print packs that include paper and ribbons are sold separately and range in price. Each print consumes the same amount of ribbon.
The Sony DPP-EX50 performed really well overall. It took only 1.5 minutes to print our standard 101 x 152mm borderless photo, or about 0.7 page per minute (ppm), which makes it one of the fastest photo printers we've tested and only slightly slower than our current portable champion, the Canon CP-300. The printer worked flawlessly, but it was a little noisy for its size.
CNET Labs project leader Dong Van Ngo wrote this section.
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Despite its design quirks, the Sony DPP-EX50 prints first-rate photos. The DPP-EX50 uses dye sublimation technology, which means that it melts together three layers of dye to create each dot. Skin tones were smooth, warm, and natural-looking, while colours were vibrant. The printer also did a great job of capturing details such as a white egg against a white background, metallic elements, and the intricate design of a postage stamp.
Sony also offers e-mail support, documentation, drivers, a searchable knowledge base, and tutorials through its Web site.
Additional editing by Tom Espiner