Review: Samsung SPP-2040 Digital Photo Printer

The Samsung SPP-2040 Digital Photo Printer is a Bento Box-sized dye sublimation printer that costs about $160.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

December 19, 2005

3 Min Read

Despite the Samsung SPP-2040 Digital Photo Printer’s low price, it’s not just another cheap-looking clunky plastic box.

You can print straight from a camera’s memory card, so printing can be very easy. With the built-in, two-inch color TFT-LCD you can select, edit, and delete photos from any number of sources including Flash type I, II, Microdriver, SmartMedia, SecureDigital, MultiMedia Card, Memory Stick, and XD Cards. You can even use Bluetooth-enabled devices to connect to the printer, although the instructions assume you are not a novice at connecting Bluetooth devices.

What makes this printer different from your run-of-the-mill inkjet printer? The SPP-2040, as well as its sans-LCD kid brother, the SPP-2020, uses a thermal dye-sublimation process to print pictures. Thermal dye-sublimation printers use ribbons containing dye, special dye-receptive paper, and heat to transfer color to paper. Paper and ribbon pass simultaneously under a print head containing heating elements that produce differing amounts of heat. The hotter the element, the more dye is released. Different shades of colors are overlaid onto each other to create saturated color without pixels. Finished pictures emerge dry and have a water and fade resistant finish that protects photos from fingerprints and smudging.

The device has a very small footprint, but you’ll need a bit of space around it when you print. The tabbed, 4x6 print paper travels back and forth through the device a few times, and you’ll need a little room for the paper cartridge, room for cables, and access to the ribbon cartridge. This printer faithfully reproduced my woefully amateur photographic compositions in print format. Colors were rich -- very rich – and, as advertised, there were no bizarre color shifts like when an ink cartridge ran low on an ink-jet printer. However, this brings me to an important point when using dye-sublimation printers: It costs more to use than an ink-jet printer. It costs about 70 cents per print if you buy paper an ribbon in the 40 sheet box, but a more palatable 39 cents per print if you buy the 120 piece set. Still, if you plan on making a lot of prints, it would be cheaper to go to your local photo store and print them off there. I take a lot of photographs, but don’t actually print all that many. So, to me, it’s absolutely worth paying for the convenience of excellent, near lab-quality pictures without having to get in my car, or submitting photos to an internet service. It’s sort of like buying limes at the liquor store rather than the grocery store. It’s just easier and you get similar results.

The SPP-2040’s self-contained editing features are minimal, but certainly adequate for most people. You can easily crop, perform some color manipulation, and apply special effects like antique, sepia, and black and white. You can also choose different print layouts including borderless, bordered, two-up, four-up, and even smaller, though I’m not sure what the point is of smaller pics, unless you’re just printing 4x6 contact sheets.

Though it’s meant to work without hooking up to a computer, many people probably will. But to do so you’ll need a USB cable, since you don’t get one with the printer. If you do use a computer, you can install the Samsung photo-editor software, PhotoThru. It’s basic photo editing software for beginners. You can fix red-eye, create albums -- that sort of thing -- but I’ll stick with my tried-and-true (and expensive) Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro for my photo manipulation, thank you.

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