Sunday, October 24, 2021

Best Portable Printers 2019: Instant Photo Printers

HP has updated its original instant printer with this Sprocket 200, tested here in a speckled-grey Lunar Pearl. It’s the cheapest model in our round-up, but packs all the same features as the competition in a compact bundle just 80×117.5x25mm.

The printer itself has a retail price of £119/$129 but is available for less from Amazon.

For prints the Sprocket uses ZINK (Zero Ink) paper, 2x3in in size and sticky-backed for easier application wherever your heart desires. A pack of 10 is provided in the box, and thereafter it costs roughly £10/$10 per pack via Amazon, though you can save money per print by buying bigger packs. We also found some good prices on eBay. The Sprocket’s paper tray will accept only 10 sheets at a time.

The Sprocket couldn’t be easier to set up and use, pairing with your smartphone (Android 4.4+ or iOS 8.0+) over Bluetooth 5.0. This is the only way to send prints to the Sprocket, with no support for removable memory, Windows or Mac. Up to three users can share photos with a single Sprocket at once.

There’s a free mobile app that hooks up to Instagram, Facebook, Google Photos and your smartphone gallery, though you can also send snaps stored elsewhere to the app using the Share menu. We found the Sprocket app would leave out some random photos stored in our social media and Google Photos libraries, so sharing photos with the app was a simpler way to quickly find and print any photo on our phone.

With an image open in the Sprocket app, you can use pinch and pull gestures to rotate or zoom in closer on particular parts of the image. You can also tap the pencil icon at the top right of the screen to access editing options such as brightness and contrast adjustments, filters, borders, stickers and freeform text or doodles. Adults might find these features gimmicky, but for teenagers they could add appeal.

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The Sprocket takes around 40 seconds to print each snap. There are some printer settings within the app but they are mostly concerned with after how long the Sprocket goes to sleep or enters standby. There’s no way to change the print quality, for example, which is set to 313x400dpi.

In our tests the prints look good for an instant printer, but colours are not entirely accurate, and not as vibrant or saturated as you might hope. The loss of detail when compared to that shown on your phone screen is also very noticeable, but for small 2x3in ‘fun’ prints the quality is good enough.

The Settings menu within the app can also show you how much battery remains. The Sprocket has a small 550mAh battery that allows it to be portable. When the battery runs low the LED at the front of the device blinks red, and charging is possible over Micro-USB.

There’s an AI element called Reveal, which launches the camera to let you capture a photo and immediately ready it for printing within the app. When you press the print button HP says the Sprocket embeds some extra nuggets of information into the image, such as videos, maps and animations, and can show you photos taken on the same day from Google Street View, Wikipedia and more. You later view these extra features by launching Reveal and scanning the print.

Sadly we couldn’t get Reveal to work with any of our prints. But we still think the Sprocket remains one of the best instant printers around, and a cool gift idea for teenagers and young adults.

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