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They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so how much is a memory worth? The times we spend with family and friends are the most treasured throughout our lives. That’s why many adventurers seek to keep track of where they’ve been by taking photos. Using a mini printer to save these memories can keep the spirit of the moment alive long after you return home.
A mini printer is similar to a regular printer, just smaller and easier to take with you. Install its app on your smartphone, and you can print photos with amazing quality in less than a minute. The instant satisfaction, mixed with how great the photos look, draws many people to purchase mini photo printers.
Is a mini printer the same as a regular printer?
A portable photo printer uses the same technology as a regular printer. It’s just on a smaller scale and has a few modifications. For example, portable printers are much smaller and easier to carry around (as the name implies), which means you get instant results. There’s something special about having a high-quality image on photo paper, something that screens can’t beat. Additionally, wireless connectivity is a huge part of what helps these printers produce so much. A good pocket printer needs to quickly connect to whatever device you're using and often comes with an app. A desk printer may have wireless connectivity but won't necessarily have an app to go with it. It’s very convenient to print things just from your smartphone without having to pull out another device or figure out how to use another system.
It’s also important to note the cost. A portable printer costs about the same as a regular printer of similar quality. You’re probably getting better photo quality for your money unless your printer at home is on the high end of the market. But that’s still quite the investment. It doesn’t make photo printers impractical or unnecessary, but it’s something to keep in mind. If you’re not in a place where you need immediate photo access, consider keeping your old printer if the quality is acceptable.
Another hidden cost is the materials needed to keep a photo printer running. Just as regular printers soak up tons of money in ink cartridges and paper, mini printers also require extra materials to keep them running. Photo paper alone is quite expensive. Even though it’s usually praised for how amazing the pictures look, it can take a big bite out of your wallet. Not to mention, if you get the wrong type of photo paper by accident, that’s quite a bit you could’ve spent on something else. Many mini inkjet printer models will use up cartridges just like larger printers, too. For all the benefits they give, portable photo printers also come with some drawbacks, most of which have to do with the pricing.
How does a portable photo printer work?
A mini photo printer allows you to quickly access photos that you’ve taken on your mobile device. There’s usually Bluetooth connectivity to an app on your smartphone, and there are printers compatible with major smartphone types, such as an Android or iOS device. After establishing a WiFi or Bluetooth connection, photo printing on a mobile printer is as easy as tapping a button.
One thing to keep in mind is that photos require a great deal of detail and high-quality resolution. A regular portable printer will require a special photo paper, not just the same stuff you’d use to print out a text document. Photo paper greatly increases the print quality because it brings out all the colors and nuance the photo has to bring.
Photo paper will change depending on the device. For example, the dye sublimation method attaches ink to the paper by heating it. Not all portable printers require ink cartridge reloading, but this one does. It applies ink directly to the paper and lets the dyes attach themselves in the proper shape. A huge disadvantage of this method is that dye sublimation printers take longer to print than similar mini printers.
But there’s also Zink paper, which is basically the opposite of an inkjet printer. Zink paper is infused with special crystals that can refract light in tons of different colors, kind of like a mini-LED on a string of Christmas lights. The paper is subjected to heat inside the printer and comes out the other end with the crystals “energized” to create a high-quality image. Zink photo paper is praised for how amazing its images turn out. Another way of processing photos is the Polaroid technique, which uses a special fluid to coat the paper and produce an image in a certain pattern.
There are different methods, using different types of printer paper, so be familiar with which one you'll need for your mini printer. You wouldn’t want to be caught with the wrong type of material for the job, after all. Ensure the paper you have is the right size and composition, so it passes seamlessly through the printer and shows up on the other side with a crisp, clean photo. Whichever smartphone printer you pick should also be compatible with your device, so confirm whether or not it works before taking it with you on a trip.
What is the difference between a mini printer and a Polaroid printer (Polaroid Zip)?
A Polaroid Zip printer uses Zink paper to create high-quality photos right away. For one thing, the printer and app have a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars. It stands a step above the other mini printer apps and has a lot better usability. Users also like how easy it is to order paper refills for the printer. Once you run out of paper, simply hop onto the app and order it directly there. It’s helpful because you can immediately reorder whichever type of paper you got last time, which can save lots of hassle.
The Polaroid Zip also stands out from regular mini printers in other ways. Some of them are mostly for aesthetics, such as the white lines around the photos it produces, reminding users of classic Polaroid photos. The print quality is comparable, if not better, to other products.
If you’re looking for a product to compare it to, the best would probably be another Polaroid model. The Polaroid Mint Pocket Printer (not to be confused with the Polaroid Mint instant camera, which is a totally different product) also prints on high-quality Zink paper for photos.
It also has a very useful app and is arguably better than the Zip. It depends on your point of view, of course, but here are some things the Mint has going for it. It’s got a wide variety of filters and other features that make for overall “quality of life” enhancements.
Not to mention, it appears as though the Zip's golden days are over. They are going out of production and are now quite expensive. Once upon a time, they were cheaper than the Mint, but Polaroid's other hardware may permanently surpass this printer if the scarcity continues.
What’s the best portable photo printer out there?
In addition to the mini Polaroid printers, here are some of the best portable photo printers we found:
1.Fujifilm Instax Mini Link
Fujifilm Instax Mini Link: This model showed up on a bunch of the reviews we surveyed. It prints quick, Polaroid-style photos that can come out right after each other. The mini film comes out just like old times, with the colors slowly coming into focus after a few minutes. In addition, the Fujifilm shows you exactly how many shots you have left. It combines the nostalgia of old-fashioned photographs with the ease and accessibility of the modern age. With the Fujifilm, you also get tons of options for editing and filtering the photo before it prints.
2. HP Sprocket Plus
HP Sprocket Plus: While this model is fairly pricey, the HP Sprocket delivers on its promises. It connects to Bluetooth with ease and prints amazing photos instantly. But it stands above other printers with its Embedded Experiences feature, which allows you to take short videos with your pictures. Smartphones have had this feature for a while, of course: a still photo that’s actually a video. But HP Sprocket brings it to the instant printing world with a bang: if you scan printed photos, it will play a short video on your phone!
3. Brother Pocketjet PJ-773
Brother Pocketjet PJ-773: An extremely expensive model! But it uses a special thermal paper that allows the printer to use heat instead of ink. That means the printer doesn’t break down as easily or require ink reloads--all it will need is thermal paper reloads. Its superior craftsmanship allows you to print detailed images with amazing accuracy.
Whatever your preference, we're sure you'll be able to find a mini printer to fit your needs!