At just over 9 cubic inches, the HP Sprocket is the smallest of the wallet-size snapshot printers we tested. While it works pretty well for a novelty photo printer, its print quality just doesn’t quite measure up to that of other photo-only printers. The slightly larger Polaroid Zip produced better-quality 2 x 3 snapshots, and in testing, we found that these limited-inkless printers can’t create display prints. This is mostly because the colors aren’t as bright or vivid as when printed with machines that use inkjet or dye-sublimation technology.
The printer’s compact size also means it doesn’t have a lot of printing options. You can only print in one size, and while there are a few editing options in the app, you can’t adjust settings and connectivity selections like you can with some other printers we reviewed.
The Sprocket uses zero ink, or “Zink,” technology to create images on heat-activated photo paper. This makes setup easy because you don’t have to load a cartridge; you simply open the tray and drop in the paper.
Because of its small size, the printer only holds 10 pieces of paper at a time. The paper is a little expensive, especially for such small prints. However, since you don’t have to worry about purchasing ink, it’s a good value compared to other photo printers. And like many of the other portable photo printer manufacturers, HP sells adhesive photo paper so you can use your photos as stickers.
One great thing about inkless printers is their speed. Our tests show that the Sprocket prints photos in an average of around 40 seconds per picture, which is the fastest speed of the Zink printers we tested. It can print about 30 photos per charge but comes with a USB power cable in case you need to charge it to continue printing.
This printer is extremely portable and can easily fit in a purse or large pocket. There’s only one button on the device for power, and it doesn’t have a display because you print directly from your smartphone. A small light on the side of the device blinks when the device is processing print jobs and turns red if something is wrong.
It was very easy to connect to and begin printing with this device. Its well-organized app walks you through the steps to connect to the printer, and it gives you the option to sync to your social media accounts so you can access them in the app – we printed almost instantly from Google photo accounts and Facebook. The printer can only connect to a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. While its nice when printers have many connection options, like USB, SD card or wireless network options, the limited choice meant we could print images from the internet in less than five minutes.
When we tested print quality, we found that photos made with the Sprocket looked washed out; this was especially true in our portrait photo test, in which the printer made the subject look very pale. In that same image, we also saw that lines separating different objects in the photo weren’t well defined. With the naked eye, we could just barely make out a grid-like pattern on each of the prints, and some of the tiny details didn’t make it through in our landscape prints. Still, we also found the colors were more vivid in the landscape prints than with some of the other portable photo printers we tested.
The HP Sprocket makes printing easy and is a great option for a novelty printer. However, if you're looking to produce long-lasting, detailed photos, we recommend looking at some of the higher-end photo-only printers that come with more printing options and features.
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