After a week of testing, I determined HP Sprocket and Polaroid Zip produce similar photo quality with equally mediocre apps. You should buy whichever of these portable printers is the cheapest because they both get the job done.
I’ll compare and contrast these two portable phone printers (HP Sprocket vs. Polaroid Zip) by evaluating four categories: software, print quality, unique features, and price.
- Software: Zip has a better interface for positioning photos on paper.
- Print Quality: It looks about the same as Sprocket.
- Features: You can create a collage of four tiny photos on one 2” x 3” paper.
- Price: It’s $90 on Amazon and $0.48 per photo paper.
Best for you if...
You're OK struggling a little to find photos to print in exchange for the best photo positioning experience. Scrolling through your camera roll isn't smooth and sometimes the photos are not in the right order.
- Software: Sprocket has the best photo-finding interface.
- Print Quality: It’s a tad sharper, but it's only evident if you look closely in direct light.
- Features: You can make one 4” x 6” photo with four 2” x 3” tiles.
- Price: It’s $130 on Amazon and $0.50 per photo paper.
Best for you if...
You want to a better interface for finding photos to print. You may have issues properly fitting the picture on the paper. The first edition is a better option, because it’s almost the same device for $30 less (more below).
Things To Know
- Portable printers are a solid gift idea but don’t count on amazing print quality. The colors are inaccurate and sometimes washed out or lack detail. It reminds me of the quality you’d get from a Polaroid camera. But it’s adequate because the photos are only 2″ x 3″.
- You need to print from your phone (iOS or Android). You can’t directly print from a computer or camera.
- These printers connect to your photo via Bluetooth.
- You can print anything from your phone’s camera roll. You can also connect with your social media profiles, like Instagram and Facebook or grab photos from your Google library.
- You don’t need ink cartridges, just paper. These use ZINK Zero Ink technology. The papers have several layers and the heat, pulse, and intensity from the printer makes the paper change colors.
- The apps weren’t built by software-first companies, and both have issues with the interface. My advice: don’t worry about editing, filtering or cropping your photos in the printer app. Edit beforehand, in your phone’s photo app, or an app that’s specifically designed for photo editing. Then, import.
- Portable printers have internal batteries. In my experience, you should be able to print at least ten photos on one charge. These companies suggest you can print up to 25 on one charge.
- You can use the printers while they’re plugged via the included micro USB charger.
- Once you find the picture you want to print, it shows a clear diagram of what’s going to be printed and what will be cut off. You can easily make adjustments, unlike Sprocket.
- The app isn’t intuitive or clean:
- Scrolling is not smooth when going through your camera roll. It jumps.
- The default camera roll interface is a two-by-six grid. You can modify it, but it changes back each time you open the app.
- The pictures don’t show up in the correct order. The first 150 or so are ordered correctly, but once you get past that point, all of the files are out of order. For example, my 150th picture is from late 2018, but the 151st is from 2008. It’s just a bug and not a huge deal, but I’m not sure when it’ll get patched.
- Moving in and out of menus is slow.
- I had issues installing the new firmware update. It failed multiple times before completing successfully.
Printer Quality (C-):
- Once you pick a photo to print, it takes 44 seconds for it to print completely. I was impressed with the turnaround time.
- The print quality is fine and you won’t notice a difference in quality compared to Sprocket at a glance. But if you look closely while in direct lighting, you’ll notice there is slightly less detail.
- There’s an option to add a timestamp to your printed photos.
- Polaroid image editing has more features and is smoother than HP’s.
- You can take pictures inside the app with your camera, but I don’t suggest it.
- There’s an interesting collage feature that lets you print four tiny pictures on one sheet. I’m not sure how valuable four tiny 1” x 1.5” images printed on an already tiny 2” x 3” sheet is.
- Before printing, the app automatically centers and positions the photo, but it’s almost impossible to make adjustments on what’s printing by cropping and moving the photo. It requires steadily moving two fingers at once.
- The camera roll moves smoothly and has a more traditional grid.
- The interface works well until you need to edit a photo or add filters. I suggest you do this outside of the app anyway because the app features are limited and difficult to use.
- HP initially requires your location data with camera and microphone access to use the app. After the setup, you can go into your phone’s settings and disable your location data and the app will still work.
Printer Quality (C):
- While the quality of the printed pictures will not mimic what’s shown on the box, Sprocket’s print quality has the edge over Zip because it’s a tiny bit sharper and prints more consistently.
- After you’ve selected a picture to print, it takes 65 seconds for your finished print to be done. (If you don’t use the reveal feature, it takes 55 seconds).
- There are several poorly-executed image filters, stickers, and borders that can be added before you print. It’s like Snapchat, except painfully slow with a significant lag.
- You can print with multiple phones connected at once and it’ll create a queue of photos. I didn’t try this for myself, but I think you’re asking for trouble going this route due to the poor software.
- You can’t print collages, like Zip, but it has “tile mode” where you can print a fourth of a photo on four different sheets to create a 4″ x 6″ picture that’s broken up into fourths. I don’t understand its purpose, but someone might like the tile feature.
- “HP Reveal” puts a hidden code on your printed pictures to let you scan your photo for more information. After a 10-second scan in the app, a Wikipedia page pops up with the location of the picture. It’ll also show you your camera roll photos from the same day. HP’s trying to be “innovative” but they’ve created a feature that no one will need or know how to use.
- The second edition HP Sprocket has a list price of $130.
- It comes in three colors with a matte finish: Black Noir, Blush, and Luna Pearl. They have a strange speckled pattern on the top.
- When you buy the printer, you get 10 sheets with it. Additional sheets cost $25 for 50 sheets on Amazon.com (50 cents per sheet).
- I didn’t try the first edition Sprocket, but it sells for $100 and it’s probably the one most should buy. Here are the differences:
- It has Bluetooth 3.0, rather than Bluetooth 5.0. This probably only saves a bit of battery life.
- People seem split on whether the picture quality is different, so let’s call it a wash.
- The first edition doesn’t have the gimmicky HP Reveal feature.