Price (RRP): $199
This, truly, is fun. The HP Sprocket is a photo printer, but not for professional purposes. It’s for getting photos off your phone – Android v.4.4 or later, iOS 8 or later – and onto photo paper. Small bits of photo paper.
Let’s be clear. The HP Sprocket is fun, a lot of fun, and it’s only for fun. You want professional photo prints? Go to a print shop or buy a different device. What the Sprocket produces are small, fun prints, generally on adhesive paper with a removable backing so you can stick them onto things.
The sizes of the prints are 50mm by 76mm, or just under two inches by three inches. Two by three? Yes, that makes each print one quarter of the size of the tradition six by four.
The printer uses Zink photo paper. Zink is the brand, and it also stands for “zero ink”. It’s a kind of multilayer thermal paper, with the yellow, magenta and cyan dyes triggered by specific heat pulses to produce the colour, as is the sealing coat. You probably won’t be surprised to read that the technology was first developed by Polaroid – famed for instant print cameras back in the day. Subsequently the company was turned into an independent business.
Tectogizmo has a good overview of Zink paper herer. here.
The advantage of this is no fiddling around with bits and pieces. Everything is in the paper. No inks or other consumables needed.
The disadvantage is media costs. The “sticky-backed” paper costs $20 for a packet of 20, $45 for a packet of 50. A packet of ten is supplied with the Sprocket.
The HP Sprocket printer, as you’d expect with a fun device, comes in three colours. The review one was a lovely iridescent red, but black and white (this last with gold-coloured highlights) are also available. It measures 116mm long by 75mm wide and 23mm thick. (It’s eminently portable, too, weighing just 172 grams.) It has a built in rechargeable battery – it’s a 7.4 volt, 500mAh Lithium Polymer unit – which you feed from any standard USB charging device via a Micro-B USB socket on the back. There’s a power button and a power LED (charging takes less than two hours) and a white LED to indicate status, and that’s about it for on-device interactions.
It’s the app that does everything else.
The printer supports JPG, GIF, BMP and PNG photos, and also TIFF when used with the iOS app. The Bluetooth is version 3.0. It contains 512MB of memory. The print resolution is 313 by 400 dots per inch. That tends to understate the resolution because with this kind of technology the three colours overlay each other, rather than sit side by side, so it’s more comparable to something like a thousand dots per inch from an inkjet or laser printer.
Your first step is to install the “sprocket” app. I used Android, but it’s pretty much the same for iOS. The app talks you through connecting to the Sprocket.
If your phone has NFC then you can tap and apparently this will trigger the app download, but I didn’t realise this until later. When I reset the Sprocket and tried NFC – I already had the app installed – and the NFC of the phone certainly responded to the Sprocket, but rather than opening up the Sprocket app or taking me to the HP web page, it just started up the Fitbit app on my phone each time. So I just ended up re-pairing manually.
Really, I think that most of the time using NFC for Bluetooth pairing is more trouble than it’s worth.