HP Sprocket

Portable print­ing to cre­ate pho­tos and doc­u­ments on the go

Computer Active (UK) - - Contents -

A sprocket is the cog wheel that pulls film through a cam­era or punched com­puter pa­per through a printer. Cam­eras don’t use film any more and prin­ters don’t use punched com­puter pa­per, so nat­u­rally this portable printer for out­putting snaps from your dig­i­tal cam­era is called Sprocket. It’s retro, you see! And its shiny black or white case has cop­per-coloured high­lights to prove it.

On the in­side, the Sprocket is based on Zink, an in­stant-print­ing tech­nol­ogy that’s been around for a few years and keeps pop­ping up in dif­fer­ent guises. The best known was Po­laroid’s Pogo, which, be­fore be­ing dis­con­tin­ued, was billed as ‘the world’s small­est dig­i­tal photo printer’. The Sprocket is even smaller. Rather than stan­dard 6x4in photo pa­per, it takes tiny 2x3in sheets (about 50x75mm) that come out sticky-backed, as long as your fin­ger­nails are long enough to peel them off.

The printer it­self isn’t much big­ger – about the size of two mo­bile phones stacked up. So you re­ally can carry it around any time, not just for spe­cial oc­ca­sions. The bat­tery, charged via mi­crousb, lasts up to 50 prints.

Be­cause it’s de­signed for mo­bile use, it only works with mo­bile de­vices – Ap­ple and An­droid phones and tablets – not PCS or Macs. It con­nects via Blue­tooth, and is sim­ple to set up, with a nicely de­signed app, al­though the An­droid ver­sion de­mands ac­cess to your lo­ca­tion data, for rea­sons we couldn’t work out.

The app shows the live feed from your de­vice’s cam­era as its back­ground screen, which again doesn’t re­ally serve any pur­pose and seems likely to run your bat­tery down more than is nec­es­sary. Still, print­ing is sim­ple, and it can use pho­tos straight from your Face­book, In­sta­gram or Google ac­count as well as your cam­era roll, al­though strangely not Flickr.

Qual­ity is merely ad­e­quate. Don’t be fooled by the low res­o­lu­tion – each of the Sprocket’s dots can be any colour, while inkjets use many tiny dots to form each coloured pixel. But our prints showed too much auto-sharp­en­ing, and fine tones such as skin weren’t very sub­tly shaded, while an or­ange cast made us look a bit like Don­ald Trump. Run­ning costs are high, at 50p a go. Still, it’s rea­son­ably quick – print­ing six pic­tures took us six min­utes eight sec­onds – and un­de­ni­ably great fun.

Portable, fast and fun to use – but don’t ex­pect poster-size prints

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