Portable printing to create photos and documents on the go
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