The Best Portable Photo Printers- which is right for you?

portable photo printer

Looking for a portable photo printer? Confused by the options and want to know what’s best for you? Whether you need a portable printer for travel, or a mini printer, here’s our review of the best options on the market.

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Portable Photo Printer- do you need one?

I don’t own a printer. In fact, if you count from when I moved out of my parents’ house to today, the ONLY time I have owned a printer is when I was working from home for a while (you know, during that time where we were ALL working from home…)

In all honestly, I need a printer probably less than 5 times a year. The expansion of email and popularization of cloud-based document sharing, along with the advent of smartphones, has made printers all but obsolete for many of us.

Of course, when I do want or need a photo printer, it’s incredibly annoying not to have one. Because I normally want to share a memory with someone there and then, or create a gift for someone kind to us on our travels or put a photo up on the wall.

And that, my friend, is where portable photo printers come in. With wi-fi and inkless printing technology, you don’t need a giant box taking up a sizeable chunk of your workspace (or travel bag). You can even get portable printers for phones, so you don’t need to go through the ridiculous chain of emailing or airdropping yourself just to print a photo from your albums.

I know that choosing the BEST portable printer for you is tough. There are so many options on the market. But don’t fear- we’re here to help. We’ve spent hours (seriously HOURS) testing, retesting and basically trying to break the top portable printers on the market.

Stick with us, and you WILL be able to put those photos from your travels out of your album and onto the wall (or in a frame for your parents!)

Carry on reading to see our full list of the best Portable Photo Printers, followed by a recap breaking down what makes each product on our list stand out.


What Should You Look For in a Portable Photo Printer?

Since portable photo printers are pretty new, you probably aren’t an expert on them just yet. And while you don’t need to be an expert on something to buy it, we want you to feel prepared when you make your purchase. In pursuit of that goal, we’re going to thoroughly detail the criteria we used to evaluate our top portable photo printers. By the time you finish reading this post, you’ll feel like a complete pro and you’ll be ready to start giving your friends advice on which portable photo printer THEY should buy.

Criteria #1: Extra Features – It might be a bit unusual to start off our criteria list with such a broad category but let’s be honest- all of these products are designed to perform the same straightforward task – printing photos. So most of your decision will be made based on their extra features. Without spoiling anything just yet, you’ll see a lot of different features in our photo printers that might be the big selling point for you. The little things make a big difference.

Criteria #2: Battery Life – We don’t want you to buy a fancy new portable photo printer that dies on you after just a few pictures. Whether you’re traveling on vacation or at a family gathering or party, we want you to be able to print as many photos as you wish without worrying about battery life. Some printers can print as many as 40 photos on one charge, so that’s what we’ll be aiming to deliver to you with this list.

Criteria #3: Size & weight- Surprising absolutely nobody, we want our portable photo printers to be, well, portable. That means that, for once, smaller is better (feel free to snigger- I did.) Of course, the smaller the printer, the smaller the final photo will be. We want to make sure not to overdo it too much in the “portable” category, but where you draw that line is up to you. To help you, we’ve included the exact weight and measurements of every printer on our list.

Criteria #4: Price – Part of finding the top portable printer is value for money. This is less about being cheap and more about justifying what you’re spending. Of course, everyone has different criteria for what they want to spend and how valuable it will be to them, so we’ve included a range of options for all budgets. Luckily, no portable photo printer is really that expensive, but we’ll make sure to include an extra-cheap option for anyone who needs to tighten up their budget.


Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Portable Photo Printers

We measured the specs of the top products on the market against our listed criteria to see how they held up and if they’re worth buying. We then checked customer reviews, blog posts, and “best portable photo printers” articles to see if the products on our list performed as advertised. We also made sure to include a wide variety of products that satisfy different requirements and meet different price tags. This way, everyone can find the best portable photo printer that’s absolutely perfect for them.

So, without further ado, here is our list – tailored to your specific needs – of the top portable photo printers.


#1: HP Sprocket Portable Printer (Best Value – All-Purpose)

HP created their Sprocket Portable Printer a few years ago and, honestly, it just keeps getting better and better. It’s also the most popular choice on Amazon, with over 4,000 4*+ reviews.

BEST FEATURES

  • Can edit photos before printing
  • Bluetooth- can connect to up to 5 Apple or Android devices at once
  • Sleep mode to save battery
  • Lasts 30-40 photos printed
  • 2×3 inch photos on sticky-backed paper
  • Variety of colors (including lilac and gold!)

To start things off, our number-one portable photo printer is compatible with the designated HP Sprocket app that lets you edit and personalize your photos before you print them. (Discover more insanely useful apps for editing photos and videos here)

The HP Sprocket Portable Printer uses Bluetooth connectivity and a special sleep mode to stay connected while not in use without draining the battery. Incidentally, said battery lasts for about 30-40 photos, so you won’t feel tethered to your charger.

The HP Sprocket Portable Printer – compatible with both iOS and Android devices – can connect to up to 5 devices at once. Specialized LED lights will tell you whose photo is printing ahead of time. You can even scan the printer with your phone and see a full queue of the photos that are going to be printed.

SIZE

This HP printer measures 4.63 x 3.15 x 0.98 inches and weighs just 6 and a bit ounces, which means it’s about the same size as your smartphone. The photos themselves come printed on 2 x 3 inch sticky-backed photo paper that will help you easily decorate any surface of your choice to give a personal flair to your room, fridge, or laptop.

2021 UPDATE: There is now a 4×6 inch version! Find out more HERE

PRICE

For such a popular product, it comes in at a reasonable and affordable price. There’s even a one-year warranty which really adds to the value. With all of the features you could ask for, the small frame, and the great battery life, the HP Sprocket Portable Printer is the best value out there, and that’s why it’s our pick for the best portable photo printer.

There are several options for bundles (which come with the special printing paper and stickers), as well as the ability to just buy the paper for refills.

With the HP Sprocket Portable Printer, we’ve shown right off the bat that you don’t need to spend a fortune on your mobile printer. Of course, if you’re willing to spend the big bucks for the best product available, there are a few printers you may prefer over our top-ranked HP printer. The most noteworthy of said printers is the Canon Selphy CP1300 Compact Photo Printer.


#2: Canon Selphy CP1300 Compact Photo Printer (Best Overall Portable Photo Printer)

Best Features

  • Social Media Integration
  • Wifi printing
  • Multiple sizes can be printed from one printer
  • Can print from an SD card (useful for Action Cameras, Drones and Camera)
  • Battery or mains powered

Canon hardly needs any introduction and it shouldn’t be a surprise that their portable photo printers are good. Really good. The appropriately named Selphy CP1300 may be a bit on the expensive side of things, but it has some features that you just can’t get anywhere else. Here are the perks Canon has to offer that might convince you to splurge for the Canon Selphy CP1300.

Reason #1 to Choose the Selphy CP1300: Social Media Integration

Hands up if you’ve been trying to find a photo to print, and the easiest way to find it is on your Instagram. 🙋‍♀️

Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or the memories section of your Snapchat account, social media often acts as a virtual photo album just as much as a way of actually sharing photos. This means that, for a lot of us modern-day photographers, the quickest way to access a photo is to simply scroll through your own social media accounts.

Canon knows this, so they designed the Selphy CP1300 Compact Photo Printer to connect straight to your social media accounts. Without any middle step of manually downloading each picture, you’ll be able to print straight from your Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat account.

Reason #2 to Choose The Selphy: Wifi Printing

Our previous printer, the HP Sprocket, can only print via physical connectivity. This means that printing anything that’s not already on your smartphone or another Bluetooth-compatible device is a big hassle. With three different available input methods, you will not have that problem with the Canon Selphy CP1300 portable photo printer.

With this option, you can print from any micro-USB-compatible device, an SD card, or through wifi/ bluetooth. You have many more options than just your smartphone or computer, and you won’t have to move your photos around before printing them. No matter where your virtual photo album is located, you’ll be able to print it quickly and easily with this Canon printer.

Another great feature is the physical control pad which is useful when printing directly from an SD card and is perfect for anyone who doesn’t really like touchscreens.

Size (of printer AND photos)

On top of the highly useful features already detailed above, the Canon Selphy CP1300 Compact Photo Printer can print photos in multiple sizes of 4.0 x 6.0 inches, 3.5 x 4.7 inches, 2.1 x 3.4 inches, or 2.1 x 2.1 inches. Choose whether to print a photo for a gift or to decorate your wall or a smaller one to keep in your wallet.

The Selphy has a physical size of 5.4 x 7.1 x 2.5 inches and a weight of 1.90 pounds. This makes it a bit bigger than the HP Sprocket printer (the smaller version, not the 4×6 version), but it’s also not crazy big or heavy.

Downsides of the Canon Selphy CP1300

The absolute worst part about this printer is that the battery isn’t included. If you’re not willing to pay for it, then you’ll be tied to using mains outlets. Of course, if you don’t plan on using it while out and about, that’s not a huge issue.

With close to 5,000 reviews, the crowd has spoken on the Canon Selphy CP1300, wireless or otherwise. If you’re the kind of customer that knows that you get what you pay for, this is the only product for you.


#3: Kodak Step Wireless Mobile Photo Mini Printer (Best Low Cost)

If you only want a portable photo printer for when you’re travelling, or the occasionally party or event, value for money and lower price is probably going to be more important to you than special features.

Step forward, the Kodak Step Wireless Mobile Photo Mini Printer.

Best Features

  • Cheapest photo printer on the list
  • Convenient size (2×3)
  • Water resistant photos
  • Compatible with iOS and Android
  • Battery lasts for 25 prints

The cheapest wireless compact photo printer on our list provides you with photos in the form of convenient stickers with a size of 2 x 3 inches, and they’re even water-resistant. The Kodak app allows you to add text, borders, filters, stickers, and more to your photos.

With a frame of just 3 x 5 x 1 inches, the Kodak Step Wireless Mobile Photo Mini Printer is the smallest photo printer option on our list, although it is surprisingly heavy with a weight of 9 ounces. This budget portable printer is compatible with iOS and Android devices, and it can connect to them through either Bluetooth or NFC technology.

Finally, it has a battery that lasts for about 25 prints. Of course, those solid specs turn into a homerun when you consider that the Kodak Step Wireless Mobile Photo Mini Printer is cheaper than a month’s worth of ink. Save your hard-earned cash with this portable Kodak printer.


Frequently Asked Questions

Especially with technology as new and unique as portable photo printers, I’m sure you have plenty of questions. More often than not, we’ve found people looking to buy have the same recurring questions, which is why we’ve added this FAQ section to our list. We hope that in just a few minutes all of your questions are answered and you’re ready to make your purchase.

How do portable printers print without ink?

I’m sure a lot of you are wondering how exactly portable printers work without using ink. I certainly was, and it’s worth having at least a rudimentary sense of how any product works before buying it. Portable printers use Zink technology – which stands for zero ink – to do their printing. The printers themselves apply heat to special heat-sensitive paper that’s embedded with layers of cyan, magenta, and yellow dyes in colorless form, and overcoat. By applying heat at different locations, durations, and intensities, these amazing tiny printers are able to perfectly recreate your photos without using any ink.

Do you have to use special paper for portable photo printers?

In a word- yes. You can’t just buy a pack of ‘photo paper’ from your local shop and expect it to work- the paper needs to have the special Zink layers so that the heat can work its magic and form an image. The good news is that the paper isn’t particularly expensive, but you DO need to make sure you have it before you travel/ want to use it! And if you’re travelling long term, it can be a bit of a pain to get hold of- Amazon is a good option for worldwide shipping.

How much does Zink paper cost?

The short answer is “not that much.” As is the case with any product, the cost will definitely start to add up if you’re printing out photos left and right but, if you’re only printing a few photos per week or month, then you won’t really notice the added expense on your credit card bill. Depending on which brand you go with, and how many sheets you buy, a pack of Zink paper can cost less than $10.
Of course, the size of your photo paper is also a factor and, as is usually the case, if you’re going to be printing out large numbers of photos then it’s probably worth buying in bulk for a larger one-time price that’s cheaper on a per photo basis.

Verdict: Your Best Portable Photo Printers

We’re reaching the end of our list, and you’re hopefully starting to get a good idea of which of these printers is best for you. But if you haven’t made up your mind yet, not to worry. We’re going to recap all of our top portable photo printers and focus on their standout features. This way, you’ll be able to see the highlights and really know what each product has to offer for you.

If you want the best overall value for your money, pick the HP Sprocket Portable Printer.

With the Sprocket Portable Printer, HP manages to offer just about every important feature at an affordable price. With Bluetooth capability, sticky-backed photos, and an amazing battery that can last for as many as 40 photos, there’s really no downside to this HP mobile printer. And, of course, the Sprocket also comes with the Sprocket app that lets you customize your photos. As a cherry on top, our number-one ranked printer features a small frame and can connect with up to 5 iOS or android devices at once. The HP Sprocket Portable Printer is perfect for anyone who wants quality results and features for a reasonable price.

If you need customizable, flexible printing options, pick the Canon Selphy 1300 Compact Photo Printer.

No other printer on the list gives you the choice of printing via micro-USB, an SD card, or wifi. No matter where your photos are stored, they’ll be easier to print than ever with Canon’s Selphy printer. Of course, that only scratches the surface of the amazing features this printer boasts. The only flaw with the Selphy is that you need to buy the not-included battery pack to make it truly portable. But if you have photos strewn across Facebook, your camera, and that backup SD card in your junk drawer, then Canon’s Selphy 1300 is perfect for you.

If you want to keep the price low, pick the Kodak Step Wireless Mobile Photo Mini Printer.

Perfect for anyone who wants to try printing photos on the go without spending a lot of money, but doesn’t want to miss out on decent prints. The Kodak Step Wireless Mobile Photo Mini Printer gives you sticky-backed 2 x 3-inch photos, a reliable battery, plus Bluetooth and NFC compatibility. It doesn’t have the extra features the other two do, but it will get the job done with decent results. That means that if you’re still unsure if you really need a portable printer, the Kodak Step Wireless Mobile Photo Mini Printer is the perfect choice for you.

And there we are- the end of our list. While there are other solid options out there, we believe that these three products best fill every requirement. Remember, all of these printers have a feature or two that separates them from the rest. So, if you’re having trouble making your decision, consider the feature that’s most important to you, and that should help you reach a decision.

That’s all for now. We hope our list has helped, and we hope you enjoy the physical photos to go with your virtual collection!


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