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Unless you have an old-school instant camera, printing photos can be a hassle.
The modern convenience of digitally stored photos is appealing (it takes a matter of seconds to upload a photo to social media and share it with all your friends and family), but there’s something satisfyingly nostalgic about physical prints. But formatting and sending photos to print at a kiosk or pharmacy is often time-consuming and not user-friendly.
HP’s Sprocket Photo Printer piqued our interest because it promises the instant gratification of portable photo printing. But instead of settling for the grainy quality of a vintage print, you can connect this modern device to a smartphone or tablet via an app. It’s seemingly the perfect combination of photography nostalgia and contemporary convenience.
We put this instant printer to the test to see if it could print high-quality smartphone pictures efficiently and easily.
What is the HP Sprocket Photo Printer?
HP markets the Sprocket as a portable photo printer that makes it easy to print pictures on the go. It connects to smartphones and tablets via Bluetooth to print two-by-three-inch photos (which double as stickers, thanks to the sticky-backed ZINK paper). The connected HP Sprocket app allows you to edit photos before you print and can connect directly to social media accounts to access photos stored there.
It’s small — about the size of a cell phone and weighing about 6 grams — which is why HP emphasizes that the Sprocket can go anywhere. We found it to be very light and easy to carry around since it didn’t take up much space in a bag or backpack.
How does the HP Sprocket Photo Printer work?
In our testing, the HP Sprocket was easy to use straight out of the box, even for those with minimal technical or photography proficiency. All you have to do is charge the device (which took about two and a half hours), download the app to whatever device you want to print from, and allow Bluetooth permissions.
After that, it’s just a matter of choosing photos from your photo gallery or social media, editing as desired, and printing. We were also able to upload a video and print single frames.
Uploading a photo to print in the app was just like uploading a photo to social media. Printing took about 30 seconds per photo, and the printer lasted about an hour on a full battery. One note: We were unable to print while the Sprocket was charging, which is important to keep in mind if you’re using the printer at an event or party.
Using the HP Sprocket app
We found the Sprocket app to be easy to navigate, even for beginners. Anyone who’s uploaded photos to Instagram or iPhoto should have no trouble.
Photo editing: Within the app, we were able to adjust the exposure, brightness, contrast, and add a built-in filter or tint/color. We also added stickers, text, drawings, and frames. The app caters to those without professional photo-editing knowledge, and we had an easy time customizing photos. Even kids could do it.
Overall, it’s very straightforward thanks to the use of simple clickable icons (very similar to those on Instagram’s photo editing platform). We did think that some of the icon images were less intuitive, like the “dropper” symbol that we assumed was for changing the color but was actually for adjusting saturation. But in the end, it didn’t take long to determine what each icon did, and a bit of playing around provided a firm grasp on the various functionalities offered by the app.
Printing: Before you send photos to the printer, you can double-check the bleed area to see exactly what will be within the printed frame. We appreciated this feature, since not all photos automatically fit the two-by-three-inch dimensions and it was nice to adjust what parts of a given photo would be cut out before printing.
Bluetooth: It was easy to connect to a smartphone or tablet through the app as long as our Bluetooth settings were configured correctly. We haven’t noticed any connectivity issues while using the printer.
Larger photos: We were impressed by the “titles” option to print larger photos, which is similar to using nine small squares to make one full image on Instagram. While the device can only print in dimensions of two-by-three, the Sprocket app allows you to upload a larger photo, then it splits it into two-by-three-inch squares. After printing, you can configure it into one large picture composed of nine smaller images.
Copies: In our testing, it was very easy to send multiple copies of the same image to the Sprocket. The app has an option for “copies” so you can ask the printer to print duplicate images. However, it’s important to note that the printer only includes 10 sheets of paper and replacement packs are $10 per 20 sheets.
Photo quality of the HP Sprocket Photo Printer
We were pleased with the quality of the photos we printed with the Sprocket — though we did notice an issue with high-contrast photos, which lost details in the brighter areas. The two-by-three-inch size is useful for journaling or scrapbooking, collaging, making hand-made greeting cards, and creating recipe cards. It’s also fun for kids who enjoy DIY projects or cool gadgets, and younger users especially seemed to enjoy using the prints as stickers.
We loved playing with the “titles” feature to create larger images comprised of multiple smaller frames, which meant even though the printer was small and portable, we weren’t limited to just the two-by-three-inch size.
As mentioned, each piece of the included printer paper has a sticky back, so these photos are also stickers. When we tested the stickers, they stuck well and stayed firmly on the surfaces on which we placed them. They’re a good weight and they were durable enough that they didn’t scratch easily even when we put them on a frequently used surface like a water bottle.
Is the HP Sprocket worth it?
The HP Sprocket Photo Printer, which comes with a charging cable and 10 photo papers, costs $90. Each replacement pack of 20 photo papers costs $10. We thought it was worth the price because it’s fun and would make a good gift for kids or people who enjoy DIY projects. It made photo printing extremely convenient, and offered the combination of portability and flexibility (thanks to the customizable options in the app, “title” printing for larger photos, and sticky-backed printer paper).
Cameron Pitts is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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