HP Sprocket Select Review: Fun, Pocket-Sized Printing

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The HP Sprocket Select portable printer connects to your phone via Bluetooth and prints credit-card-sized photos on a sticky-back, Zink (or Zero Ink) paper. The Select is HP’s third-gen update to the Sprocket 200 but offers larger prints, much like its predecessor the Sprocket Plus – but without all that additional weight.

Design & Features – Featherlight and ultra-portable

At a slightly crazy 18g, the Sprocket Select is wonderfully lightweight, portable, and – as its name suggests – small enough to fit into your pocket.

Unlike the standard Sprocket, the Sprocket Select is slightly larger (8mm longer and 12.7mm wider), though shorter in height. This bumps the print sizes up from 2 x 3in to 2.3 x 3.4in, roughly the size of a credit card.

The Sprocket Select includes a 10-sheet Zink paper pack. While the paper loading process isn’t complicated, you do have to do it carefully.

Remember to load the Zink paper glossy side up. Each new pack comes with a barcode sheet at the bottom which the printer must process first before it can print images. Think of this like the printhead aligning process of your standard inkjet printer, but without ink.

Zink paper consists of microcrystals that produce colours depending on the intensity of heat applied. This means the printer can become slightly warm when it’s in use.

The Zink paper loads on the top of the Sprocket Select and the cover, featuring an attractive, marbled design, comes off easily to reveal the paper tray. The great thing here is the cover magnetically snaps back in place on closing – nifty if the printer is likely to roll around at the bottom of your handbag or backpack. You can buy a case for the Sprocket if you want some protection.

The Sprocket Select loads up to ten sheets at a time – on paper at least (pun shamelessly intended). In reality, I found stacking up the paper tray led to printer jams, which isn’t really something you’d want to deal with if you’re out and about with friends. I’d also recommend keeping the barcode sheet to realign the print head if you do end up loading fewer sheets than recommended.

The Sprocket Select charges via micro-USB (cable included) and supports Bluetooth 5.0, which means it can connect to multiple phones at once. There’s an LED light to show you the charging status. In my experience, I reached a full charge within an hour while connected to my laptop.

Sprocket App – get creative!

The biggest benefits of the Sprocket Select come from the HP Sprocket app (available on Android and iOS). This is the control hub that lets you have fun with your images, whether that’s adding filters, text frames, stickers, or even tweaking the colour and contrast. Of course, you’ll also need the app to pair your phone to the printer in the first place – which is very easy.

One of the reasons the Sprocket is such a delight to use is because the app is so straightforward. It opens on your photo roll, where you can select all the images you want to print. You can combine images into a collage or print photos from Instagram, Google or Facebook.

Print Quality – Zink isn’t perfect, but still impressive

My first experience with ‘zero-ink’ paper was with the Polaroid Snap instant camera. Zink has come a long way. 

With the Snap, Zink prints lacked definition and saturation. There’s still a spectre of this issue with the Sprocket Select, with tones looking slightly washed, but the improvements are obvious. I was impressed.

No, the prints won’t have the same clarity as your phone display – or even Sprocket’s marketing material – but it’s still fairly detailed and crisp. Photos in bright lighting tend to print with better clarity and reds look particularly lush and vibrant. 

It takes about 40 seconds for each print to process.

It’s worth pointing out that Sprocket Select is printing from a high-resolution image to begin with, unlike the Snap which felt more like a toy camera.

Pricing & Availability

The Sprocket Select costs £119/US$149.99 and is available from Amazon. In the US it’s available from Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart.

The second-generation Sprocket 200 sits in the same price bracket as the Select, but prints smaller images (2 x 3in instead of 2.3in x 3.4in) and only supports Bluetooth 4.2 – so your friends won’t be able to connect to it simultaneously. The Sprocket 200 does, however, come with an augmented reality feature that allows animations, maps and videos to come alive on the image when viewed through the app (though we couldn’t get it to work).

The Sprocket Select is only slightly more expensive than the Instax Mini Link (£109.99/US$99.99), which clinched the top spot in our round-up of the best portable printers. The Mini Link uses Fujifilm’s Instax Mini Instant Film, which makes it costlier in the long run, compared to zero-ink printing (you pay £0.70/$0.60 per Instant Film print vs £0.52/US$0.48 per Zink print).

Verdict

The Sprocket Select is undoubtedly aimed at the social media generation that indulges in the immediacy of smartphones but equally pines for the nostalgia and tangible nature of printed photos.

While instant prints on film remain expensive in the long run, the Sprocket Select, which uses a cheaper Zero Ink paper, is an excellent, affordable halfway house.

The image quality isn’t as crisp, clear and vibrant as an inkjet print from a shop, but that’s not what you’re paying for. You’re paying for the novelty of creating instant keepsakes at the touch of a button.

There’s just the reasonably high initial cost to factor.

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