It feels as if the rise of portable printers coincided with our lowered needs for real-world images. Just as manufacturers came to the realization that massive printing machines are impractical, everything went digital – between convenience and a milder environmental impact, there’s no shortage of arguments against paper documents and printed imagery. And so we finally have printers that we can carry around in our bags… But do we really need them? Well, as neat as digital images can be, there’s still plenty of reasons why you might need to print something out. The portable printers of 2018 are compact, inexpensive and sport a production quality that rivals desktop printers from a few years ago.
If you’re looking to buy a portable printer, the best thing you can do is figure out what you’ll use it for. Because of their size, these devices tend to make sacrifices in terms of utility, to the point where many of them can be considered one-trick ponies. We’ve grouped our selection of top portable printers based on this while keeping the price in mind – the bigger your budget, the more versatile of a printer you can hope for. Let’s start with something simple…
The quick fix if you’re just looking for a label printer: Brother P-touch Cube
We mentioned one-trick ponies, and the Brother P-touch Cube portable label printer comfortably fits into this category. Fortunately, label printing isn’t going anywhere, and having a decent portable printer capable of quick production will make your professional life much easier. With around 10 labels per minute, the P-touch Cube doesn’t exactly excel in quickness, but such numbers are typical for a printer of this type. Connectivity is a far bigger issue: The only way to use this printer is by connecting it to a mobile device, as it lacks any means of interaction with either Windows or Mac computers.
If you can get around this, you’ll find that the Brother P-touch Cube portable label printer fulfills all but the most stringent retail needs. The labels are of a decent quality, especially given the printer’s size and price, and connecting the printer via your smartphone will ensure that you can make quick adjustments on-the-go without lugging a computer around.
And while the lack of rechargeable batteries is a downside, the option to simply plug the printer in a wall socket or similar power source makes up for it and rounds the Brother P-touch Cube into a good, low-cost acquisition for those in need of stylish labels. The prices range from $45 to $59 dollars, so be sure to check the Brother Amazon Store for the best deal.
In case you need some color on your event, consider the Canon Selphy CP1200 Wireless Compact Photo Printer
You might be tempted to think of Canon’s Selphy CP1200 as a selfie-printing pony, but it’s more like a full-grown horse. The 7.1-inch wide power printer is surprisingly stylish, coming in several different varieties that will eliminate the need to feel shame when you’re taking it out of your bag for some quick prints. Things are no less impressive under the hood, as the CP1200 can print full-color photos up to 4-by-6 inches in size. Whereas some other compact portable printers force you to rely on another display, the Selphy CP1200 comes with its own 2.7-inch screen and a plethora of buttons to get you around.
Connectivity is another major selling point, with options to connect the printer via USB or Wi-Fi to a Windows or Mac device, a smartphone or tablet and even directly to a camera. Out of the box, the printer lacks any battery and will need to be connected to a power outlet to function. This probably has to do with the affordable price, as the separately-sold rechargeable battery is quite expensive and will likely be passed over by many. Still, there aren’t many better choices in this price group.The price of the Selphy CP1200 ranges from $85 up to $95, depending on the season, and it can be bought over the Canon Amazon Store.
As you can see, the first two products are below the $100 range, which doesn’t mean that there is no pro category within this segment, especially looking at A4 portable printers, so let’s move onto the Lambos of the portable printing world…
The best choice for overall quality: HP OfficeJet 200 Mobile Printer
When you’re talking about picture quality that rivals desktop printers, you can’t leave the HP OfficeJet 200 out of the discussion. Although sleek and stylish, the printer’s size lets you know that it’s geared more towards professional users who travel a lot rather than the average Instagram afficionado. Still, nobody will fault you for using it to print high-quality leisure photos, so long as you’re okay with a maximum size of 4-by-6. As you’d expect from a price this steep, the printer comes with a rechargeable battery that brings the weight to a grand total of 5 pounds.
While not an ideal addition to a makeup bag, the OfficeJet 200 is a premier portable printing choice that features amazing versatility. The high-quality text and photo prints can be edited on-the-go through a PC, laptop or mobile device with multiple connection options.
The absence of an USB cable is conspicuous, but it’s hard to fault HP for such a small oversight – if you can afford this printer, you probably won’t be concerned about the few extra dollars you’ll spend on a cable. The price of this black beauty? Although you can get it sometimes on a $180 deal, expect to cash out around $200 through most of the year, so be sure to check the current price on HP’s Amazon Store.
The most portable entry: Brother PocketJet 7 PJ723
If the HP OfficeJet 200 is the Aventador of portable printers, Brother’s PocketJet 7 PJ723 is what you’d expect if Lamborghini ventured into making scooters. It’s amazingly compact, with very little given up in terms of image reproduction as it can print at up to 300-by-300 DPI. Not all is great in Wonderland, however, as the printer uses thermal paper that can turn out to be quite smelly.
The paper selection is surprisingly varied considering the size, and should serve virtually every purpose you could think of. You might be surprised to learn that, despite its size, the PocketJet 7 PJ723-BK can be fitted a battery to make your printing even more mobile. As neat as this is, the price for the bare model will already be prohibitively high for many, and that’s without even considering the addition of the power adapter.
But, since we did call this the Lambo category, it doesn’t make sense to lament the price of Brother’s compact powerhouse considering its features. Expect to cash out around $400 on Amazon.
That’s all great and good… but I still can’t figure out which portable printer I need
If you’re unsure of your printing needs, we can all but guarantee that a budget all-rounder will suit you perfectly. The high-grade portable printers that cost hundreds of dollars are geared towards serious users who can’t afford to make trade-offs in quality. The average person will do just fine with something like the Canon Selphy CP1200, which contends well in every category you could think of. Another thing to keep in mind is that the price of a top-of-the-line portable printer will often exceed the combined price of a decent photo printer and a decent label maker.
The printer’s kits are another thing to think about. While a portable printer might have a battery or car adapter option, those things usually won’t be included in the basic package, and their cost can be surprisingly uncomfortable for someone who’s on a budget.
Keeping all of this in mind will ensure you stay within your budget while getting a long-lasting quality printer that fits inside your pocket.