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HP Sprocket is priced at Rs8,999.
HP Sprocket is priced at Rs8,999.

HP Sprocket: A fun photo printer, in your pocket

It can print photos on the go, and is a practical accessory for vacations and special occasions

Printers are hardly the world’s most exciting gadgets. But not the HP Sprocket instant printer—it is small, easy to use and utilizes the camera prowess of your smartphone to give you instant prints of the photos and memories you capture.

The compact design means it is no larger than most 10,000mAh portable power banks. The HP Sprocket is available in three colours—black with a shiny finish, white with a classy enamel look and a golden insert at the front, and a wine red option, which instantly catches your eye. It is light, and can be carried in your handbag or backpack with ease. It has a built-in battery, which means you can use it on the go without having to worry about plugging it in. The Sprocket pairs with your phone or tablet via Bluetooth, so no wires there too. The only drawback is that the paper tray lid opening and closing mechanism is a bit clunky as there is no hinge to hold it in place. This means the lid has to be taken out for loading papers.

The Sprocket does not use any printer ink, at least in the traditional sense, as large printers do. Instead, it uses a technology called Zink, first developed by imaging company Polaroid in the 1990s and then spun off into the independent Zink Imaging Co. in 2005. The Zink technology uses sheets of paper that are manufactured with multiple coatings of heat-sensitive colour dyes. These include cyan, magenta and yellow dyes, which are essentially transparent initially. When you give the command to print an image, the Sprocket will initiate the thermal print head inside the printer, which releases different durations and intensities of heat to activate these transparent dyes. These dyes then combine to print the image that you want.

The printer uses a specific type of paper called HP Zink paper. HP bundles a pack of 10 sheets with the printer itself, and you can separately buy packs of 20 or 50 sheets (Rs499 and Rs1,249, respectively, on Amazon.in). This works out to almost Rs25 per print. That isn’t much, compared to the fun you can have with instant prints. Each paper can also become a sticker simply by peeling off a layer, which adds to the fun.

The Sprocket will print compact photos—the maximum size being 2x3 inches. This means the photos will be larger than standard passport-size photos, and smaller than what we know as postcard-size photos. A good photo size for the pin-board on your workstation or to stick on the fridge with a magnet.

You will need to download the Sprocket app (free for Android and iOS) on your phone and select a photo and give the print command. We noticed that even the most detailed and complex looking photos are printed out in around 30 seconds, while most standard images and selfies take just 20 seconds. This is fairly quick and the print quality is excellent for the most part. However, it is hard to ignore that some photos are slightly cropped at the top and bottom (at least in the landscape mode of printing)—you’ll need to be careful if you are editing photos before printing to leave enough headroom and not have an important element close to the edges of the frame. Second, low-light photos which you may have clicked while using the smartphone’s flash, tend to emerge with colours looking subdued.

The Sprocket app is easy to use. Once you pair the Sprocket printer with the phone, you will be able to see the battery charge level through the app. Interestingly, the Sprocket app not only lets you select from the photos in the phone’s photo gallery app, but you can also link this with your Google Photos, Facebook and Instagram accounts. Once you select a photo to print, there is the option to edit these images within the Sprocket app itself (though these tools are limited) and also add funky elements such as borders and text on the photos.

The HP Sprocket promised to be fun and it delivered. It is also not expensive compared to its rivals such as the Polaroid ZIP mobile printer (Rs15,800; Amazon.in) and the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-1 (Rs12,999; Amazon.in). The accompanying app is easy to use, and what you get are useable compact prints. A nice accessory to have for printing out memories during vacations, parties and on special occasions.

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