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Easy to use
Small and portable
Hit-or-miss print quality
Limited to 2 x 3-inch prints
Printing can be sluggish
The HP Sprocket 2nd Edition gains improvements in design and operation over its predecessor, including an intuitive and full-featured app. But the print quality still depends on ZINK technology, so don’t expect the same vibrant prints you get from your local lab.
Printing on the fly doesn’t get much easier—or more convenient—than with the tiny HP Sprocket 2nd Edition Photo Printer. Extremely portable, the strength behind this printer lies in its full-featured app.
If you currently have an older Sprocket, you may want to check out the new model with its improved app and more stable connectivity. HP also claims it has better image quality, but we think photos printed with ZINK technology, like both Sprocket models, are inherently limited in terms of how good they can look.
HP embraces simplicity with the basic design of the Sprocket 2nd Edition. This tiny printer foregoes the HP logo of previous models for a marbleized finish. The unit measures 4.63 x 3.15 x 0.98 inches and weighs a mere 0.38 pounds, small enough to easily fit in a jacket pocket or small purse.
Available in four colors—Luna Pearl, Noir, Lilac, and Blush—and with no identifying logos other than a small fabric tab in the corner, the HP Sprocket 2nd Edition is sure to pique people’s curiosity when you take it out at a party or family event.
External controls are minimal: it has a power button, mini USB port for charging, rear charge light indicator, and a front status LED. The charge light glows amber and then red when the battery is low, blinks red when it’s charging, and turns green when the battery is full. The color of the front status LED can be changed via the Sprocket app and indicates when it’s powering on, powering off, sleeping, idle, or printing.
The HP Sprocket 2nd Edition is sure to pique people’s curiosity when you take it out at a party or family event.
The printer feels well constructed, although we’d try to avoid dropping it on a hard surface. Our biggest gripe is the design of the power button, which is so low-profile (flush with the surface of the printer) that it’s difficult to press and hold for the 5 or so seconds it takes to start it up.
Getting started with this HP Sprocket 2nd Edition is pretty basic. It may take longer to download the HP Sprocket app (available for iOS or Android) than it does to connect your phone to the printer via Bluetooth.
Although you can pretty much start printing immediately, the power of this printer is in its app, so it’s best to take a little time to go through preferences and settings.
The Sprocket app deserves its own section in this review because of its depth and breadth. Even with all of its features, the app is intuitive and well organized.
Given the brevity of the little printed user pamphlet that’s bundled with the printer, it’s important to review the “How-To & Help” portion of the app. There you’ll find detailed instructions along with a link to the support website and forum. You can even order paper directly from your smart device.
The app also has a semi-AI feature called Reveal that’s kind of interesting. When activated, you can place your camera phone over the printer and see the images that are in the queue to be printed. It’s fun to use, but HP warns that keeping Reveal on may impact print speeds and quality, so we kept it turned off.
The Gallery is well organized and we especially liked having the option to display two sizes of thumbnails. Images can be accessed from your mobile device as well as from social media sources such as Facebook and Google, among others.
Basic editing is available including adjustments to color, contrast, and brightness via on-screen slider bars. For the quickest retouching, there’s an auto-fix option and, of course, filters. And, for fun, there are a number of overlays with borders, designs, text, and stickers.
New for this version of the Sprocket is the ability for multiple people to connect with and use the printer so everybody at a party or an event can share. Each person will, of course, need to download the app to do this.
Start-up time for the printer takes about five seconds. That doesn’t seem like a long time until you’re trying to hold down the tiny power button with a fingernail until you see the charge light come on.
Given that the printed output measures only 2 x 3 inches, we hoped print speeds might be faster.
Actual printing speed averaged about 35 seconds for a standard print for the data to be transmitted to the printer, plus another 15-20 seconds (or more) depending on the image and how many are in the queue. Given that the printed output measures only 2 x 3 inches, we hoped print speeds might be faster.
While HP has made improvements to the Sprocket’s print quality with the 2nd Edition model, it still uses ZINK technology, which generally results in less-than-stellar photo prints.
With ZINK, colors are embedded in the paper beforehand and heat-released inside the printer. Because no ink or dye-sublimation cartridges are needed, ZINK printers can be designed with a very small footprint, and only require that you buy the special paper instead of ink refills. But there are some major trade-offs for the convenience.
While HP has made improvements to the Sprocket’s print quality...it still uses ZINK technology, which generally results in less-than-stellar photo prints.
That’s not to say that HP Sprocket 2nd Edition prints are bad; they’re not. But colors are not always consistent—for example, a hot pink flower we photographed skewed a little orange, and darker backgrounds often appeared muddy.
Prints also tend to curl a little on the edges when left sitting, especially if it’s humid. If that happens, just put them inside or underneath a heavy book to flatten them out. You can also remove the back of the Sticky Paper and attach it to another surface.
The HP Sprocket 2nd Edition has an MSRP of $129.99, which is a little more expensive than the prices you can find for most other printers in this category (you can also find deals on the HP model that makes it competitive).
Paper prices vary depending on the pack. For example, a 50-sheet pack for $24.99 brings the cost per print to $0.49. A 100-sheet pack brings the cost down to $0.45 per print. Like other mobile printers, you’re paying for the convenience and immediacy of printing on demand—whenever and wherever you want. Of course, you can get less expensive prints made at your local lab or order them online, but you lose the benefit of instant gratification.
These two mobile photo printers are extremely similar in design, although the Polaroid Zip is slightly narrower and shorter than the Sprocket and closer in shape and size to a smartphone.
Like the HP Sprocket, the Polaroid Zip uses ZINK paper. The image quality is quite similar, although we have to give a slight edge to the Polaroid Zip. The Zip also wins out with slightly faster overall printing speed and a slightly cheaper price per print.
On the other hand, the HP Sprocket app is stronger in terms of content, help, and editing controls. It’s a close call between the two.
A fun printer for instant gratification, but its retail price is somewhat high considering its flaws.
The HP Sprocket 2nd Edition mobile photo printer is a cute little device for on-the-fly printing. The ZINK technology is convenient and makes for fun novelty prints, but the actual print quality is so-so and the device surprisingly slow for something that sells itself on instant gratification.