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Lifewire / Theano Nikitas
Easy to use
Small and portable
Competitive price per print
Access to social media photos
Hit-or-miss print quality
Limited to 2 x 3-inch prints
One of the smallest mobile photo printers on the market, the Polaroid Zip Instant Photoprinter is designed for portability and ease of use. The results won’t match the glossy prints you get from a local lab, but it’s undeniably fun to turn your digital images into physical photos on the spot.
Perhaps the tiniest portable printer in its class, the Polaroid Zip Instant Photoprinter is pocket-sized for printing on the go. Printing from mobile devices is effortless, and while the quality of the credit-card sized prints isn’t stellar (although slightly better than other pint-sized devices in its class), the Polaroid Zip is lots of fun to use.
Only slightly thicker and not quite as long as most smartphones, the Polaroid Zip measures a mere 4.72 x 2.91 x 0.75 inches—small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and in larger pockets. It’s lightweight, too, at only 0.41 pounds.
Other than the Polaroid logo, a colorful sticker atop the unit, and a couple of color accents on the front and back, the plain white printer is pretty simple in its design. That, in many ways, indicates how easy it is to use.
The top cover slides off so you can place up to ten sheets of ZINK photo paper inside. ZINK (Zero Ink) technology uses heat to activate color crystals that are already embedded in the paper, so all you need is the special paper to make a print. There’s no need to buy ink cartridges or toner, and it’s a completely mess-free process—this is a big plus if you want to throw it in your backpack or purse. The downside is that it only works with ZINK branded paper, so if you run out, you can’t substitute something else in a pinch.
There’s no need to buy ink cartridges or toner, and it’s a completely mess-free process.
A power button on the side turns the printer on and a small white light on the rear surface illuminates when the unit is powered up. A micro-USB port sits next to the power light and a charging light. There’s a tiny reset slot, too.
The top cover takes very little effort to remove and when you purchase a multi-pack of paper (we had a 30-sheet bundle), it’s divided into packs of ten so you always have the correct amount of paper to load.
USB charging takes about 1.5 hours and should last for about 25-30 prints. The free Polaroid Zip app for iOS and Android features a Device Info section that lists the percentage of power remaining, the number of photos you’ve printed, the firmware version, and a section to select how long the printer stays on when it’s not being used. It doesn’t take long to power up again, so as long as you’re not printing a ton of photos consecutively, it might be best to set the Time Out to three minutes (the shortest time available).
There’s not much to do before you’re ready to print: charge the printer, download the Polaroid Zip app to your phone or tablet, load some paper, connect to your mobile device via Bluetooth, and you’re good to go. The little Quick Start Guide pamphlet is pretty basic, but if you need more support (and we doubt that you will), there’s a link to a support page within the app.
The Polaroid Zip app contains all the controls you need to operate the printer. You can select an image from the Gallery (which accesses your camera roll), the smartphone or tablet camera, or social media sites like Facebook. The app is easy to navigate without any directions.
In the edit menu you’ll also find more than two dozen frames to jazz up your images, along with tons of stickers.
In addition to some basic editing features such as cropping, color adjustments, and brightness, the app offers a number of filters that add different tones to the photo.
In the Edit menu you’ll also find more than two dozen frames to jazz up your images, along with tons of stickers. The stickers are broken up into categories like objects (hearts, ice cream cones, flowers), shapes, sports, sayings, and more. You can also add your own text and draw on the photo with your finger—complete with different-sized brushes.
The app offers a broad selection of these types of fun and creative options, but if you’re looking for anything beyond basic photo editing, be sure to make major adjustments elsewhere.
The printer only takes about two seconds to power on. Once you make your edits and add any embellishments, you can save your work or immediately print it. It takes about 35 seconds for your photo to emerge after you hit “Print” on your phone—not bad for a ZINK printer. We expected the print time to be longer, especially when adding a frame to the print, but there was no difference in print time.
The app runs smoothly for the most part. However, we found that it stalled occasionally and required a couple of taps to go back to the previous screen. This did not happen with other mobile printer apps we tried, so we believe it was the Polaroid app and not the phone that caused the issue. It’s not a big deal, though—just a little annoying.
Printers using ZINK technology are not known for excellent output. Although the Polaroid Zip suffers from some of the issues inherent in these kinds of printer (darker prints, sometimes skewed colors, etc.), the Polaroid Zip produces some of the better prints we’ve seen.
To get the best print from the Polaroid Zip, you have to start out with a well-exposed image with a range of highlights and shadows. We found that the printer did a pretty good job of keeping highlights clean, without color casts or a murky appearance.
To get the best print from the Polaroid Zip you have to start out with a well-exposed image with a range of highlights and shadows.
Like other ZINK printers, the colors—especially reds and oranges—were not as vibrant as the originals. But we saw more definition than expected in some photos, including good reproduction of the pattern on a model’s outfit during New York Fashion Week. Skin tones looked natural and images, especially those with higher contrast, looked sharp.
We put our test prints inside a hard cover book to flatten them out since they have a tendency to curl slightly.
The average price of the Polaroid Zip is around $100. The price will vary depending on where you buy it, but it’s one of the most affordable mobile ZINK units on the market.
The price per print can drop as low as $0.39 depending on where you buy the paper and how many sheets are included in the pack. The least expensive price we found was $11.70 for a pack of 30 sheets, which is where we got that number. But the price per print rises to about $0.50 for a $24.99 pack of 50 sheets. Shop around for the best prices and remember that you’re paying for the convenience (and fun) of mobile printing.
Extremely similar in design and ease of use, the Polaroid Zip is smaller than its competitor from HP, the Sprocket (2nd Edition). The Polaroid Zip can fit in the palm of your hand and can fit into most shirt pockets.
Both printers use ZINK paper so they have comparable image quality, 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 lower cost 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.
So-so print quality, but it’s still extremely portable and fun.
The Polaroid Zip Instant Photoprinter is small enough to fit in most shirt pockets, making it one of the smallest, most portable mobile printers. If you want to have some fun with those photos stored on phone when you’re at a party, then the Polaroid Zip may be the device you’re looking for.
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