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Review | Polaroid Zip Mobile Printer with Zink Technology

The mobile printer market has been getting quite competitive lately, with several products gaining traction with scrapbookers, art journalers, and planner fans. After some initial reluctance to join the trend, last winter I purchased a Polaroid Zip Mobile printer, and decided to give it a first try-out on the road, as it was intended to be used. And this was no ordinary trip – it was a multi-country international trip involving planes, trains, and automobiles!

[Disclosure: Some links in this article are affiliate links that earn this site a commission at no cost to the reader when a purchase is made after a click.]

Traveling with the Polaroid Zip Mobile Printer
Polaroid Zip Mobile Printer

In the photo above, the Polaroid Zip Mobile printer sits on the tray table of my seat on a Deutsche Bahn train between Paris and Frankfurt. Since the printer didn’t come with a case, it’s bundled up in the Polaroid brand neoprene printer pouch that is sold separately for about $10. I found the soft sided neoprene pouch worked quite well for my travel use but there are also hard sided zipper cases available for the printer from other companies if that would make you feel safer toting it around.

Polaroid Zip Mobile Printer

All bundled up in the pouch with supplies, the printer was about an inch and a half thick and about the size of my hand, a very manageable size for slipping in a carry-on bag. With no paper inside, the printer alone weighs about 6oz. The total weight of the pouch will depend on how much paper and what accessories you carry.

Inside the neoprene pouch, I carried the printer, thirty sheets of 2″ x 3″ paper (in packs of ten), and the instructions. If you have a phone whose charging cable is micro USB, then you’re in luck and won’t need to carry a second cable for charging the printer. But if you have an iPhone or other non-micro USB phone, you’ll need to carry the Polaroid micro USB cable for charging the Zip Mobile printer. In that event, you’ll need to find another way to carry either the paper or cable (since both won’t both fit in the neoprene pouch together) or buy a larger hard sided case.

Tip – The Zip Mobile comes with a micro USB cable that is about 30″ in length. However, you may want to invest in a slightly longer one if you plan on needing to charge in locations such as airport terminals, airplanes, and trains, as these outlets can be in quite hard to reach locations. A good Amazon Basics 6 foot Micro USB cable can be had for around $6, a small price to pay to eliminate the aggravation of the cable that just barely or not quite reaches an available outlet. You’ll also need a wall charger of some kind as the Zip comes only with the cable to charge via USB from the computer, and not a wall plug.

Of course, a key element in any mobile device’s usefulness is the battery life. Polaroid advertises that the Zip Mobile’s rechargeable built-in battery will last for 25 prints. In my real world testing, it lasted through 17 prints in one printing session and then when I tried to use it again 5 days later, the battery did not have enough charge left to print.

I actually found the first sign of the battery fading was that the Bluetooth connection to the software in my iPhone 6S became very buggy and was failing to maintain connection. Then, after a couple minutes of me trying to troubleshoot the Bluetooth, the pop-up finally appeared in the software for the battery being low.

Tip – If your Bluetooth starts acting flaky on the Zip Mobile, try getting some power hooked up to it to see if it resolves (especially if it’s been in use for more than a few prints or not charged for a few days).

Polaroid Zip Mobile printer

The printer worked very well for me in every setting that I tried it out – on the train (in the top pictures), in the hotel, and on the plane (in the photo above). There was plenty of room to work with it in all of those locations. With the Zip Mobile’s rechargeable battery, I didn’t need to worry about access to power (although several of those locations had power if I needed it).

Tip – The Zip Mobile’s glossy plastic case is extremely slippery. Placed on a smooth surface like a tray table in a train or airplane, it will slip and slide around extremely easily. I recommend adding a small piece of non-slip drawer liner to your packing for the printer and using it as a mat to secure your printer to the table surface.

Printing with the Polaroid Zip Mobile Printer

To print with the Polaroid Zip Mobile printer requires using a smartphone app to send the photos to the printer (similar to printing to from your computer to your regular home printer). Instead of WiFi, the mobile device connects to the printer via Bluetooth.

When I first used the printer last winter, the iPhone app that was required to run the printer was absolutely horrible – so horrible in fact that it had only a 1 star rating on the Apple app store. That didn’t stop me from using and liking the printer, but it was (to put it mildly) a major frustration. Thankfully, that app has recently been completely replaced. The new Polaroid Zip Mobile app, while still pretty basic in functionality, seems to have fixed the major things that were broken in the old one while adding some new functions.

Printing from the Zip Mobile printer is surprisingly easy. I taught myself how to do it while traveling, just from the mini instruction brochure that came in the package. Zink printers don’t use ink, just special paper, to print so before you get started you need to load paper. That’s as easy as sliding the panel that says “Polaroid” off in the direction of the arrow that is on it. Then you open one of the foil wrapped ten sheet packs of paper, and place the stack in the paper cavity in the printer with the blue bar code sheet on the bottom. When you replace the panel and turn on the printer, it will feed out the blue sheet automatically, reading what paper is in it.

To start printing, you just open the Polaroid Zip Mobile app on my iPhone. Then you can scroll through your photos to select the one that you want to print, or you can take a photo from within the app. You can also select from a drop down that gives the option to access photos on a Facebook or Instagram account, or in Dropbox, as well as to filter your photo roll display down to certain types of photos that are on the camera roll (like saved Instagram photos).

Polaroid Zip Mobile Printer app

Once the photo is selected, then you have a selection of some basic editing functions to use. First, there’s the ability to arrange the photo the way you want on the 2″ x 3″ print (cropping). Then there are filters that can be applied (just like on instagram), along with basic editing adjustments such as brightness and contrast. Or you can also embellish the photo with fun “stickers”, and decorative frames. A custom text tool creates text that can be placed anywhere on the photo in your choice of color and font.

Polaroid Zip Mobile Printer app

Once your photo is edited and embellished how you would like it, just hit the “print” button in the upper right of the screen. The photo will go right to the printer and print with no further set-up needed, as long as the printer is turned on and the Bluetooth is enabled on your phone. (I’ve noticed that even if I have just printed a photo that I still usually have to turn the printer back on to print. It shuts down automatically to save battery life after a short period of not being used. I can’t decide if this feature is annoying or helpful.)

Polaroid Zip Mobile prints

The Polaroid Zip Mobile app, while workable, is pretty basic. To get prints out of a system like the Zip Mobile that live up to the standards of a photography nerd like me, you have to put the best possible input into the printer. My solution to that is to use my Lightroom mobile app to do most of my major editing on my images, and then I save them to my camera roll and simply print them from the printer. It takes a bit more time but the results are worth it.Above, you can see the difference that editing in another piece of software makes. The top left photo, which was edited in the Polaroid software, loses a lot of detail in the dark areas. The middle right photo was edited in the free Lightroom Mobile app, and I was able to bring out detail in the dark areas while still preserving some of the glow of the lights. On the bottom, that print shows how the Zip Mobile can print black & white, which is a great option with a low contrast photo like this to get some detail and contrast.

Tip – Images that are bright, highly saturated and with a lot of contrast get best results printing from the Polaroid Zip Mobile. Low contrast and dark images can end up looking muddy.

Polaroid Zip Mobile vs Instax Share

The Polaroid Zip Mobile’s major competitor is Fujifilm’s Instax line of products. Although most people are more familiar with the Instax cameras, Fujifilm does have what it calls a smartphone printer called the Instax Share as part of that line as well. I looked hard at both the Zip and the Instax before making my purchase of the Zip Mobile and this is what swayed my decision to the Polaroid printer over the Fujifilm printer:

Better pictures. In my research, and in my experience using a Fujifilm Instax camera and now the Zip Mobile printer, I prefer the image quality of the Zip Mobile.

Image margin. The Instax prints have a very distinctive retro look with the white borders around them that may not always work with what I want prints for. The Zip Mobile app will let me create that look if I’d like.

Image size. The edge to edge prints on the Zip Mobile are 2″ x 3″ in size, but the Instax Share (using Instax Mini film) can only print images that are 1.8″ by 2.4″.

Sticky back. Since part of the appeal of being able to print mobile is to do things like journal or scrapbook on the go, I really like that the Zip Mobile prints have a self-adhesive back. This means I can stick them in my journal without having to carry adhesive with me when traveling.

Cutting. Scrapbookers like to use our scissors! The Zip Mobile prints are scissor friendly, whereas the Instax prints can’t be cut without taking them apart in a laborious process.

X-ray safety. This was a major factor for me in making my choice. Instax prints are film that is x-ray sensitive and so when traveling through airport security must be hand-inspected to be certain that it isn’t damaged. The Zip Mobile works via heat activated ink, so is not x-ray sensitive – avoiding a major hassle dealing with the TSA at security.

Chemical Safety. When unexposed or during the developing process, Instax film contains chemicals that means the film must be handled carefully. No such precautions are necessary with Zink paper.

Speed. An Instax print takes as long as ten minutes to develop, whereas a Zink print from the Zip Mobile is finished the moment it pops out of the printer.

Cost. This isn’t cheap technology to use no matter which printer you select, but the Zip Mobile is the decidedly less expensive of the two mobile printer options to buy and use. The Zip Mobile printer is about $50 cheaper to purchase, and the paper for it (even in the largest most discounted quantities for both) prices to about 10-15 cents a print cheaper than Instax Mini film on Amazon.com.

A mobile printer like the Polaroid Zip Mobile isn’t going to replace your regular home photo printer, but for scrapbooking and journaling on the go, or for special events, it’s a fun tool that can help you get your stories recorded faster. Despite the frustrating start with the old version of the app, I’m happy that I have my printer and look forward to using it for many more projects!

HP Photosmart C6380 All-in-One Printer

Reported by Sara McKenzie

I have owned and used the HP Photosmart C7180 printer for about 18 months. I LOVE this printer- and I’m going to tell you why!

Of course HP, like most technology manufacturers, never sells the same model for a prolonged period of time, so the printer details that I am going to share are for the Photosmart C6380, which is currently available, and has mostly the same features as the printer that I own and use. The C6380 sells on the HP website for $199.99.

Here are some specs for the C6380:

  • Dimensions: 17.79 x 15.97 x 8.17 in(w x d x h)
  • Weight: 16.4 lb
  • Print speed: 33 pages per minute black and up to 31 ppm color
  • Copy: Up to 50 copies, reduce/enlarge: 50 to 400%
  • Paper handling: 125-sheet input tray, 20-sheet photo tray,
    50-sheet output tray
  • Connectivity: 2 USB (front and back), 1 Ethernet, 1 PictBridge, 1 Wireless 802.11g/b
  • Print Technology: HP Thermal inkjet
  • Scan size: Maximum 8-1/2″ X 11-3/4″
  • Uses the HP 564 Black Ink Cartridge(~250 pages), HP 564 Photo Black Ink Cartridge (~ 130 photos) and the HP 564 Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow Ink Print Cartridges (~300 pages).

And here are some the GREAT features:

  • Print a 4″ X 6″ photo in as little as 18 seconds from the separate photo paper tray. No need to waste an entire sheet of photo paper for one small print.
  • Borderless printing capability, up to 8-1/2″ X 11″.
  • Flatbed scanner allows you to scan bulky embellishments on your cards and scrapbook pages.
  • You can connect wirelessly with your computer to print documents or pictures.
  • Your camera memory card can go directly into the printer, by-passing the computer altogether if you prefer.
  • Comes with the HP Photosmart Premier software that allows for quick import, simple editing (rotation in small increments, cropping, red-eye, brightness adjustment, and resizing).
  • Compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Mac OSX v10.4 and 105. operating systems.

So, what do I love about this printer?

  • It is compact, and doesn’t take up a lot of desktop space.
  • It is truly plug and play. You can load up the printer driver on your computer and be printing photos within 20 minutes.
  • I love the wireless capability. I also have a laserjet, that is hard-wired to my computer. It was nice to be able to find a printer that I could place across the room, and not have to worry about a cord lying across the floor. There is a comparable model that is not wireless, if you prefer.
  • The print quality is superb. Photos come out great, with wonderful color. I also “worked” it last year when I had to print 100 photos for some photo Christmas cards that I was making. It took some time, but every page came out great and usable.
  • I actually bought this because of the flatbed scanner (in addition to the HP brand name). Most of the cards that you see on my blog were scanned with this equipment. The resolution is great, the color is true. And the software that came with it makes it incredibly easy to give a little adjustment to the scan before saving it- such as when I don’t line the card up straight on the bed, and it has to be rotated a few degrees.
  • The software itself really is intuitive. It only takes a few minutes to figure out where to click and what it can do for you.
  • Ink cartridges are really easy to replace and have been very reliable. (I have only used HP replacements, so I can only speak to those.)
  • The computer tells you when the ink cartridges are getting low. You can print to the very end of the supply, and then replace with a fresh cartridge.

Complaints?

Only one- and it has actually gone away. I work on the Windows XP platform, and early on, I had some problems when I tried to scan, getting a message that another computer was “using” the scanner. Huh?!? It was clearly some kind of glitch between the operating system and the HP software, and it was easily fixed (with HP online chat guidance) by clearing an HP process in the Windows “Task Manager” window.

This problem happened a couple of times, and then never happened again. Go figure….

Cons?

Well, as with all inkjet printers, they get you with the replacement cartridges. They are $9.99 for the C6380 HP 564 cartridges. You can get a larger print cartridge for $14.99, for twice as many pages. I could not tell you how many pages I got- but I have only replaced the set of cartridges once in the 18 months that I have had my printer. You can find the ink cartridges readily at major big box electronic and office supply stores, and of course from HP online. You can also get off-brand ink cartridges, but I have never been brave enough to try them!!

Other HP Photosmart Printer options:

There are few other printers in the Photosmart series, with slightly different features, and at different price points. They are:

  • C4580 $129.99. This is a slower printer, with a lower monthly capacity (1000 pages), and no separate photo tray. It uses a single Tri-Color ink cartridge in addition to Black. It has wireless capabilities.
  • C5580 $149.99 This is a faster printer with a higher monthly capacity (3000 pages) and a separate photo tray. It uses the Tri-Color ink cartridge and has wireless capability (bluetooth).
  • C6280 $159.99 Like the C5580, but it uses individual color ink cartridges, and does not have wireless capability.
  • C7280 $299.99 ($269.99 with rebate). This is like the C6380, reviewed here, but also has fax capabilites.

Of note: My printer, the C7180, also has fax capabilities, which I have used a couple of times, with no problems whatsoever. Again, the setup and use is very intuitive. The reason I did not review here the C7280 is because they have changed the paper feed for the fax feature, and I cannot speak to how well that works (although I assume it does, given HP’s reputation).

Conclusions:

This is a great All-in-One machine!! You can print, scan, and copy with ease. (And with the C7280, you also get fax capabilities). There is a version that will fit every pocktbook. Online support is terrific (well, as long as you are at least a little patient). It has a reasonable speed for an inkjet, and the print quality is GREAT.

I give it a big thumbs up! Let us know if you own one, and what you think.