Sure, people have their tablets, their big-screen smartphones, their netbooks and laptops, but sometimes you just need a good old- fashioned document.
There are printers small enough to pack with a laptop. They aren’t as plentiful now as they were a few years ago, when cloud storage and Wi-Fi hotspots weren’t as easily available, but they’re out there.
• Canon PIXMA iP100: Canon’s marketing of this printer is curious. On their website, it’s listed under “Photo Inkjet Printers.” OK, that’s really the name for their basic home printers, and most folks occasionally want to print a photo at home. There’s a whole other section called “Compact Photo Printers,” which doesn’t really mean that they’re compact, but that they can only print 4” x 6” photos.
The iP100 can do letter- and legal-sized documents, but you wouldn’t know it with a cursory glance at the description. You can “print beautiful borderless color photos from the car or even at the beach,” and “photo lab quality 4” x 6” borderless print takes only about 50 seconds.” You have to dig into the specifications to find that, oh, yeah, it does those sizes, along with envelopes and 8” x 10” photos and even “photo stickers.”
The base model, available for about $200 online, doesn’t come with a battery, so you’d still need to plug it in. A battery kit costs another $100.
• HP OfficeJet H470 and 100: These guys, on the other hand, know what they’re selling. The H470 is $200 and has no battery, but beats Canon’s product to a 4” x 6” photo by one whole second. Letter-size black documents can be made at up to 22 pages per minute, HP claims, and color documents up to 18 per minute. An anti-vibration design keeps you from irritating your fellow Panera patrons. The whole thing weighs just five pounds and can even print from a Secure Digital card. Pay an extra $100 for the battery-equipped model and another $50 for one with Bluetooth wireless as well.
At $280, the OfficeJet 100 is a slightly cheaper option if you want some of the add-ons of the H470’s pricier versions but don’t print many photos. There’s no memory card slot and the black print resolution is lower, but for documents you’re unlikely to notice. Your print speeds are the same and a Lithium-ion battery is built in, as is Bluetooth. It’s a touch heavier at 5.5 pounds — about the same as a slim laptop.
• Brother PocketJet 6: Ain’t nobody printing photos on this dude. For one thing, the base model is $349, same as the most tricked-out Canon or HP. Second, it only does black.
Those are trade-offs, though. This thing is tiny — only 1.3 pounds, including the battery. The best feature is the lack of an ink cartridge or many moving parts, making the PocketJet 6 much more rugged than other portable printers and certainly cheaper to operate. Its printing process is thermal rather than inkjet, like a receipt printer or old fax machine, so it essentially heats paper to form letters rather than laying down pigment. You do need special paper, and it’s not as quick; six pages per minute is the stated maximum.
• Mea culpa: I’ve been informed that the first time I ever saw WinDirStat — a handy hard drive space utility I mentioned last week — was on my dad’s desktop. So he gets credit for turning me on to that. And prog rock. Happy Father’s Day, dude.