When you need a hard copy OOO
While the world is more digital than ever, the decades-long promise of a paperless world seems as far away as ever. Ironically, one of the places you’re most likely to need a printer is when working with clients on a business trip or out in the field. As time goes on, it’s becoming less common to find printers wherever you go, so a portable printer could be a real lifesaver when you need hard copies of something away from the office.
What To Look For in a Portable Printer
Portable printers have various designs, shapes, sizes, and features. Most buying decisions are similar to choosing any type of printer, but a few aspects are specific to these mobile machines.
First and foremost, portable printers will have a battery rating, usually measured in the number of pages that they can print on a full charge. That number will vary based on the print quality and whether it’s in full color or not. So pay careful attention to the quoted numbers and make sure that they’re enough to cover your real-world needs.
Battery power may not be too much of an issue if you choose a printer that can charge from a car’s 12V outlet or accepts USB power from a power bank.
Another special consideration for portable printers is whether you want a model that holds paper or requires manual feeding one sheet at a time. Printers that are hand-fed single sheets are much more compact, but if you want to print more than one or two pages at a time, it can take up a lot of valuable time.
1. Best for Quality Business Prints: Epson WorkForce WF-110 (Approx. $350)
- Great maximum DPI numbers
- Can print borderless photos
- Extra external battery available
The Epson WorkForce is great to take with you on a specific trip where you’ll have to do some printing, but it’s not the printer to choose if you want to print larger volumes. The ink cartridge capacity is relatively limited, with a 250- and 200-page capacity rating for the black and color cartridges.
What you would buy the Epson for is high-quality, low-volume printing. With a maximum print resolution of 5760×1440 DPI but a battery-powered print speed of just two pages per minute, it’s a question of quality over quantity.
However, that’s perhaps exactly what you need when you’re flying out to see a client and need to hash out final details. You’ll get desktop-grade prints from a battery-powered system.
2. If You Don’t Need a Battery: Canon PIXMA TR150 portable printer (Approx. $350)
- 50-sheet paper tray
- No battery by default, great for users who don’t need battery power
Having battery power is the main draw for portable printers, but it can also be a liability. Batteries wear out, they add to the printer’s printer’s cost and weight, and not everyone actually needs it.
That makes the Canon Pixma TR150 an exciting product. Unfortunately, out of the box, there’s no battery. You can buy a battery later if you need one, but if you’re moving from hotel to hotel or are setting up a mobile office somewhere, you can just plug the TR150 in.
It’s not the smallest portable printer on the market by a long shot, but that’s offset somewhat by the 50-sheet paper capacity. It’s small enough to put into your luggage or store in your car, so “big” is relative.
3. Best Instant Photo Printer: HP Sprocket Portable 2×3″ Instant Photo Printer 2nd Edition (Approx. $80)
- Compact, dedicated photo printer you can take anywhere
- Photo paper packs are inexpensive compared to instant camera film sheets
- Produces much better photos than Polaroid-style instant cameras
Smartphone photography is more popular than ever, and new phones like the S21 Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro have excellent onboard cameras that can take jaw-dropping photos. It’s easy enough to share those photos to social media or to send them to friends and family, but there’s something special about actually printing them out as physical photos you can frame.
The HP Sprocket is a dedicated instant photo printer that lets you use your Android or iOS device to snap photos and make hard copies of them immediately.
This is a more niche type of portable printer, and you have to buy special photo paper packs to use with the machine. Still, if you compare it to the instant Polaroid-style cameras, the Sprocket ends up being cheaper over time, with better quality prints and photos.
The Sprocket offers you another social photography option. If you like hanging out with friends, going on trips, or attending events like parties, it has a lot to make it appealing.
4. Best Overall Portable Printer: HP OfficeJet 200 Portable Printer with Wireless & Mobile Printing (Approx. $350)
- Desktop-grade printing in a portable form
- Fast quality print speeds
- Draft mode printing of 20ppm on AC power
The HP OfficeJet 200 is a portable printer that runs off battery power. Still, in most other respects, it’s the equal of dedicated office printers that are much larger and need to be connected to a power outlet.
The battery is perhaps the most impressive feature here. It’s rated for 500 pages between charges and can fully recharge in just 90 minutes. You won’t even need that with the standard cartridges, which will only give you around 200 black and white prints, or around 165 color prints. HP sells high-capacity cartridges that can up those numbers to 600 and 415. So if you’re heading out on a long business trip with no hotel business center in sight, that’s an option to look out for.
Based on the various test prints and user reviews we’ve seen, the OfficeJet 200 offers print quality pretty much on par with HP’s desktop inkjets. That’s seriously impressive considering it’s a portable machine and might even make it viable as your only printer, ready to leave the office whenever you are.
5. Most Versatile Printer: Canon Pixma iP110 Wireless Mobile Printer (Approx. $450)
- High-resolution printing
- Suitable for almost all types of printing
The iP110 is a compact inkjet printer that will not appeal to everyone. Still, if you’re okay with a maximum print size of 8.5 x 11 inches (US legal letter) rather than A4, you’ll find that this is a superb little printer with a maximum color resolution of 9600 x 2400 DPI. It can also print a borderless 4 x 6-inch photo in less than a minute!
Impressions of its print quality are mixed, however. The consensus from customer reviews is that it doesn’t seem to be bad, it doesn’t seem to be anything special either. It’s decent at everything but not exceptional at anything. So if you need an all-around portable inkjet with no actual weaknesses, the iP110 looks like the right choice.
The only issue worth noting is that this printer seems a bit too expensive for what you get, so try to wait for a deal if you can.