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Polaroid Zip mobile printer review: Pocket-sized photo printer for smartphone photogs

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The Polaroid Zip is a small box slightly larger than a deck of playing cards, just under an inch thick (2.5cm) and weighs 186 grams (6.6 ounces). And it's a photo printer.

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Polaroid Zip mobile printer

The Good

The Polaroid Zip printer is an inexpensive pocketable wireless photo printer that turns your smartphone pictures into full-color 2x3-inch prints. Simple to set up and use, it doesn't require any consumables beyond Polaroid's Zink paper.

The Bad

Prints are small and cost about 25 cents each (£0.15, AU$1). The print quality is OK all things considered, but don't expect inkjet or dye-sub printer quality. Built-in rechargeable battery lasts for just 25 prints.

The Bottom Line

​Simple and fun to use, the Polaroid Zip is a great little accessory for freeing your photos from your smartphone.

Similar to the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-1 , the Zip mobile printer, which sells for $129.99 (about £110 or AU$170), connects to your iOS or Android device via Bluetooth and, using a free app, turns photos from your phone or tablet into small, 2x3-inch borderless prints.

Ammunition, the firm that designed Polaroid's Cube camera, worked on the Zip too, and it shows. Like the Cube, the Zip is an attractive, simple device that looks more like a portable hard drive than a printer. The glossy plastic body quickly picks up hairline scratches and fingerprints though, so you'll want to hunt down a microfiber pouch of some sort to keep it looking its best since none is included.

The only button is for power and the only port is Micro-USB for charging. The battery is built-in and lasts for about 25 prints, which means for a long event like a wedding, you might have to plug it in to keep the prints coming. The top slides off -- a little too easily, I might add -- revealing a compartment that holds 10 sheets of paper.

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The printer uses Polaroid's Zink zero-ink printing technology, which uses special Zink paper embedded with cyan, yellow and magenta dye crystals. The crystals start off colorless, but as the print is being made, heat activates the crystals, changing them into the appropriate colors.

Unlike the instant film the Fujifilm Instax uses, there is no waiting for the Zip's prints to develop and the prints are less expensive; a pack of 100 sheets of Zink paper runs about $25 (£15, AU$65). The paper is the only consumable, so you don't have to worry about ink cartridges, and the prints come out dry and smudge-proof because there's no ink involved.

Again, your phone or tablet connects to the Zip over Bluetooth. Using an iOS device, you can just go into settings, hit Bluetooth and select the printer. If you have an Android device with near-field communication (NFC), you can simply tap your device to the top of the Zip and it will start the connection and launch the Zip app.

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With the app you can pull photos straight from your device's gallery or launch your camera to take a fresh shot. There are some basic editing options including filters, frames, stamps and stickers and you can add text or draw on the photos.

Once you have your picture selected and ready to print, you can hit the print icon in the app, or tap your Android device to the top again for an automatic print. From hitting print to actually having one takes 50 seconds give or take a few seconds.

Along with regular prints, you can create basic photo ID cards and make mini collages. You can also make private edits to a picture that are only revealed by scanning a QR code printed on the original image. For example, if you wanted to attach a voice message to a print, you select a picture with the Zip app and record the message. The photo will then be printed with a QR code which, when scanned with the app, you'll be able to play the attached audio.

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The tiny sticker-backed prints aren't the best quality. They're more novelty than anything else and can't (nor are they intended to) compete with a traditional inkjet or dye-sub photo printer. If quality is most important to you, you'll likely want a Canon Selphy or similar printer.

Overall, though, the Zip is excellent for what it is: a pocket-sized photo printer to use with your smartphone or tablet. It could easily fall into that category of gadgets you use a couple times and then stick in a drawer, especially if you don't keep a supply of paper on hand. But if you frequently find yourself wanting to decorate your home or office or belongings with pictures from your phone, it's worth the investment.

Conclusion

Simple and fun to use, the Polaroid Zip is a great little accessory for freeing your photos from your smartphone. It's not a device everyone will have a use for, but if you can already imagine plastering your stuff with small prints of your friends and family and pets, go ahead and grab one and stock up on paper.