People tend to think that these thermal mobile printers (for example by Brother) will be devoid of all connectivity options because they’re thermally based. One of the big advantages of thermal devices is that they’re compact and lightweight, and so people are under the misconception that they’ll be unable to have wireless components. In fact the truth is that when it comes to wireless connectivity they’re actually by far the best of all types of portable printing devices – even better than inkjet’s.
Almost all apart from one-two inkjet designs need external Bluetooth adapters in able to access wireless internet. These are either usb 2.0 dongles or Compact Flash cards, with the former being plugged in (and hence sticking out) and the latter being slotted in (only sticking out very slightly). Now for most people going for the card is generally the superior option because it’s far more aesthetically pleasing to look it, but it’s also far less likely to get knocked out by a hand or elbow which can easily happen with dongles. Moreover people can be in cramped spaces which means they’re both impractical and the chances of accidently knocking them out is far greater than most people initially believe.
However when it comes to thermal portable printers you’ll be surprised to find out that practically all of the models designed in the last 4-5 years are capable of internal Bluetooth. Inkjet’s only have one Canon manufactured design which allows an external adapter to be stored inside, which is a nice touch – but it’s not really comparable or as secure one which is internally stored within.
However there are some definite downsides to thermally based devices, to start with their resolution dots per inch figures are very low. This means that you’ll only be able to print crisp monochrome text and basic pictures. If you’re looking for something capable of printing photographs in high resolution or you need quick printing speeds then inkjets are where you need to be looking.
There’s a very good case for buying them because you can hit around 4800 x 1200 dpi for photograph printing, and 600 x 600 dpi for monochrome. When it comes to thermal printers you’re looking more at the 200-300 range which is clearly very low. But don’t let the figures fool you into thinking that they’re much worse because I’d say the vast majority of distinguishable different in printing quality occurs in the first few hundred dots per inch. Anything after this certainly adds to the effect but for portable printers which are capable of printing to extremely high dpi figures I certainly doubt the human ability to actually tell the difference.
Overall in terms of transportability you’re certainly far better of going for a thermal device, if you’re looking for something which is less movable but has far higher printing resolutions and speeds then an inkjet is what you need to be looking at. Just remember that especially the portable ones can be considered ink guzzlers, especially if you’re planning on printing lots of rich photographs or pictures – and thermal models just use their thermal paper rolls and don’t need ink cartridges whatsoever so you can expect to save long term using them.