Portable Printers – thermal or inkjet?

When it comes to picking between different portable printers the first question you need to ask yourself is thermal or inkjet?  Why?  Find out more below.

The first thing I’d like to start with is by pointing out that there is no such thing as laser mobile printers at all.  Most people assume that the three main printing mechanisms have been scaled down to a realistically movable being, and whilst this is true of thermal and inkjet it is not of laser.  To put it shortly the hardware is far too big to be considered transportable, and the power requirements far too high for any reasonable amount of printing.

When it comes to picking between thermal or inkjet based devices there are really only a few keys things which need to be looked at.  For a start you need to understand which type is right for which person.

Thermally based devices are much smaller, lighter and have far few peripheral extras which need to be carried around.  This makes them far more mobile and a decent segment of people are going to find this incredibly useful.  They don’t require ink cartridges because they don’t use ink – this saves space, weight and money.  The same can be said of their thermal paper which is stored in rolls within the main body, it is more expensive but it makes printing easier and it’s not something else which needs to be stored elsewhere or worried about.

The downsides are quite clear though, they’re a little more expensive and their thermal paper is twice the cost.  But frankly these costs are evened out because they don’t have to use expensive ink cartridges.

However in terms of core specifications they’re substantially worse – especially in terms of dots per inch resolutions and printing speeds.  When you’re buying this type of device you clearly what something ‘portable’ and ‘which can print’.  Now clearly it can print, but their resolutions are around 200-300 dpi for monochrome and color.  This is contrasted with 600 x 600 dpi for monochrome and 4800 x 1200 dpi for color – these are average figures for the maximum resolutions to which inkjet’s can print to.  In terms of printing speed you’re looking at around 3-6 pages per minute for thermal’s, and for inkjet’s around 5-7 ppm for color, 10-14 for monochrome and 0.75-1.00 for high resolution maximum quality photographs.

The question is whether you need absolute mobility and whether you’re willing to sacrifice luscious resolutions for this accessibility.  Thermal portable printers are around 1-1.5 pounds whereas their rivals are 4-6 pounds – so they’re definitely much lighter.  Looking at them on a size basis they’re similar to that of a laptop battery in terms of thickness and depth, and they’re just a little long than A4 paper width.  Inkjets are far more comparable to a Net book apart from being around twice as thick.

Overall you really need to be asking yourself what you think is right for you – do you think you should be going for mobility at the sacrifice of high quality prints.  Or are you willing to have still reasonable quality text and images – but without the options for really great visuals and definitely no options for photograph quality creations.  It’s up to you to access what you need, and whether the tiny weight and size is worth it.

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