When it comes to finding the right device which is both small and wireless the first thing we’re going to take a look at is the size. Small really just means portable, and portability comes in two different key aspects – weight in pounds and dimensions in inches. I don’t know why those measurements are used but nevertheless they seem to be an industry standard which everyone goes by and I’ve yet to see one in centimeters for example.
From the weight perspective the mass of the printer should be around 1-2 pounds which is incredibly lightweight. This means that you’ll be looking for a thermal based printer because inkjets don’t come that lightweight, if you’re looking for an inkjet device then unfortunately the weight range is going to be from 4-7 pounds and not lighter than that.
You will find one Canon device which is around 3.2 pounds but aside from that they’re commonly at least 4 pounds usually around 5. Dimensions wise you’ll need something that can slip into your pocket or as far as I’m concerned it’s not really ‘small’.
The pocket itself does have to be quite deep because a small mobile printer will be at least around 11 inches to accommodate the printing of size A4 sheets of paper but apart from that it should only be 1-2 inches thick and deep.
The type of small printer I’m actually referring to is a thermal portable printer and these have some significant advantages over their inkjet counterparts. Just for the record I want to state right now that despite that people that ask me there’s no such thing as a laser printer which is portable. They don’t exist because the hardware is far too large to ever be considered portable and the power the laser uses is more than a battery can reasonably provide for any sizable amount of mobile printing.
The distinct advantages which the thermal based printer have are its size, its weight, its lack of peripheral necessities and its long term lower running costs as well as reliability. When it comes down to it because these types of printers don’t have moving parts and just have thermal print heads they’re actually much smaller and lighter which obviously makes them ideal from the portability perspective. But also they’re more reliable because of the no moving parts too which is again ideal especially when you consider mobile devices are invariably going to be bumped around while travelling.
They make great wifi portable printer devices because they’re small which allows easier installation of Bluetooth or infrared. This adds substantially to the device and having Bluetooth connectivity is just plain useful when it comes down to it. The ability to have your printer in the boot of your car, and for you to take out your laptop, transfer the work wire-free and then for the device to respond is just a marvel of modern technological innovation and is very useful for ‘in the field’ workers.
They do of course have downsides, the small a4 portable printer itself tends to be more expensive even though running it long term will prove cheaper. However people just tend to see the main price of the item and base their decision on that as opposed to how long it will last and if they’ll need to replace it. The thermal paper is expensive, around double that of inkjet or laser paper – but again this cost is definitely off set with long term use because just remember they don’t use ink cartridges and you’re going to save a lot there.
One aspect which I am very critical of is their inability to hit the high printing resolutions which we’ve all come to enjoy. Printing to 300-400 dpi which is about all they can manage isn’t impressive whatsoever, and it’s not suitable for displaying any kind of graphical work whatsoever. These are very much for text with a few images as opposed to the other way round and they’re very much based on working as opposed to looking great.