When it comes to advanced mobile printers going wireless is just another step into the 21st century which most people are making. Find out the different types of ‘wireless’ connectivity, different types of printing mechanisms and finally a concise discussion on the portability aspect – all to help you make the correct purchase.
To start with let’s assess the three different types of wireless connectivity. Some wireless mobile printers will have all three, whilst most will have one to two.
The first and most commonly referred to is data transfer via a wireless access point such as you’ll commonly find in airports, hotels or indeed, your own home. More commonly referred to as ‘wifi’ printers or wireless printers there are several key variations within this category that are important. Firstly there are simply wifi mobile printers which work when another device (usually a laptop, PDA, Smart phone) is connected to the same wireless network where instructions are sent via the wireless LAN to which both devices are connected to – this is the most common type of wireless portable printer. Secondly there are printers which are connected to the wireless network which can receive printing instructions from elsewhere which isn’t directly connected to the same network. For example the HP ePrint service which designates an email address to each wireless printer operates whereby you send an email containing attachments of what you need printed to the specific email attached to the specific printer which you need work printed out from.
The second most common form of wireless connectivity is Bluetooth which is incredible useful for mobile printing. These types of Bluetooth portable printers also come in two forms. The first come with Bluetooth adapters pre-installed within the model which allows far easier and much more portable wireless access. The second are ‘wireless ready’ – this isn’t a term phrased by the industry (which tend not to bring it up so as not to hurt their sales) but it’s similar to when television were ‘HD-ready’ – they’re not actually wireless at the moment, however you can purchase a Bluetooth adapter to make it wireless. This has several obvious downsides, the first being the cost involved which varies from device to device; remember that each printer (or range of printers in some cases) have their own adapter, and the prices can vary from 10-50 dollars so it can make a big difference. Secondly you have to remember that you plug in the adapter into the usb 2.0 port which somewhat defeats the point of having wireless access in the first place seeing as its both got wires and you need to carry around the adapter. A good example of having the component already installed would be the ‘with Bluetooth’ (aptly named) version of the Brother PocketJet 6, with the ‘regular’ version needing the adapter if you wanted wireless printing later on.
Finally there’s the heavily outdated but still used infrared connectivity which is more aimed at PDAs and smart phones as opposed to laptops or tablets. I won’t dwell too long on this because it was old technology when I was young, but some people do still need/use it and there are still some small mobile printer models which come with it.
Different Printing Mechanisms
Now you have to understand that what I’m about to tell you is a concise, simplified and consumer based outlook on things. When you take an in-depth look at this topic things get very complicated and terms tend to overlap so I’m avoiding all that and just telling you about what you need to know, to help you pick the right device for you.
To start with there’s the classic laser printer, which doesn’t exist in the conventional sense of a ‘mobile printer’ for several reasons. The term laser mobile printer refers to smaller devices, laser printers don’t come portable or with batteries and so they’re not mobile. The reason for this being that they take up a lot of power and most batteries wouldn’t be able to actually print much out, and secondly the hardware for the laser print mechanisms are far too large to be considered ‘portable’.
The only print mechanisms you should care about are an inkjet mobile printer and the more commercially used thermal printer.
An inkjet-based printer has several key advantages and downsides. The advantages are that it can print to far higher resolutions and their overall product cost as well as running costs are cheaper. The disadvantages are that the hardware is quite large which reduces its genuine portability. You couldn’t comfortably fit it in a bag never mind your pocket, and they also contain moving parts which, if you’re moving it about a lot makes it susceptible to breaking down.
Thermal portable printers are essentially the converse of what I’ve mentioned above. Their thermal printing hardware makes them compact as well as lightweight. Looking for a printer that can actually fit into your pocket? Well you’ve found what you’re looking for, a great example is the PrintStik Mobile Printer which is based on thermal printing technology. It envisages everything I’m about to tell you about thermal printers. They’re not just smaller and compact, they’re tiny – they genuinely can fit into a deep pocket and whereas most inkjet printers weight 5-12 pounds these weigh from 1-3 pounds. So we’re talking about genuinely portability here. They don’t have moving parts which makes them less likely to break which is just more icing on the cake. The disadvantages are that they can’t hit the high resolutions which all inkjet printers can, nowhere near – but in my honest opinion they just hit that boundary where frankly, unless you’re a photographer or artist you’re going to be hard pressed to be able to actually tell the difference.
I’ll make this brief because I don’t believe in wasting time. If you want a printer to take from place to place so you can set it to use for a few days, weeks – however long then I strongly suggest an inkjet printer. They’re far better and although they’re a hassle to carry, as long as you’re not carrying it for a long time then things should be fine. On the other hand if you need a genuinely portable printer – as in, on the train, at a remote location or wherever you can’t set it up for a long amount of time then a portable thermal printer is really your only option.
When it comes to connectivity it’s really a battle between using wireless access points or Bluetooth – however many printers do actually have both. Overall if you want wireless printing anywhere then Bluetooth is what you’re going to have to go for because you can’t always count on finding a wireless access point.
You have to think really careful about when you’re going to be printing, the situations you’ll be in as well as finally not making a mistake and burdening yourself with either a printer that’s not portable – or a printer which doesn’t do everything you want because it’s too compact and has lost its secondary/tertiary features.