Some business professionals may need to manage printed documents anytime, anywhere. Sure, now one can take pictures of anything anywhere with a smartphone and send it immediately by e-mail. But what about contracts? Contracts still need to be signed on paper and if travelling salesmen need to make a last change to their proposals to sway the customer, and make a new print of the contract, they need a portable printer. This is just one example why portable document management still remains an issue for many professionals. For manufacturers, this is still a niche market. There are very few portable printers or portable scanners, or multifunction printers, but at the end of the day, there are quite many solutions to “build” the best portable photocopier solution, in case this need arises.
What are these portable devices and how do they work? What are the main criteria to consider when choosing a portable photocopier solution or portable printer? What are the best portable printers in 2019?
Portable photocopier and printer basics
To understand how portable photocopiers and portable printers may work, it’s essential to get an idea of how document management on the go can be made possible.
All the gear to take document management on the go: types of portable photocopiers, printers and scanners
Document management on the go is a complicated affair, as it usually relies on several devices.
Can a portable photocopier be defined as compact enough to be carried around easily? Then just how easy should “easily” mean? How portable is a device which needs to be plugged into a wall to work?
Truly mobile document management requires battery-powered devices which can be carried in a business briefcase.
Many solutions are possible:
- Using a true dedicated mobile photocopier: the problem is that they just don’t make this kind of devices anymore,
- Combining the use of portable scanners and portable printers: both types of machines are now not much bigger than a notebook computer, battery operated, and work completely wirelessly; a computer may or may not be necessary between the two types of devices to transfer the image,
- Storing the image on a USB flash drive or on a media card and printing it with the mobile printer: this used to be the easiest workaround but printing directly from a mobile phone which can also be used to capture the image which needs to be reproduced is now even easier.
How portable photocopiers work
If portable photocopiers are assimilated with mobile multifunction printers, several mechanisms can be used:
- Printer heads can be replaced by a scanner module: users have to scan the image, store the image (sometimes the machine can store it independently from a computer), pull the scanner module off and put the printer head back in to print the image,
- True portable photocopiers put a scanner and a printer in the same machine: the scanner usually works with one page fed at a time, and copies come out almost immediately.
Because these devices need to keep a diminutive form factor, portable scanners are always sheetfeed scanners, and printers always use inkjet printing technology, or sometimes also thermal printing technology.
Choosing a portable photocopier or printer
Several factors can be researched to compare portable photocopiers and printers. The most essential ones are certainly functions, portability, size, connectivity and quality.
As the portable document management devices niche has many sub-niches, it’s important to know what function is needed.
There are a few models of mobile printers and mobile scanners, but there are very few mobile multifunction printers and even fewer dedicated portable photocopiers.
There’s a huge difference between a portable device and a mobile device.
Technically, a portable photocopier could be defined as a photocopier that’s small enough to be carried around easily, but still has to be connected to power socket to work.
Mobile devices are battery-operated and can be used anywhere.
Battery life then becomes an essential factor to choose the best device, and the related specification to watch is how many pages the machine can print with a fully charged battery.
Size and durability
As we’re talking about portable devices here, size is certainly an important factor.
There’s just no “portability” when the device can only be moved around in a hand trolley.
However, size has to be matched with durability, as these devices will be frequently exposed to shocks during transportation, and printers or copiers are usually fragile devices.
Connectivity is also an important factor of mobility. In the case of a mobile printer, it’s indeed quite cumbersome to need wires to connect to the source media, and even more so if it’s one very specific type of wire. Transferring files by Wifi or Bluetooth should be supported, and Wifi direct, which allows direct file transferring without a modem, or cloud printing are definitely pluses.
As most users understand that printing speed can’t be as high on small portable devices as on office, desktop machines, quality becomes an even more important criterion.
Resolution is a good indicator for scanning and printing quality.
Good quality scans can be said to start at a resolution of 600x600 dpi, and good printing results can be obtained at a resolution higher than 1,200x1,200 dpi.
The best portable printers in 2019
The market for mobile printers is already a niche one, and even more so the market of mobile copiers. However, some of the printers in this list can be used as small mobile copiers.
HP OfficeJet 200 mobile printer
The OfficeJet 200 is HP’s entry-level mobile printer, and most of the specifications are already top-class, with fast printing for the size (20 ppm in black-and-white), long battery life (over 500 pages) and a neat touchscreen display for controls. Print resolution is very good at 4,800 x 1,200 dpi. The only drawback is the lack of a scanner module, so this model can’t be called a portable photocopier. The HP OfficeJet 200 sells at under €170.
HP OfficeJet 250 mobile all-in-one printer
With the OfficeJet 250, the scanner is part of the package. Contrary to some models where the printer head has to be removed to put a scanner head, this machine is both a 600dpi sheetfeed scanner and a printer, so copying documents doesn’t require separate scanning and printing steps. And it can be all operated from the supplied battery. This machine is therefore the only true portable photocopier in our list!
Connectivity includes USB, Bluetooth and Wifi direct.
This mobile photocopier cost €200, so just about €30 more expensive than the HP OfficeJet 200.
Brother PocketJet 7 PJ763MFi-WK mobile thermal printer
Brother’s PocketJet 7 is by far the smallest mobile printer available on the market, as it’s just a kind of small bar with a slot through which paper is fed from a paper roll. This is made possible by the use of thermal printing technology, but it prevents colour prints. The solution is fully mobile, with a high-capacity battery included, and full support for prints from sent from iOS or Android phones. Connection can be made by Bluetooth or USB. Accessories are really business-oriented with chargers, protective cases and even vehicle-mounting kits. This model sells for under €500 excluding VAT.
Canon Pixma iP110 wireless mobile printer
Canon has long been a specialist of mobile printers, and the Pixma iP110 is the latest addition to a history of great, small devices. The printing quality is impressive with a maximum 9,600 dpi resolution, and printing from mobile devices is made easy with Wifi direct support, mobile apps and cloud printing. The optional battery allows printing more than 290 pages before it has to be recharged.
Contrary to earlier models though, this printer doesn’t come with a scanner head so it can’t be used as a portable photocopier.
VAT-inclusive price is just under €200.
HP Sprocket 2nd Edition, a pocket photo printer
HP’s Sprocket is the true handheld printer in this list as it actually can fit in the palm of a hand. It’s however no real handheld photocopier... but a handheld photo printer. Another really interesting feature of this battery-powered little printer is that it doesn’t use any ink at all, thanks to HP and Polaroid’s Zink or Zero Ink technology. The only consumable is therefore the special paper. Designed for the printing of photos for festive occasions (the paper that comes with it is actually stickers), right from mobile phone apps, it can however also be used to print from a computer via Bluetooth. It can be purchased for under €120.