The Sprocket Studio is a fun way to get high-quality picture prints at home, with a suite of editing tools that give your memories a personal touch. The companion app is similarly user-friendly and intuitive, but a few problems spoil the experience, and the recurring expenses may be prohibitive.
The HP Sprocket Studio is a new addition to the company’s line of portable photo printers. But, instead of wallet-sized 2 x 3-inch prints, it produces glossy 4 x 6-inch images. This means you can have a photo suitable for framing within minutes after snapping it with your cell phone.
The Sprocket Studio employs a technique called “dye sublimation” to transfer color layers onto a material. It is a slower process than the technology used in normal inkjet printers, but the outputs are of higher quality.
To get started, you’ll need to download the HP Sprocket companion app (available for both iOS and Android) on your mobile device. The software includes a variety of editing tools to make your prints stand out. Throughout our testing, we found these editing features to be rather useful, despite the fact that some may find them a bit gimmicky.
The Sprocket Studio is significantly larger than the other Sprocket printers. It has a larger footprint than the Sprocket Select, which measures just 142 x 89 x 18mm. It is 169 x 273 x 68mm.
The printer has a light grey hue that HP refers to as “snow,” and it is speckled with flecks of dark green that resemble a speckled egg, giving it a touch of personality. Otherwise, the appearance is quite clean and shiny.
A single power button is located on the left side of the Sprocket Studio. On the back of the printer is a custom connection for the power cable that is almost the same size as a regular laptop charger, which adds further bulk to an already larger-than-average Sprocket.
A luminous strip on the front indicates when the printer is on (you may select your favourite color during setup), and it will turn red if there are any issues, such as paper or ink running out.
The only other obvious feature is the printer’s paper tray, which protrudes from the printer’s body, giving the Sprocket Studio an unusual, asymmetric form, which we eventually grew accustomed to.
This minimal physical design makes the Sprocket Studio extremely user-friendly, and this simplicity extends to the software and photo printing.
Sprocket app controls printing HP’s Sprocket Studio connects to your phone through Bluetooth, with the Sprocket app controlling all printing. The app is extremely user-friendly and simple, walking you through each step of the setup procedure, including how to enter the ink cartridge.
When linked, the app displays every photo on your phone, as well as Instagram, Facebook, and Google Photos photos if the HP Sprocket app is used to connect to them. You can also opt to organize them according to the image source folder. If your device supports RAW photos, the application will also display them.
To make a long tale short, the Sprocket Studio makes photo prints of high quality. These are not perfect, but the colors and details are well-preserved. Due to the presence of a faint, vertical line running along the right border of our test prints, we conclude that it is not flawless.
On some, it appeared that the dye had flowed a bit horizontally, most likely as a result of snagging on a speck of dust during printing; it is essential to ensure that your picture paper is free of dust before you begin printing. Nonetheless, these are tiny defects that you would likely see only with a keen eye.
Whereas the Sprocket employs zero-ink (Zink), a printing process that dispenses with ink and toners and instead embeds color in the Zink paper, the Studio uses dye sublimation.
This is a relatively long operation, as the paper passes back and forth through the machine as each color is added layer by layer — first yellow, then magenta, cyan, and finally a clear top coat. According to HP, the print time is as fast as 61 seconds per page, but our tests revealed that it took between 80 and 90 seconds from start to finish.
That doesn’t sound too bad if you’re only printing a few photos at a time, but if you’re doing an album or a collage, that time frame might be very lengthy.
Each of the supplied photo paper’s shorter edges is perforated. The picture is printed between the two layers, allowing you to pick up the final product immediately without worrying about smudged ink. The blank edges can then be removed, creating a complete 4 x 6 print with tidy sides.
Nevertheless, we discovered that approach was not entirely effective. In each of our eight test prints, the Sprocket started printing approximately 5 mm over the perforations (although ending right on cue). This can be a problem if significant aspects of your photograph are near the composition’s margins.
Prior to the release of the Studio, the Sprocket family of printers from HP could only produce wallet-sized photographs. Using the Studio, you may print larger, higher-quality photographs that are suitable for photo frames.
The app’s photo editing features can give your smartphone’s camera roll a personalized touch. Nevertheless, making unique stickers does not function as well as we had hoped, and the necessity for a slightly large power source makes this Sprocket less portable than HP’s other instant printers. Still, it’s a great method to print photos of high quality at home.
If you think it affordable is a whole different question. As with any printer, you will need to factor in recurring expenses, including the expense of additional ink and paper. It would have been easier to recommend the Sprocket Studio if the price of the printer itself (which does a single function, printing 4×6 photographs) was a little lower.