Printers are one of those household items that, though once so vital to everyday life, have become less common in recent times. But with the past couples of years changing the way we live, work and attend school, they’ve come into their own again.
The best compact printers, especially, are designed to fit into the modern home by being slimline, lightweight and portable. Some are even small enough to fit into your pocket, but these printers tend to be most suitable for printing photos on the go. We've included examples of both down below.
And if you're in the process of setting up a home office, prepare for the warmer weather with our guide to the best fans.
Many of us struggle to find a printer that will fit into our lives and not take up too much space, while having all of the features and specs we want. To help you choose, scroll down to see what we thought of some of the offerings from top brands.
The best small printers 2021
An all-in-one printer, scanner and copier that's lightweight and portable and works with Alexa, the HP OfficeJet 250 is a fantastic option if you're short on space but don't want to compromise on quality.
How it performs
Not only does the OfficeJet 250 make for a brilliant small printer scanner, but it's also wireless and so can be taken with you pretty much anywhere for on-the-go printer. That's ideal if you're switching to a hybrid working style or you have a child or teen who needs convenient printing at school or university.
The colour touchscreen makes it super-easy to use and there's a display that lets you know when you need to plug the printer back in for recharging. But the battery life stretches to 500 pages so you won't need to do this too often.
And the HP offering opens up a lot more possibilities than simply connecting the printer to your laptop - it can print over Wi-Fi, and direct from your smartphone or tablet.
You can use it for everything from documents to photos, but it's designed more for the former. We have included some specialised photo printers below so scroll down if that's what you're looking for.
The sweetest little printer we ever did see, the HP Sprocket is (in our opinion) the best mini portable printer for your photos, allowing you to keep those Insta and Facebook snaps that have existed online only until now.
How it performs
While the DPI is nothing to shout about, the HP Sprocket isn’t marketed towards the professional photography market. For taking on day trips or family holidays, on the other hand, it’s perfect. It prints snapshots and stickers using photo paper rather than ink cartridges, which means printing is instant.
You can use the HP Sprocket app to customise your photos with emojis, borders and text, making each print out completely personal and a true representation of the moment the photo was taken. Connect the app to your Facebook account or connect the device to your phone via Bluetooth for easy, on the go print outs.
The Sprocket comes in four gorgeous colours - black noir (pictured), blush pink, lilac and luna pearl (white).
What is HP Instant Ink?
A lot of newer HP printers (including the HP Tango X) are now compatible with the HP Instant Ink service, which removes the manual task of ordering replacement ink when you start running low. HP advertises a potential 70% saving and plans starting at 99p a month, which is good news for those who hate the extra expense of printer ink.
In terms of print speed and resolution, the HP Tango is similar to other models, but it's lighter and offers more bells and whistles. It's also more expensive, which is why it's not our top pick overall, since you're paying for extras that are "nice-to-haves" not "need-to-haves." That said, if you want a cutting edge printer that works with the latest tech, this is it.
How it performs
This printer works with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Cortana, and allows you to print photos directly from social media. It also works with the HP Instant Ink service, which is handy if you often find yourself running out of ink at the worst times.
Plus, if you subscribe to Instant Ink (which charges a low monthly fee based on the number of pages you print and sends you more ink when you're running low), you can print photos from social media for free.
If you fancy yourself an aesthete, the HP Tango is the small printer for you. It looks sleek on its own, but if you prefer to match your home tech with your décor (who doesn't?) you can order fabric covers for this printer in indigo or grey fabric, or a cork with a wine-coloured interior. When the cover is on, the printer could easily be mistaken for a large, selfie-enhancing reference book.
The Canon PIXMA TR150 is perfect for those whose printing needs don't necessarily always arise while at home, with its super-portable design and high quality results.
How it performs
Thanks to its small size and decent 4800 DPI, you can print really easily from phones or tablets so long as it is hooked up to Wi-Fi. Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print compatibility also makes it super easy to print on the go.
At just 12 inches long by 2 inches tall, this small compact printer will easily fit into a backpack or carry on for travel. There’s the option to purchase a rechargeable battery, so you can print out your pictures even when you’re travelling between destinations. All you need is Wi-Fi.
Previous models of the PIXMA TR150 didn't come with a battery pack, which was a bit of a downside for a portable device! This has been rectified.
Simple but perfect for use as an instant photo printer, the Fujifilm Instax Link allows you to print anything from camera roll using thermal printing technology.
How it performs
Like other mini photo printers, the Instax offering is small and light enough to be carried in a pocket or handbag, and comes in a range of lovely colours. It works with both Android and iOS operating systems, but those looking for something that will print from their PC will need to look elsewhere.
The printer offers about 100 prints per single charge, so you're extremely unlikely to run short on juice while you're out and about. Our only note would be that thermal printing tends to run a bit more expensive long-term.
Larger than some of the ultra-compact photo printers on this list but smaller than a typical small desktop printer, the Canon Selphy CP1300 is the perfect middle ground.
How it performs
Portable by design, the CP1300 wouldn't look out of place in a home office, either. Printing size is 148x100 (postcard size) and smaller, so it's best for photos, but the results will be more of a standard picture size rather than the smaller print outs from the Sprocket, Instax and others.
There's a digital display on top that flips up to make keeping track of your pictures easier and, because the printer offers a choice of sizes, creating a collage couldn't be simpler.
Canon promises 'lab quality results' so, if you're someone who still takes semi-regular trips to get their photos developed, this could save you a lot of time and money in the long-run.
Printing your snaps on the go has been made easy thanks to this option from KODAK. Print photos onto photo paper whilst you're on the go with this hand-sized photo printer.
How it performs
Like with the Sprocket, the resolution of the photos printed aren’t going to be anything to write home about but, for a bit of fun while you’re out and about you can’t really go wrong. Peel the back off the paper and you can print out a batch of personalised stickers that you can plaster around your room or on your belongings.
You can edit pictures using the app and easily print from your mobile devices via Bluetooth. The battery life is lacking compared to other small printers, so make sure you're fully charged before leaving the house!
As with all mini printers, the idea behind the KODAK Step is to encourage us to print our photos instead of hiding them away in our photo reels. For this reason, they can't be used with PCs or laptops, and only work via Bluetooth from a mobile device.
Inkjet vs Zink vs Thermal
Throughout this guide you will have seen mention of a variety of print technologies, including Inkjet, Zink and Thermal. Each has its pros and cons, and will be suitable for some while not serving others.
Inkjet is the most popular kind of printing technology and is probably the one you're most familiar with. It works by putting tiny drops of ink onto the page at a rate indicated by the DPI.
Zink is short for 'Zero Ink' and refers to a type of printing that requires no ink cartridges whatsoever. Instead, all colour required is embedded in the paper, making it popular for instant mobile printers. This means it's potentially better for the environment.
Thermal printing, like Zink, uses specialised paper rather than ink cartridges to deliver its results. A thermal printer will heat the paper according to the desired image, causing the picture to show up.
What DPI should I look for in a small printer?
The DPI refers to 'drops per inch' and indicates the quality of an image produced by an Inkjet printer. In short, the higher the DPI the better your printout will look, especially if you want colour photos, but a lower DPI means you'll spend less on replacement ink cartridges (which can get pricey).
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