HP’s Pocket Printer Is Let Down By Its Photo Quality And Location Data

HP’s Pocket Printer Is Let Down By Its Photo Quality And Location Data

The HP Sprocket Select is a pocket photo printer that prints sticker photos via a bluetooth phone app. It’s adorable. Fun, even. But it’s also a device you’re likely to use a handful of times, and then hide away in a bedroom drawer until the end of time.

The Sprocket Select is easy to use and hooks up with a mobile app so you can print off any photos you might have lurking in the bowels of your phone memory. The Sprock app is great, and easily connects with the print and allows you to print off any photo saved to your camera reel. This was the part I liked most about it, because in our all-digital everything age, my mobile photos often stay on my phone and rarely see the light.

With the Sprocket Select, I could print out a few of my favourite memories on tiny 2.3 x 3.4-inch photo stickers and hang them around my room. It was nice, but the Sprocket is held back by a few key things.

The Sprocket Select is pocket-sized.

First, I was briefly mystified when I got the Sprocket. It’s a tiny printer! It’s really cute, and you can print anything you want off it and turn it into stickers. But then I realised I could do the exact same thing on my home printer, and with far better and more reliable results. The photo quality of the stickers that the Sprocket prints isn’t good.

Photos are compressed and small and the colours are muddy and plain. Images that popped on my screen printed out grainy and unsaturated, and the Sprocket printer had particular issues with greys and browns, making them look drab and washed out. It also pixelated and compressed every image I printed, making darker scenes look barely comprehensible.

Left: The printed Sprocket photo, Right: The original image

While it’s hard to exactly replicate the colour tones and contrast via a photo of a photo, the left image (a photo of the Sprocket photo) should give you an idea of how the Sprocket washes out colour and detail during printing. On the odd photo, it also completely panicked, washing out and smudging the bottom of images as the data arrived.

This was the seventh photo I printed, although I wasn’t able to replicate the effect. For a printer designed to, y’know, print… that’s not great.

There’s also another issue, and it’s a significant one. The Sprocket printers include a feature called ‘Reveal’ to imprint an invisible watermark on your printed photo that embeds certain data including the location the photo was taken. This data can be read by anyone who has the Sprocket app, and they can then access the Google Street View data of the location, if it’s available. While this may not be such an issue if you’re using the Sprocket to print photos of a trip to Japan, printing out a selfie you took from your bedroom could give people a direct line to your house.

It’s definitely something to keep in mind when using the Reveal feature on the Sprocket. While it requires you to opt-in, those using the device should be careful about sharing this kind of data, even if it appears relatively harmless.

Thankfully, it’s easy enough to avoid this feature.

Simply put, the Sprocket Select feels like a device that belongs in the 90s. While the photo stickers it prints are fun for scrapbookers or those looking for a neat memento of their travels, the poor quality of the printed photos holds the device back. For a $199 printer, I expected much better.