While printing has never really died (Long live the paperless office!) the ease with which we can take high quality photos and share them has almost rendered personal printing redundant. And the ability to print at home means the post-holiday trip to the chemist or local photo-lab to get pictures printed is also a rarity. Enter the Lifeprint - a portable printer that lets you take a mini photo lab with you wherever you go.
What Is It?
The Lifeprint is a compact Wi-Fi and Bluetooth printer that makes it easy to print snaps from your smartphone or tablet. It's light and compact enough to take anywhere. It works through a free app that looks at your local photo library as well as your social media accounts. If you choose a video, or Apple Live Photo, you can choose which frame you want to print.
If your friends have a Lifeprint printer, you can share photos to them, directly to their printers.
|Size||160mm x 115mm x 25.5mm, 340g|
|Ports||1 x micro USB for charging|
|Battery||Li-Ion rated for about 20 prints with 24 hours of stand-by time|
|Operating System Support||Android and iOS|
|Wireless Comms||802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.1|
Once I connected the Lifeprint to my iPhone over Bluetooth, and went through a firmware update, I printed a number of photos. The whole process was straightforward although it was a little slow in my view.
The Lifeprint doesn't use any inks or toners. The ingenious 3in x 4.5in Zink photo paper that the Lifeprint uses has the inks embedded. So, the Lifeprint printer processes the images and "sucks" the required mix of ink out of the paper to produce the image.
Adding more paper to the device is easy as the top cover slips off. And in addition to holding the ink, the Zink paper has a peel-off backing so the photos can be used as stickers.
The integration with social media accounts is straightforward. You will need to trust Lifeprint as it accesses your photos but it does limit its permission to photos and not much else. The app is reasonably easy to use and looks similar to instagram, presenting images in a grid. When looking at photos from Facebook, the app uses the folders and categories you've already established but it didn't use my albums when looking at photos on my iPhone.
The acid test with printers is print quality. I was disappointed with the Lifeprint. The colours from my original images were distorted, making them a lot warmer than the originals. And the printed images were darker than the originals which meant images taken in low light lost detail. The images on the left are scans taken from images printed from the Lifeprint with the originals, resized to fit, on the right. As you can see, there's a lot of difference between the printed images and originals.
In order to keep the Lifeprint light, the battery capacity is compromised. Although it only takes an hour to fully charge, the Lifeprint exhausts its power pack after just 20 images.
Also, the printer ships with just five sheets of the Zink paper. You'll need to buy an extra stash almost straight away.
Should You Buy It
The Lifeprint is all about instant gratification. But that gratification will cost you a pretty penny. The Lifeprint is available through JBHiFi for $279, or the Apple Store for $269.95. A quick scan on Amazon revealed it's also available through Kogan but they're charging an extra $30 for some reason.
A 20-pack of paper adds another $50 to the price tag while a 40-pack is more economical, but still expensive, at $80.
I can see the fun of printing images like this but at that price, the novelty will soon wear thin. And the image quality at those prices isn't good enough in my view.