The Best Compact Photo Printer

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HP Photosmart A636 Compact Photo Printer

Our Top Pick for 2019: HP Photosmart A636 Compact Photo Printer

In today’s world, photos are the way that many of us share our experiences with others and relive some of our greatest moments. It’s a little odd to attempt to show your cruise photos directly through your Smartphone, and what if you want to put some of your snorkeling adventures in a picture frame? This is where printing your digital images can really come in handy. There are a ton of printers offered by industry stalwarts like Hewlett Packard and Epson that will print your images in all of their HD glory, but what if you want to do this without a computer or want to print some images when you’re not at home? This is where the compact photo printer comes in. This style of device is primarily designed to print photos and you can usually take it with you on your adventures. To help you pick a great device, we’ve done some research and come up with four of the best devices on the marketplace today; three that are premium printers and one that is great but also a little cheaper.

Let’s Have a Quick Look of Our Top 4 Picks:


#1. HP Photosmart A636 Compact Photo Printer

HP Photosmart A636 Compact Photo Printer Gold Pick

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*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

Hewlett Packard started production of its first products during the Great Depression in 1939. Since then, Hewlett Packard has shines as not only one of the core printer producers in the world, but as a producer of many different types of electronics and PC peripherals. Recently, chief among their recent lines of printing and all-in-one devices is their Photosmart line of products. The Photosmart line is designed to provide quality images that stand the test of time.

As a Gold Pick product, this Photosmart printer has a lot going for it. Both critical and consumer groups agree that this is one of the best compact photo printers on the market. Primary in its list of great features is the printer’s inherent user friendliness; there are several great features that take the hassle out of everyday use.

The first feature that really shines is the ease in which you can set this printer up. With past products, you could always expect to have to install printer drivers from a CD or DVD-ROM and you’d have to keep this disc safe; just in case you needed to reinstall the printer’s software drivers. With this model, this is completely avoided. The printer comes with built in software that allows you to set it up as soon as you connect it to your PC. Installation is made so easy by this system that you’ll have access within mere minutes of connecting the cables.

Another ease of use feature that Hewlett Packard included in the design of this printer is the included stylus. Like many of the modern printers on the market today, this printer has a LED screen that allows you to interface with printer functionality. Unlike many of the compact printers that are available, this printer utilizes a responsive touchscreen for user interface and this is where the stylus comes in. Sometimes with capacitive touch screens of this size (4.8”), fingers get in the way and the wrong input is selected. Fortunately, this stylus literally puts a finer point on this process and interfacing with the printer is made much easier.

With the majority of devices of this type, connectivity is key. Since this is a compact printer, it’s really important to have a way to access your photos from a plethora of sources; not just from your PC. This Photosmart model incorporates a lot of built-in connectivity, so that you’ll be able to print from nearly any device that you have available. Firstly, there is a bevy of direct connections available with this printer, these include:

• XD, Memory Stick, SDMMC, and Compact Flash connectivity – This will allow you to print from your removable media with relative ease. Unplug them from your device or PC, and simply plug them into the printer. You’ll then be able to manage them directly from the touchscreen.

• Pictbridge USB port – Certain modern cameras have this connection. All you have to do is run a Pictbridge cable from your camera to the jack located on the back of this printer and you’ll have access to all of your shots.

• While Bluetooth is not available out of the box, you can purchase a Bluetooth dongle directly from Hewlett Packard.

Since many of these types of devices are designed with portability in mind, it should come as no surprise that HP included some great portability features with this device. Chief amongst these is the inclusion of a handle that folds neatly away when not in use. This lends the whole device a similar shaping to a traditional boombox, the 20 sheet paper tray also folds upwards and protects the main features of the device while in travel mode. Also, while this device doesn’t have a battery pack included, you can purchase a pack that will allow you to print 75 pictures on a single charge.

On Amazon, 75 percent of the reviews there are positive. Most reviewers agree that the simplicity of use, easy portability, and quality images that this device produces makes it one of the better compact printers on the market.

#2. Canon SELPHY CP910 Portable Wireless Compact Color Photo Printer

Canon SELPHY CP910 Portable Wireless Compact Color Photo Printer

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*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

With a history dating back to 1937, Canon has been one of the world’s leaders in photographic technology for the majority of the last century. With such a dedication to providing photo-realistic imagery, you can expect our Silver Pick to be one of the best devices currently on the market, and your suspicion would be right. Named after the modern photo taking technique of the selfie, Canon’s Selphy model of compact photo printer has a myriad of great features and is one of the most versatile products on our list.

To start, Canon this is a fairly easy device to setup and use. While you will have to install from a CD-ROM, the setup process is very easy and intuitive. Also, unlike the majority of today’s printers, this device uses a sublimation method to print images. Consisting of a single unit ink cartridge, this compact photo printer uses red, green, and blue (RGB) colored inks to create a myriad of color combinations. The cartridge slides easily into the side of the device and is completely hassle-free. Unfortunately, you’ll only get about five shots worth of ink and paper with the purchase, but the refill kit from Canon (which costs around $28) will grant you an additional 108 pics.

While it doesn’t have a built in handle, in many ways this compact photo printer has many features that make it great for printing images on-the-go. Firstly, this device has the option to be fully battery powered, meaning that it will be easy to take to a gathering and print images for your family and friends. A second on-the-go friendly feature is what Canon calls Access Point technology, which works like Wi-Fi Direct. Meaning, you’ll be able to broadcast a Wi-Fi signal directly from the printer that any phone can connect to, enabling directly connected printing.

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Printing images from either Smartphone or PC is a dream with this device. At its longest interval, it’ll take about 54 seconds to print a full color image, though you should see your prints generated at a significantly faster time than that. Once you’ve started the process, the tray, which can accommodate 18 sheets of 4” x 6” photo paper, will feed the paper into the printer’s body. This little device is entertaining to watch because you can witness the entire sublimation process since the partially completed image will roll out of the back of the unit from time to time. Each time it appears, a new layer of color will be added until the process is complete and you have your vivid image.

As of this writing, there are 1,236 reviews for the Selphy on Amazon. Of these reviews, 86 percent are of a four or five star rating level. The general consensus about this product is that it makes wirelessly printing images a cinch and is easy to manage and tote from photo shoot to photo shoot.

#3. Epson PictureMate Charm Photo Printer

Epson PictureMate Charm Photo Printer

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*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

As part of the Seiko Group of manufacturers, Epson has had a august history that dates back to 1942. Established under Seiko’s watch making line of business, Epson eventually branched out into the world of electronics. Today, Epson is one of the world’s leading printer brands, and has become known for its device’s ease of operation and low cost.

This compact photo printer is the ninth version of Epson’s PictureMate line of products and was originally produced in 2009. It is considered one of the prime competitors for Canon’s popular Selphy line of printers and has a lot of great features that are available right out of the box.

Setup is relatively easy; you’ll need the CD-ROM to get the drivers installed on your PC. The whole process takes about ten minutes from unboxing to printing. This is a top loading compact printer, so simply load in up to 20 sheets into the top of the device, and it will run through the printer to the output tray at the bottom.

Like our Gold Pick, this device doesn’t offer battery powered options right out of the box, but you can purchase a battery pack directly from Epson for about 50 bucks. Also like our Gold Pick, this device comes with a fold-down handle. It doesn’t have a dedicated housing for the handle, but the overall form factor of this printer is less like a boombox and more like a pail anyway. Hefting this device can eventually wear; it weighs about five pounds or so, though it shouldn’t be too much of a strain.

Where this device really shines is in the realm of photo options. As a matter of fact, none of the other devices on our list have quite as many choices when it comes to creating memorable photos. The first choice you’ll find is that this printer can actually utilize matte paper. While many like glossy paper, it’s a great option to be able to choose a more matte presentation for your images.

Another great option is the ways in which you can present your images, and how this is customizable directly from the 3.6-inch LCD. On this screen you can print images in black or white or even sepia, which will help you print some iconic pics; especially when used in conjunction with some of the photo paper options that Epson produces. It’s also great to know that the images you do produce will be smudge, scratch, fade, and water resistant as well.

Unfortunately, as this was produced in 2009, right before Smartphones began to come into heavy usage, there is no Smartphone print option, so you’ll have to copy your digital images to your PC before you can print them. That being said, you will still be able to print directly from external media such as a standard sized SD card or even the physically larger CF Cards. Also, this printer is Pictbridge-compatible, so you’ll be able to print directly from some modern digital cameras.

About 80 percent of the reviews on Amazon are positive for this product. Many users profess to being impressed by the picture quality of this device, though some have said that it needed a print head cleaning before the initial use.

#4. Canon Compact Photo Printer Selphy CP720

Canon Compact Photo Printer Selphy CP720

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*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

The second Selphy model in our write up, this device is perfect if you want to print out some pictures quickly but are also ballin’ on a budget. Like the other Selphy model, it also has some very intuitive design that will wow you; especially when you consider the low price.

This is a very portable printer; as a matter of fact, it only weighs about two pounds and is amazingly small. Its dimensions are 3.0 by 6.9 by 5.2 inches (HWD). Also, if you want to better take advantage of this devices on-the-go functionality, Canon does also have an optional battery pack available for sale. Despite this smaller size, this device has many of the functions that you’ll find in our Silver Pick, including a sublimation print process, a LCD monitor (this one is 1.5”), and multiple removable media connectors.

As this is more of a budget item, there are features that this device is missing. The first one that you might notice when comparing this Selphy to the one we reviewed previously is that this version has no Access Point technology; meaning you won’t be able to broadcast a Wi-Fi signal from this device in the Wi-Fi direct style of connection. Also, if you want to connect through Bluetooth, you’ll have to purchase a special dongle from Canon, though this is a limitation also experienced in the CP910.

Outside of these foibles, this device does a great job at delivering some quality images in a small form factor. You’ll easily be able to take this device to your favorite locations and print fresh images from on-site; just remember, since this uses sublimation, you’ll have to let the device run the photo paper through four times to get the finalized image.

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On Amazon, 58 percent of the reviews for this device are positive. While many users have complained about Canon only including about five pictures worth of ink and paper with this device, many users have also expressed appreciation about this device’s inherent portability and reliability.

Pre-purchase considerations


The whole point of a compact printer is to make the whole printing process more on-the-go friendly. To achieve this, a printer has to be a portable as possible and also be able to still accommodate the standard size of most types of photo paper. There are several ways that printer manufacturers have come up with to make these devices more portable. Here are just a few:

Shrinking – For years, printers have been large affairs that you expect to see in an office environment. With the advent of digital photography, printers had to be able to print our digital images even when we are out taking them; as a result, manufacturers started making printers smaller for easier carrying and usage.

Adding Handles – With smaller printers now sporting handles, modern compact printers now have a boombox-style form factor that is friendly to a more mobile lifestyle. Simply heft the light devices to and fro and print the pictures that develop in between.

Removable Media Friendliness – Long married to the PC, printers now can print directly from removable media like thumb drives, SD cards, and Micro-SD cards. These make it really easy to print your images; simply remove the card from your Smartphone or camera, pop the card into the slot on the printer’s chassis, and print out your images.

Output Quality

This style of device is manufactured to get you prints of your images in record time, but unfortunately, some models of compact photo printer sacrifice digital photo quality for expedience. Luckily, this is not always the case and there are several models of compact photo printer that will actually give you a high quality print output. Simply put, when we capture these precious images, we want them to be of the highest possible quality, so that as we look back on our memories, we’ll be able to visualize the vividness of the day. When you are looking for a new compact photo printer, never sacrifice output quality for quick prints.

Print Volume and Speed

Part of the portability of these printers is their ability to quickly produce prints of the images that you capture digitally. When searching for a new printer to bring your digital prints to physical life, you might take a look at the manufacturer’s prints per minute (ppm) rate. This unfortunately, can be problematic as some manufacturers publish the ppm of basic documents and images going through the printer. To be sure of the print volume and speed of your intended device, be sure to check third party sites and organizations; you’ll typically get a much more accurate accounting of these measurements; as a matter of fact, the International Organization for Standardization has done great work with establishing true print speeds for these types of devices.

Your Personal Profile and Your Needs

Printing photos is always going to be a subjective experience. Someone who wants to print pictures from a hike at their dorm room won’t necessarily need a super-high resolution photo printer. Conversely, a professional wedding photographer who wants a fast turnaround might want a compact printer that can create high quality prints while the bride and groom are still in attendance. Your personal need should definitely weigh heavily in how you select your next compact photo printer, so a bit of due diligence may be in order.

Input Tray Capacity

When printing more than one copy of a print or printing multiple images at a time, you’ll be using the device’s input tray. These trays hold multiple sheets of photo paper and the full capacity will vary based on the model and manufacturer. Some hold 20 sheets at a time and some will only manage five or so, so when selecting a new model of compact photo printer, err on the side of a device that can hold more rather than less; it’ll give you a little more freedom when it comes to printing more than one copy of your image or images.


Cost is also a major consideration for when you are selecting a compact photo printer. There are a plethora of models on the market today and each has different features that may cause the unit to cost more or less. When selecting a device of this type, make sure that you have a grasp on the prices that these items go for and also try to stay within the budget you establish, as you can quickly find yourself overspending.

Extra Features

To sweeten the deal, many printer manufacturers include extra features in their devices. These can vary greatly, but here is a list of a few additional features that you can look out for when purchasing one of these machines:

Touchscreen Interface – Many current devices utilize a LCD or LED screen to help you interface with the printer’s functions more fluidly. Slightly rarer, are compact printers that have full touchscreen support for interfacing with these commands and settings. For the most part, these types of printers use a Smartphone-style interface that will help you quickly print, crop, or rotate your photo selections.

NFC – Currently only available for Windows and Android devices, NFC is a super-easy way of pairing your mobile device to your printer. Currently, Apple products do feature NFC tech, but these can only be used for Apple Pay transactions. Whereas many of these connections are executed through Bluetooth, which requires scanning and pairing through software, with NFC you simply tap your device to a specific patch on the printer’s chassis and the connection will activate immediately.

Access Point Technology – Another method of wireless device pairing, access point technology will allow you to connect to your camera, Smartphone, or tablet without the need for a direct Wi-Fi connection or internet connectivity. This type of wireless access point behaves similarly to Bluetooth connectivity.

Borderless Printing – This is a feature present on some modern-day compact photo printers that allows you to print images that are borderless. This function will make your prints look more like the classic family photos that we all loved in yesteryear. For this extra feature, you’ll usually have the choice to print images in credit card or postcard sizes.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

Using a compact photo printer is a rewarding way to share your images with your friends and colleagues, to quickly gain your own copy of an image not taken on your favorite device, or to simply print your images while on location. Hopefully, this list has provided you with some edification about the products out there on the market today. Take a look at the devices we reviewed, remember our pre-purchase considerations, and soon you’ll be printing some beautiful images.

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