When your office is constantly moving but you need to print important documents instantly, a mobile printer is a necessity. James Scoltock tests three of the best on the market.
Canon Pixma iP110
Offering the highest printer resolution of the printers on test, the iP110 can print at up to 9,600 by 2,400 dpi, and can be used on a range of paper sizes up to A4.
And it is this flexibility that is the unit’s greatest benefit, meaning that no matter what file you need, the Pixma can probably deliver it for you, whether you are using a traditional computer to printer connection, Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print or the Mopria print service for Android.
Set up takes time; a CD containing drivers for Windows machines is included, but if you have a Mac you need to go online to download them.
No USB cable is included in the box, so you have to connect the printer to the wifi network in order to print, which could become tiresome if you have to do it at every location you’re working from.
What you do get is a lithium-ion battery. It isn’t an integrated system like the Epson’s (below), you have to fix the battery to the back of the printer, which brings the weight up to 2.2kg, and makes the printer a little more cumbersome. The unit is also a significant 322mm wide and 226mm deep, so you’ll need a large bag to carry everything around in. But it does give you freedom from wires and plug sockets.
The battery takes roughly three hours to charge and should give you up to 240 pages of printing over a wireless connection Your black and white ink cartridge is likely to run out before the battery; each cartridge offers approximately 190 pages of printing, while the colour cartridge offers 250 pages.
Epson Workforce WF-100W
The Epson Workforce inkjet printer allows you to print high-quality documents whether they are simply black and white or full colour.
The main benefit of the unit is the integrated battery, so there isn’t any disappointment when you open the box and realise you need to spend even more money.
Setting up the printer is easy, but takes longer than some competitors because ink cartridges need to be initialised and, if you run an Apple computer, you need to go to the Epson website to download and install the correct drivers, (a CD is included for Windows users).
Once installed, the WF-100W can be used over a wifi connection or plugged into your computer using the supplied USB cable. It’s also compatible with Apple AirPrint, Google Could Print and Epson’s own iPrint technology.
The 3.7cm LCD screen makes it simple to set-up the wifi connection and to check ink supply levels – something that’s important for any inkjet printer, but especially if you’re working on the move.
Once installed and after it’s fully charged, which takes three hours, you’ll be able to print up to 100 black and white or 50 full colour pages from a set of ink cartridges, and at up to 14 pages a minute. Print resolution is a maximum of 5,760 by 1,440dpi.
The Workforce WF-100W is a very cost-effective printer, but it’s not the smallest at 308mm wide and 154mm deep. Nor is it lightest at 1.6kg, making it a little more difficult to carry round with you once you include paper and spare ink cartridges.
Brother PocketJet PJ-773
Expensive yes, but light and extremely portable, the Brother PJ-773 offers 300dpi black and white printing and can produce up to eight pages a minute.
It’s simple enough to set up, and once connected to your device, (either over wifi or using the USB cable), makes printing on the move incredibly simple.
The printer is small at only 255mm wide and 55mm deep and lightweight at 480g without the li-ion battery. However, in order to get the most out of the PJ-773 you’ll need to buy the battery (£133.20), otherwise you’ll be continually looking for a plug socket.
Once charged you should be able to print 600 pages before needing to plug the PJ-773 in again.
Interestingly, Brother doesn’t use traditional ink technologies on the PJ-773. Instead, the printer uses direct thermal printing, meaning no ink, toner or ribbons are required, which also means you don’t have to find expensive replacements when they run out – the only consumable used is the paper.
And paper is perhaps the only real issue with the PJ-773, because you need thermal printing paper, so you can’t just grab a fresh ream from the nearest shop when you run out.
That said, with a stack of paper beside you the printer also supports AirPrint, Google Cloud Print and Mopria so you can print directly from supported apps and desktop software, without needing to install printer drivers or integrate printing capabilities within apps.
There is a range of optional accessories available for the PJ-773. One of these is a case that houses the printer and helpfully, the paper rolls, although this does make the system bulkier to carry around.
Deciding on which printer you want to buy can be a little tricky. The cost of the printer itself can seem inexpensive, but it is the cost of the consumables where firms make their profits.
Although the Brother PocketJet might seem expensive, it’s difficult to look past it as a long-term investment.
It requires the largest outlay, but unlike the Canon and Epson, you won’t be constantly spending money on ink.
A black and white cartridge for the Canon Pixma iP110 costs £9.99, while a colour cartridge is £15.49, for the Epson it’s £18.49 and £14.49 respectively. That will mount up over time.
Thermal paper certainly isn’t cheap at £11.99 for 100 sheets of A4, but you can reduce that cost by buying rolls of paper that are 30 metres long and cost £40 for a box of six instead.
Build quality and portability are also incredibly important. The Brother unit is the smallest and feels the most robust of all three printers tested. Both the Epson and Canon are behemoths by comparison, and feel flimsy and likely to break when being transported – the paper trays on both appear to be weak spots for example.
The Brother undeniably has its shortcomings. For one thing, it has the lowest print quality, and for another it is incapable of producing colour documents. But really, how often do you need to print photo-quality pages in all the colours of the rainbow on the move?
Finally, unless you invest in yet more accessories there’s no paper tray, which means manually feeding paper into the unit.
Still, taking the long-term view, none of the Brother’s downsides is enough to stop it from being the recommended printer if you’re looking to produce documents on the move.