Remember when polaroid cameras were trendy? A camera that lets you snap a photo and prints it out to you on the fly seemed like magic at the time.
And even though polaroids sound amazing to this day, we rarely see them outside of romantic settings in movies. Perhaps it’s all the flaws they had, like how fragile film tape was and how you had a limited number of shots to take.
Fortunately, the past is now behind us, and through technology, we now have instant photo printers that pair with your phone and let you turn your beautiful pixels into a tangible reality.
So, assuming you’ve been out of the instant photo printing loop, you’re probably wondering what the hottest tech in the industry is right now, and that’s what we’re here to tell you. So follow along as we look at the best 4×6 photo printer.
|Model||Printing Method||Wireless Connectivity||Wired Connectivity||Approx. Printing Speed||Mobile App|
|Kodak Dock Plus||Dye sublimation, laminate process||Bluetooth only||USB-C and Lightning||40-50 seconds||Forced|
|Canon Selphy CP1300||Dye sublimation||Bluetooth and Wi-Fi||None||47 seconds||Optional|
|HP Sprocket Studio 4×6”||Dye sublimation||Bluetooth only||None||Variant||Forced|
|Epson PictureMate PM-400||4-color drop on demand||Wi-Fi only||USB-C only||36 seconds||Optional|
|iHome Photo Printer Dock||Dye sublimation||Bluetooth only||None||45-50 seconds||Forced|
The 5 Best 4×6 Photo Printers in 2021
In this section, we’ll review each of the five 4×6 photo printers we’ve shortlisted. So without further ado, let’s enjoy the main course of this article.
1. Kodak Dock Plus 4×6” – Best Overall
We start with the Kodak Dock Plus portable instant photo printer. To many of us, Kodak is ingrained in our minds as one of the icons of photography. But do their photo printers live up to that reputation?
First, let’s talk about connectivity. The Kodak Dock Plus has all the connectivity options you’d expect from a photo printer except for Wi-Fi connectivity, which is a bit disappointing, to be honest. Otherwise, it has Bluetooth, USB-C for Android devices, and lightning for iOS devices.
Furthermore, Kodak has an app for the printer which they force you to use to send images to the printer, effectively restricting connection to mobile phones only.
But apart from connection, the print design itself is very good. The printers use dye sublimation techniques and a laminating process to provide high-quality material photos that can last 100 years. Also, the photo quality itself is good, but not the best, considering we’re talking about Kodak here.
- Good photo quality
- Easy to set up
- Lets you print in borderless and bordered
- Affordable film (about 30 cents a paper)
- Versatile connectivity options
- Printing speed is on the slower side (40-50 seconds)
- Forces you to use their application
- Photo quality isn’t up to Kodak’s standards
With the Kodak Dock Plus 6×4, you can only print photos from your mobile device connected through Bluetooth or a cord. However, you can expect good quality photos with sturdy material that can last long due to being laminated.
2. Canon Selphy CP1300 – Runner-Up
Our second pick is the Canon Selphy CP1300, the CP1200’s successor. Again, Canon is another icon of photography, perhaps more so than Kodak in modern times, but does their Selphy CP1300 perform to Canon’s standards?
Perhaps the most noticeable detail in the CP1300 is the handy 3.2” LCD screen that lets you preview and edit your photos before you print them. Kudos to Canon for that one.
On getting photos on your CP1300, you can connect via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or USB. And good news to you, computer users, the mobile app is optional, so you can hook your PC to the printer through any of the methods above and print your photos right away.
And for you, iPhone users, while there’s no lightning connection in the CP1300, you can use Apple AirPrint instead.
The biggest drawback of the CP1300 we found was that it only prints in borderless, and sometimes it gets buggy with parts of the picture being cut off. However, the cutoff is usually too insignificant to notice anyway.
- Versatile connectivity options
- Built-in 3.2” LCD screen for previewing and editing
- Can take a memory card
- Only borderless printing that sometimes cuts off parts of the photo
- Set up is somewhat complicated
The Canon Selphy CP1300 is a good printer for home usage and family events, and it produces photos of decent quality. In our opinion, the pros far outweigh the cons in the CP1300.
3. HP Sprocket Studio 4×6” – Budget Pick
Next up is the HP Sprocket Studio at number three. You see, while HP isn’t exactly known for their photography equipment, they’re world-renowned for their printers. But what about their Sprocket Studio 4×6 photo printer?
Despite being the cheapest printer on our list, the Sprocket isn’t an inferior one. On the contrary, it’s easy to set up, and it prints photos in very good quality, comparable to that of the Kodak Dock Plus. It also uses dye sublimation like most of the other more expensive printers on this list, so your photos should theoretically last about 100 years in an album as well.
But of course, some limitations come with a cheaper price tag, the most disappointing of which is the minimal connectivity of the Sprocket Studio. For reference, you can only connect via Bluetooth and through the app, they force you to use.
Another quirky, annoying design flaw is that when a photo is printed, you have to snap it off, which sometimes leaves a rough mark on the edge. The mark isn’t excessive, but it takes from the perfectness of a printed photo.
- Good photo quality
- Easy to set up
- Very limited connectivity options (Bluetooth only)
- Mobile app is forced
- Pulling a photo off sometimes leaves rough marks
The HP Sprocket Studio does what you’d expect it to, for the most part at least. The quality is good. It’s also an easy-to-use and easy-to-setup printer, and its printing technique is good for the price. So if you’re on a budget, this is your go-to.
4. Epson PictureMate PM-400 – Highest Photo Quality
And at number four we have a less popular brand than the three above. It’s the Epson PictureMate PM-400, straight out of the Philippines.
In our list, the PM-400 stands out as the only one that doesn’t use dye-sublimation and instead sports drop-on-demand technology that uses four colors, including cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. In addition, each color has 180 nozzles, for a total of more than 1 billion colors, as opposed to the standard 16.7 million.
With specs like these, it’s no surprise that the PM-400 provides excellent photo quality. But did you know the photos are reliable too? In fact, Epson boasts that their photos can last 200 years in an album. Obviously, we can’t test this statement for certain yet, but be sure to check out our 2221 update!
And similar to the Canon CP1300, the PM-400 has a display for previewing and editing, though a bit smaller at 2.7”.
The PM-400 also boasts many connectivity options, from Wi-Fi and USB to their optional app as well as Google Cloud Print, AirPrint, and Remote Print. But here comes the shocker – there’s no Bluetooth. For some reason, Epson thought to optimize the PM-400 for all these options but not Bluetooth, which is quite inconvenient.
- Over a billion possible color combinations
- Very versatile connectivity options
- Excellent photo quality
- 2.7” display for previewing and editing
- Its ink cartridges are rare to find (at least in the United States)
- No Bluetooth connectivity
The PM-400 offers various connectivity options with a few different platforms or even their optional app, but surprisingly there’s no Bluetooth. However, the pros outweigh the cons when considering over a billion color combinations and great photo quality.
5. iHome Photo Printer Dock – Most Portable
Last but not least, we have another less famous brand, the iHome Photo Printer Dock.
You’ll notice that this is a smaller device than the rest on this list right off the bat. It’s true – this printer is only about one and a half mobile phones in length and weighs only 3 lbs (1.3 kg). Fortunately, this compactness doesn’t come at the cost of performance.
The printed photos are of good enough quality. They’re not the best, but they’re good. And the printer uses dye sublimation as well to give you a beautiful, long-lasting photo.
So performance isn’t where the iHome Dock lags, in our opinion. Instead, it’s the connectivity and the shortage of parts (again). The iHome Dock only has wireless connectivity through Bluetooth – no Wi-Fi and no cables. You also have to use their app, so bear that in mind.
Interestingly, iPhone users will be pleased to hear that the iHome Dock has a lightning docking station for iPhones.
- Big tray that can hold up to 40 papers
- Lightweight and compact (3 lbs / 1.3 kg)
- Lightning docking station for iPhones
- Ink cartridges and paper are hard to come by
- Limited connectivity options
The iHome Photo Printer Dock is a reliable compact machine that’s perfect if you’re often on the move and like to print your captured photos immediately. Just remember that you can only connect through Bluetooth and the app they force.
How to Pick a 4×6 Photo Printer
If you’re not well-versed in instant photo printers, we’re here to amend that to ensure you get the most out of your investment. So here are the main qualities you should be on the lookout for when buying a 4×6 photo printer.
Of course, the most noticeable detail (especially when it’s absent) in a picture is the quality. Naturally, you want your memories to look good and last long.
Most people will have no problem with 140 or so pixels per inch (PPI) for resolution. But if you’re doing professional photography, you’ll want no less than 300 PPI resolution.
Also, you want a camera with three color inks, ideally cyan, magenta, and yellow, each with 256 levels.
As for the quality of the material itself, we recommend laminated prints as they last longer (100-200 years if stored in an album) and are resistant to smudges, scratching, water, and fading.
Are you planning to print photos primarily out of your mobile, your computer, or maybe another device altogether? This is something you need to consider.
For example, some printers out there force you to install their mobile app to pair both devices. We think that’s too restrictive, but if you’re only planning to print photos from your smartphone, then you’ll be fine.
We recommend looking for a printer with both wireless (Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) and wired (USB) connectivity options.
The name “instant photo printer” is a misnomer since these little devices can take even a minute to print your photo out and not instantly. Ideally, you should look for a photo printer with around 30-45 seconds for a print.
Unlike many modern digital devices we use today, printers don’t require one upfront payment for unlimited use. Instead, printers have cartridges and papers that need to be refilled when their supply is depleted. So you need to consider the prices of refillers, not just the printer.
Last but not least, we think portability is important so you can carry your printer around wherever you go photographing. So aim for a laptop-sized printer at most.
While there are a few subtle differences here and there between the 4×6 photo printers, they mostly share the same basic functionality of taking good-quality and long-lasting photos.
If you want our opinion, the Kodak Dock Plus is the most balanced out of the five, boasting very good all-around quality and various connectivity options, yet remaining a simple, easy-to-use device.
On the other hand, the best 4×6 photo printer, in our opinion, is the Epson PM-400, which is an all-around great photo printer. But if you go with this, get ready to search hard for its parts.