[6 Tested] The Best Affordable Compact Photo Printer 566

The Best Affordable Compact Photo Printer

Sneak Peek

  • The best way to save your photos is neither to leave them in your phone nor to post them on social media. They deserve to be printed out to exist as tangible memories, which allow you to recall your special moments anytime.
  • Compared with in-store and online print services, using a compact photo printer can not only protect your privacy, but also offer you a sense of ceremony and instant gratification when you witness how each photo is printed out.
  • We selected six photo printers from the marketplace, and bought them in for testing. Finally, we found out one with excellent print quality and low print cost.
  • After testing, we found that print technology largely determines print quality and per-print cost. Currently, dye-sublimation print technology is the only one that can offer the right balance between them.

Sneak Peek

  • The best way to save your photos is neither to leave them in your phone nor to post them on social media. They deserve to be printed out to exist as tangible memories, which allow you to recall your special moments anytime.
  • Compared with in-store and online print services, using a compact photo printer can not only protect your privacy, but also offer you a sense of ceremony and instant gratification when you witness how each photo is printed out.
  • We selected six photo printers from the marketplace, and bought them in for testing. Finally, we found out one with excellent print quality and low print cost.
  • After testing, we found that print technology largely determines print quality and per-print cost. Currently, dye-sublimation print technology is the only one that can offer the right balance between them.

Our Pick

XIAOMI MIJIA Wireless Compact Photo Printer

Easily print out professional-quality photos at home

It delivers excellent print quality and automatically covers your photos with coating, which can provide many years of viewing pleasure. Most importantly, its per-print cost is the lowest among all photo printers we tested.
AED 379.99 from DIGSHOP (UAE)AED 419.99 with Paper Set Note: The price is based at the time of publishing.
Pros:
+High-quality prints+Automatic lamination processing+Low per-print cost+Easy to use
Cons:
-The print speed is not that fast.

Initially, I believed that buying a personal photo printer at home is an unnecessary investment that only wastes money, until I had a chance to try out the XIAOMI MIJIA Wireless Compact Photo Printer. After using it for a long time, it completely changed my thoughts.

Firstly, XIAOMI photo printer is super simple to use and easy to connect your phone or laptop. Next, its print quality surprises me through and through. It uses dye-sublimation print technology, which offers a resolution of 300x300dpi. That means it can accurately display every detail of an image. Moreover, it features a coating on each print that helps resist fading and discoloration over time. Last but not least, it delivers excellent print quality, while the cost of each print is inexpensive.

Read our detailed review here.

OUR DISCOVERY

Why do you need it?

Nowadays, taking photos has become easier and easier. Either the important moment in each growth stage of a kid or the wonderful time in each party with friends, we can use our phones or professional cameras to record many interesting and meaningful moments at any time. However, for the most part, we just end there. Perhaps you will also post them on Instagram. But soon they will drown in the vast digital world, and gradually become blurred in your mind as time goes by.

Photos are just left in the phone.

Fortunately, a photo printer gives you a chance to record your life. Every important moment in your life can be printed out and literally held in your hand. That real feeling is something you can’t get from the digital files on your hard drive.

Picture this, every time you feel frustrated at work, just look up at a print of your newborn baby. At that moment, there’s a warm wave of bliss resonated deeply within your heart. The paper version is obviously more intuitive and meaningful. Once you use a photo printer to print out every bit of your life, you will find that your life turns out to be different and beautiful.

Besides compact photo printers, there are many in-store and online print services available. But compared to compact printers, here are a few things I can’t accept.

First, in my eyes, each photo belongs to personal privacy. I don’t want my photos seen by strangers and potentially used by others without my permission. Next, in comparison, compact printers can offer you a sense of ceremony and instant gratification when you witness how each photo is printed out. Last, many people may worry that the price of compact printers and the print cost would be costly. Nah … don’t worry. Like the photo printer we recommend, its per-print cost is cheaper than that you print through in-store service.

How we picked and tested

If you search “photo printer” on different e-commerce websites, you will find that there are numerous options at a wide range of price: Some professional photo printers sell for a crazy-high price, while some products are pretty budget-friendly.

Of course, there’s no doubt that those expensive printers can print out higher quality photos. But for the majority of people, they may prefer an affordable photo printer which is easy to use and can print out good-quality photos. Therefore, we just focused on the compact photo printers, and through rounds of knock out, we bought in six products for testing.

All the photo printers we tested

When selecting photo printers, we took the following aspects into account:

Ease of use

Unlike in-store print services, the biggest advantage of home printer is that it allows you to print photos at home anytime, and you don’t need to wait for a long time. So, I think the most crucial feature of a home printer is ease of use. It should be user-friendly and easy to print photos.

In addition, lots of people may neglect the convenience when replacing the photo paper and the ink (color ribbon). Well, I believe that you also don’t want to end up with giving up using the printer due to the tricky replacement.

In general, we store our photos mainly in our phones and laptops. Therefore, every time I got a photo printer, I did the same thing: first installed all the printing materials in the printer, then connected the printer to my phone and laptop, and started printing.Along the way, I eliminated those with difficult replacement process and complicated connecting step. I also weeded out those printers that are incompatible with my phone and laptop.

Print quality

Yeah, I mentioned this before, saying that we are not after gallery-quality prints, but we also don’t want to see the print results that are blurry, lack detail, and have a distinct color cast. Thus, the print quality of a photo printer is still an important factor we need to consider.

To compare the print quality of each printer, I selected a photo with rich colors and vivid detail. Then I used each printer to print that image at their default settings. Through side-by-side print comparisons with the original photo, I can see which photo printer can produce outstanding image clarity and excellent color accuracy.

Print longevity

When it comes to paper photos, we always care about their longevity performance. Very unfortunately, I’ve suffered this issue before. I got one print that had been already fading and discolored after half a year. Therefore, whether a photo printer can produce long-lasting photographic prints also matters as much to us.

In daily life, photo prints are prone to get damaged by water or fade over time. These are the common problems we meet, so I ran a series of tests on the prints from each photo printer.

First is water-resistant test. I sprayed some water on each photo, noticing if there were any impacts on them. Next, I did long-term tests on the survivors to see whether they would fade or discolor over time.

Per-print cost

Buying a photo printer is not a one-time investment, because you also have to factor in paper and ink costs. Perhaps that’s the main reason why many people resist using home photo printers. Indeed, if the cost of a photo I print at home is enough to print ten photos through in-store or online print services, then buying a home photo printer is not worth the money.

So, the photo printer itself should not be pricey. Beyond that, the operating cost should be economical and budget-friendly. I calculated each photo printer’s per-print cost, and then weeded out those printers with substantially high long-term expense.

Based on the several aspects above, we bought in six products for testing and comparing. Finally, we picked out the best affordable compact photo printer for you.

What are the differences among various print technologies?

When I searched photo printers below 800 AED on the market, I found that the hot-selling products vary not only in brands but also in print technologies they use.

For most customers who buy photo printers for the first time, they may be stuck at a crossroads asking: What are the differences among these print technologies? What are the pros and cons of them? And which type of print technology is better for the compact photo printer?

To handle this, I bought in several photo printers that use different print technologies, and did hands-on tests. After in-depth researching and real-world testing, it turned out that the print technology largely determines the print quality and the per-print cost.

Thus, when selecting photo printers, the print technology is also a crucial factor we need to consider. So let’s just go ahead and dive into these print technologies.

Inkjet printing

I believe that many people’s first impression on printers is the inkjet printer. Yep, it has developed for many years. So how does it work?

Put simply, the inkjet printer has built-in several different ink colors in the cartridges. When printing, it sprays incredibly fine droplets of ink through its micro-nozzle onto paper. There is no doubt that inkjet printing is currently the best way to print photos. You can get stunning print results from it. And many high-end photo printers all use this technology.

However, I don’t think this print technology is optimal for regular compact photo printers. Regardless of the high price of a decent inkjet printer, the operating cost in long run is always a huge expense. Generally speaking, replacing a full set of new ink cartridges costs even more than buying the photo printer we recommend.

Also, if you have used inkjet printer before, you must deeply experience the frustrating process of replacing ink cartridges, since you’re at risk of spilling ink all over the place when replacing.

Laser printing

Laser printing has competed with inkjet printing for many years. The core element of a laser printer is the specially coated metal cylinder called “drum.”

Here’s how it works: The laser inside the printer beams the image onto the drum passing it a negative electrical charge. When the drum rolls around, the carbon toner with positive electrical charge will attract to the drum and transfer to the paper as it passes through. Then the toner will be melted to the paper by a fuser unit.

From YouTube video: How a Color Laser Printer Works

This technology does especially well at handling large quantities of black and white documents. It prints fast, clear, and accurately. So, most of our office printers are laser printers.

However, when it handles color photos, the printing results may fall short of your expectations. If you want the ideal color printing effects, color laser printers can meet your need, but they are fairly expensive. In general, they cost ten times more than monochrome laser printers.

Overall, the above two print technologies are not suited for regular compact photo printers. In fact, the current mainstream compact photo printers on the market don’t use these two technologies above, while the following three technologies are more commonly used in them.

Instax

I believe that many people are familiar with Fujifilm’s Instax camera which was popular around the world in the past few years. It uses instax technology which was first invented by Polaroid.

The imaging principle mainly relies on its unique film (a plastic sheet). This kind of film has a light-sensitive layer and a developer layer containing dye couplers. Once the layers expose to light and the machine inside the camera presses up the dye, the image will gradually develop and fix.

The unique films of Instax printer

However, there are a few defects of it: limited photo size, blurry image quality, and short print longevity. Furthermore, that unique photo paper sells at a high price.

Take Fujifilm Instax Mini Photo Paper for example, the per-print cost is 2.5 AED, while our pick Xiaomi Photo Printer just costs 0.8 AED per print. Based on an overall consideration, we decided not to recommend Instax printers.

Zink (Zero Ink)

Zink technology is all in Zink layered paper. On the surface, its paper looks the same as the regular photo paper. But the fact is that every sheet of Zink paper has three imaging layers embedded with cyan, magenta, and yellow dye crystals.

Before printing, the embedded dye crystals are in colorless form. When the thermal printhead activates these crystal layers, they receive different heat intensity and then display different colors.

Three imaging layers (Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow)

Unfortunately, the print results from ZINK-enabled printers would exist serious color deviation, and the image clarity is also inferior to dye-sublimation print technology (I’ll go into it below).

Moreover, it needs routine maintenance like nozzle check and printhead cleaning; otherwise, you will get poor print results. That’s much troublesome.

Last but not least, in our tests, I found that the prints from two ZINK-enabled photo printers we bought were easy to fade when they got wet. Therefore, I didn’t recommend Zink photo printers.

Dye-sublimation printing

Dye-sublimation printing technology has been developing rapidly in recent years. It uses heat to transfer dye onto paper. The dye is stored on a ribbon that has each color on a separate panel. This print technology lays one color at a time, so the entire process will be repeated at least three times to lay the colors onto the medium in sequence to form a complete image.

Thus, its print speed is the slowest, but the print result is the best. The color reproduction and image clarity are about in line with that of the traditional inkjet printers.

The photo paper and color ribbon

Among our test models, there are two dye-sublimation printers. They come with a special coating process. Your printed photos will be automatically covered with a protective coat, which not only ensures the images with vivid color and gloss uniformity, but also protects your photos against water damaged and oxidation over time.

In addition, the consumables of dye-sublimation printers are economical, and they are easy to replace. Take all the aspects into consideration, dye-sublimation printing is currently the ideal technology to be used in the compact photo printers.

Our Pick: XIAOMI MIJIA Wireless Compact Photo Printer

Our Pick

XIAOMI MIJIA Wireless Compact Photo Printer

Easily print out professional-quality photos at home

It delivers excellent print quality and automatically covers your photos with coating, which can provide many years of viewing pleasure. Most importantly, its per-print cost is the lowest among all photo printers we tested.
AED 379.99 from DIGSHOP (UAE)AED 419.99 with Paper Set Note: The price is based at the time of publishing.
Pros:
+High-quality prints+Automatic lamination processing+Low per-print cost+Easy to use
Cons:
-The print speed is not that fast.

To be honest, I initially believed that it was unnecessary to buy a personal photo printer at home, because when it comes to this kind of printers, what comes to mind is that the print quality is definitely inferior to the professional photo studio outside.

Yeah, I had experienced it before. I once owned a color inkjet printer. Every time I needed to replace the ink, it meant a hemorrhage of money. All in all, this stuff only printed low-quality images, and the cost was substantially high. So, personally, I thought it was an unnecessary investment that only wasted money.

However, I had a chance to try out the XIAOMI MIJIA Wireless Compact Photo Printer, and it totally proved me wrong with its excellent performance. It allows me to easily print out high-quality daily-life photos at home.

Easy to Use

XIAOMI Photo Printer keeps the XIAOMI’s minimalist style in its appearance. Beyond that, its usage also follows in XIAOMI’s footsteps — ease of use. This feature is going to be the top priority for a good product. Otherwise, even if the product has outstanding performance, customers still won’t use it.

After installing the color ribbon and photo paper to the printer, you just need to have the printer connected with your phone through “MI Home App” under the same Wi-Fi network. Then you can use the printer to print photos in your phone album.

The whole connecting process is done in the App, while other photo printers we tested have much more complicated connecting process. Some need to use the phone to connect to their Bluetooth signals or the Wi-Fi signals they emit. Others even need to enter the connecting code, all of which are not user-friendly.

Connecting through “MI Home App”

If you are iPhone or Mac users, you can print photos through AirPrint. Besides, Xiaomi Photo Printer also supports Windows PC computer printing. So, whichever device you save your photos, you can use XIAOMI Photo Printer to print them out.

Connecting through “AirPrint”  (for iPhone or Mac users)

Its convenience is reflected not only in its printing scheme, but also in the paper and ribbon replacement. The photo paper and the ribbon are corresponding. That means when you use up the photo paper, you need to replace the ribbon together.

When replacing, you just need to open the ribbon compartment door on the side of the printer, press the red button to eject the ribbon, and put in the new one. It’s a huge improvement in user experience. You can finally wave goodbye to those days you’re at risk of spilling ink all over the place.

Press the red button to eject the ribbon, and put in the new one.

Out of expectation, it has outstanding print quality.

Print quality is also an important factor of a photo printer. In this aspect, XIAOMI Photo Printer surprises me through and through.I once had a compact photo printer Fujifilm Instax Share SP-2. Its Instax print is indeed an attractive advantage. However, you can’t count on it to print out a high-quality photo. Limited by its Intax printing technology, its print results are overall dark, murky, blurry, and limited in print size.

The Instax printer’s print results are overall dark, murky, blurry, and limited in print size.

In comparison, XIAOMI Photo Printer uses dye-sublimation printing technology. It’s capable of producing the printing resolution of 300 × 300dpi, which means it can print out the subtlest details in the image accurately. Either the daily life photos taken by smartphones or the landscape photos taken by professional cameras, XIAOMI Photo Printer can produce the final result that is exactly what you envisioned.

In our tests, the print quality of XIAOMI Photo Printer and Canon SELPHY CP1300 Compact Photo Printer is far superior to others.

On the upper half, left to right: XIAOMI, Canon. On the below half, left to right: Fujifilm, Xprint, LG, HUAWEI.

In terms of color reproduction and accuracy, XIAOMI Photo Printer also gives us a deep impression. It has a distinct advantage over some printers whose prints have obvious color cast.

Even if we take its print to compare with the original photo, there are no significant differences in color reproduction and saturation. For such an affordable photo printer, nothing else comes close at this price point.

Comparing with the original photo

Your photos can last long without color fading.

When you print photos through in-store or online print service, there is an option for coat adding. This coating plays an important role in the print longevity. Once your non-coating photo get wet accidentally, it’s hard to save it. Also, the non-coating photo will be inevitably fading over time due to oxidation.

To this regard, XIAOMI Photo Printer is thoughtful. It has a special coating process. Your printed photo will be automatically covered with a protective coat, which not only protects your picture from water and fingerprint, but also makes it long-lasting and gets fewer chances to yellow.

It's rare to come across a printer with such low print cost.

Speaking of compact photo printer, many people are concerned about its per-print cost. Thanks to the dye-sublimation printing technology, XIAOMI Photo Printer’s consumables only involve the color ribbon and photo paper, rather than those expensive inks.

A set of print materials, including 40 sheets of photo paper and a ribbon, is sold at 49.99 AED. So, the cost of each print is just at 1.25 AED, which is the lowest among all the photo printer we tested.

It’s rare to come across a photo printer with such low print cost while it still remains decent print quality. It also proves that dye-sublimation printing is currently the only print technology that can offer the best balance between print quality and print cost. No wonder XIAOMI and Canon all take advantage of this print technology.

How does it compare with Canon SELPHY CP1300 Compact Photo Printer?

Canon SELPHY CP1300 Compact Photo Printer is the benchmark of all the compact photo printers. It’s the best-selling product on various e-commerce platforms.

Without a doubt, Canon CP1300 has stunning print quality. In image clarity and detail reproduction, it performs even better than XIAOMI Photo Printer. But through our consideration in the following aspects, we decided not to recommend it at last.

 XIAOMI Photo Printer (left) & Canon SELPHY CP1300 Compact Photo Printer (right)

It’s rare to come across a photo printer with such low print cost while it still remains decent print quality. It also proves that dye-sublimation printing is currently the only print technology that can offer the best balance between print quality and print cost. No wonder XIAOMI and Canon all take advantage of this print technology.

Canon CP1300 is almost 30% more expensive than XIAOMI, while I don’t think we get better user experience from it.

Firstly, this Canon printer has its own Wi-Fi signal. I need to connect my phone to its Wi-Fi and then print photos through its App. The advantage is that even if you are in a no-network environment, you still can print photos.

But this also brings another issue: During the whole printing process, your phone need to connect to the printer’s Wi-Fi all the time, which means you cannot access network in that time. It’s hard for me to imagine how it would be if I have to cut the connection to the outside world for a while to print a large quantity of photos.

Besides printing from smartphones and computers, Canon CP1300 can also print from SD cards and USB flash drives. This seems a good selling point. But for daily use, printing photos directly from smartphones is obviously a more convenient choice.

As for printing large quantities of photos, I prefer to use a USB flash drive to connect to a computer and then operate printing, which is certainly more convenient than operating on that small screen on the printer. Of course, having different ways to print photos will give some peace of mind to you. But for me, XIAOMI’s printing scheme already meets my need.

Last, the image clarity of Canon CP1300 is slightly better than XIAOMI, but in our side-by-side print comparisons, Canon’s print results displayed lighter color, while the XIAOMI’s prints delivered richer colors and was more consistent with the original photo.

So, actually, XIAOMI printer doesn’t lose out much on print quality. In some aspects, it even performs better than Canon CP1300.

 XIAOMI’s print (upper) & Canon’s print (lower)

To this regard, we can see that XIAOMI does a smart job in chasing the best combination of price and performance. XIAOMI clearly knows what customers really need and tries to satisfy them. While in some not much necessary aspects, it will make compromises to get the cost down. No wonder XIAOMI can launch out some popular products in different fields.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

As I mentioned before, XIAOMI Photo Printer uses dye-sublimation print technology. Its entire printing process need to repeat at least three times to lay the CMY (Cyan, Magenta and Yellow) colors onto the paper in sequence. And at the end of the process, it will automatically cover the photo with a coating. So, the print speed is relatively slow, taking around 50 seconds per print. But we therefore get better-quality photo at lower print cost. Apparently, it’s an acceptable trade-off.

The Rivalry

Canon SELPHY CP1300 Compact Photo Printer: In our print quality tests, this photo printer and our pick XIAOMI performed the best among all the printers we tested. However, it’s almost 30% more expensive than XIAOMI. We think that there’s no point paying extra for some not much practical improvement that we’ve mentioned above. Therefore, we didn’t choose it at last.

Xiaomi XPrint Smart Phone Photo Printer: This is the previous version launched before our pick. It’s also a dye-sublimation printer. But perhaps due to its immature technology in early year, the print quality is far inferior to that of Canon and our pick. Moreover, it’s limited in print size with only 54 x 86 mm (2.1 x 3.3 in).

Fujifilm Instax Share SP-2: Before dye-sublimation printers like Canon and XIAOMI emerge, the most popular photo printer is the Instax printer. Fujifilm Instax Printer is the representative of them. But as far as advanced techs go, this Instax print technology has gradually become less competitive. The print quality of it is no match for that of the dye-sublimation printer, and the per-print cost is also mind-boggling.

LG Pocket Photo Printer PD251P: We didn’t know much about Zink-based printers at first. After testing it, we felt quite disappointed.

Firstly, every time you replace the photo paper, you need to place the blue card onto the bottom and let it print nothing. This step is to calibrate colors to ensure the color quality of every print. Otherwise, the print result will have distinct color cast. Secondly, even through the color calibrated step, its print results still fall short of the original photos, showing serious color deviation. Thirdly, limited by its print technology, its prints can easily smear and fade after getting wet, while other printers we tested do not have this issue. The most unacceptable thing is that its prints have obvious white vertical stripes, which greatly affects the viewing aesthetics.

HUAWEI Honor MINI Photo Printer: It also uses Zink print technology. Though its print results are much better than the LG Pocket Photo Printer; at least they don’t have those obtrusive white vertical stripes. However, either in clarity or color reproduction, there are still some obvious gaps between HUAWEI and those excellent photo printers. In addition, its prints also can easily fade after getting wet.

Comments

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  • Reychel Nasher says:

    Thanks for this incredible write-up. Really appreciate the amount of detail in your analysis. I want one for a long time.

  • Unica Bonzon says:

    My old Xprint just died. I’m shopping for its successor. Your pick is great to consider. Thank you for your in-depth article.

  • Sarath C says:

    Good post, thanks..

  • Cris Aseo says:

    Any chance we’ll get a recommendation for the best home paper printer?

  • Edwin Canlas says:

    What you said are right. I strongly agree that paper photo sometimes is more meaningful as a gift. The Xiaomi printer is the best one I like it very much!!👍👍

  • Magdalene says:

    Great review with comparison between models! I wished I saw ur post before my purchase. Its okay though, I’ll just see how the huawei goes!

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