Aside from HP, few companies have made a bigger commitment to Kodak’s portable or pocket-sized photo printers. We’ve already reviewed the company’s Mini 2 Retro Portable Photo Printer and Mini 3 Retro Portable Photo Printer (the latter won an Editor’s Choice award) this year, and today it’s our $79.99 Instant Slim Mobile Photo Printer. While all three machines create similarly sized images—2 by 3 inches in a Step Slim case—the two Mini Retros are dye-sublimation printers (commonly called dye-sub printers).
Despite this, The Step Slim joins photo printers from Canon, HP and others with Zero ink or Zink technology. Dye subs generally produce slightly nicer prints, while Zink printers are easier to maintain and use. Kodak specifically uses the company’s adhesive paper that turns anything you print into a label. However, what is most impressive about the sleek little device is its low pricing and competitive cost per print, making it a great smartphone companion.
palm size pocket photo printer
More than most other types of printers, the size of these pocket photo devices is determined primarily by the dimensions of the media you’re printing on. The Kodak Step Slim, for example, measures 0.9 x 3.3 x 4.9 inches and weighs just over half a pound. As mentioned, it uses 2″ x 3″ paper, and joins the PCMag Best of 2019 winner, HP Sprocket Photo Printer, and Polaroid Hi-Print Pocket Photo Printer.
The Step Slim is compact and weighs about half a pound. (credit: Kodak)
The Polaroid is a dye sublimation device, and as such is slightly larger than most of its Zink competitors. Instead of applying ink to paper, Zink devices use special paper embedded with colored crystals that react to patterns of heat generated by the printer. Dye printers use more traditional paper and carrier film saturated with ink, and are usually bundled together in refill cartridges. Zink printers are faster, producing an image in one pass through the device; Their pigment competitors make four passes across the paper path.
Let’s take a quick tour of Step Slim. Paper loads 20 sheets at a time into a small compartment that can be accessed by sliding the top cover back; Final prints come out through a small hole on the front edge. On the opposite edge, you’ll find the charging and printing status LEDs, a reset button, and a micro USB port for connecting the charging cable.
Despite the USB charging port, the only connectivity option is wireless Bluetooth, and the Kodak Step printing app works only on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. In other words, you can’t print photos from your Windows or macOS laptop or desktop. Kodak says a fully charged battery is good for 25 prints.
Purchase options and packages
It is not unusual nowadays to find a few different purchase options for small photo printers like this one. During this review, I came across three Step Slim packages on Amazon and a few other outlets. The first, for $79.99, consists of the printer, charging cable, and a starter pack of 20 sheets of Zink photo paper.
The $109 package comes with 50 additional sheets of 2″ x 3″ Zink media. (credit: Kodak)
The next step is a $109 bundle that combines everything in the basic kit with an additional 50 sheets of 2-by-3-inch sticky Zink paper, for a total of 70 sheets.
The $129 starter package turns your pocket printer into a complete scrapbooking set. (credit: Kodak)
Finally, the $129 Starter Bundle contains just about everything you need to turn your mini photo printer into an arts and crafts kit or scrapbook kit. It combines a basic package with 20 second packs of paper, a carrying case, a mini photo album, thousands of stickers for multiple occasions, tags, and even a temporary clothesline for drying your creations. (Check the length of the thread and a bunch of clothespins in the upper right corner of the photo.)
Like many pocket photo printers today, Step Slim relies on an application to edit, enhance, and print photos. Kodak Step Prints is a highly advanced software that goes beyond just a printer driver to allow you to make corrections such as red-eye removal, image sharpening, and contrast and color adjustments.
The Kodak app allows you to edit, enhance, and print your photos from your phone or the cloud. (credit: Kodak)
Improvements include quick frames, decorative text, and filters to apply a number of special effects. The app also provides tools for creating collages and other specialized layouts from your smartphone’s photo gallery or from cloud and social networking sites. In fact, it allows you to interact with your favorite social media and other sites directly.
Kodak’s Step Printers let you order paper, make labels and other arrangements, and more. (credit: Kodak)
Step Slim Test: Zink Standard Quality and Speed, Affordable Prints
Within reason, print speed isn’t really an issue for these small devices. Output quality, on the other hand, is essential, and the Kodak Step Slim joins its Mini 2 Retro and Mini 3 Retro siblings, several HP teethers (including the original, Sprocket 2nd Edition, Sprocket Plus, and Sprocket Select), photo printer Canon’s Ivy Mini helps produce good looking photos.
In our test prints, colors are bright and accurate, and details are better than acceptable, considering how small the prints are. Again, it’s important to note that while current Zink printers deliver decent-looking images (much better than models that only existed a few years ago), sub-dye devices typically produce better detail and sharper colors. However, neither can match the quality of four, five, or six inkjet desktop or all-in-one printers. Suffice it to say that the Step Slim’s visuals are excellent among its peers, although not particularly stunning or stunning.
If you insist on speed, Kodak rates the Step Slim at a print rate of one per minute, which is roughly average for these tools, or a little slower. (Depending on the content and image size, pocket photo printers usually vary from about 30 to 60 seconds per print.)
As for running costs, Step Slim 2 x 3-inch Zink Paper is available in two quantities: 20 packs for $9.99, or 50 packs for $24.85. (Both come up to 50 cents per sheet.) Many similar-sized Zink printers match this cost per print; For example, Canon Ivy also offers 20 and 50 packages at the same prices.
With the Kodak Mini Retro 2 (2.1 by 3.4 inch) and Mini Retro 3 (3 by 3 inch) dye, you can buy a 90-pack that reduces individual prints to about 30 cents. The costs for each image in this clip do not appear to depend on the size of the image; Larger 4″ by 6″ prints can be had from Canon and HP Sprocket Studio for about 35 and 44 cents each, respectively.
Verdict: A decent shot worth giving up ink
If you or your kids are in the market for a 2″ x 3″ pocket photo label printer for use with a smartphone, there’s not much or nothing to hate about the Step Slim. Its $79.99 price tag is among the lowest in its class, and its 50-cent image is competitive albeit not a bargain. We wouldn’t be surprised if Kodak introduced 90 or 100 media packs before long, as with its Mini Retro printers, driving running costs a little more.
While the basic pack of 20 sheets of Zink paper is a good deal, the $109 set with 70 sheets is an even better deal. The higher-priced bundle isn’t a great buy unless you need tags, stickers, and other bundled tools, but we can’t think of why you shouldn’t buy a Kodak Step Slim if it’s the right shot size.
Kodak Step Slim Instant Portable Photo Printer
Kodak’s Step Slim Instant Portable Photo Printer produces good-looking, stick-backed 2″ x 3″ photos at an affordable price.
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