We Review the HP Sprocket 3x4: In a Class of Its Own

We Review the HP Sprocket 3x4: In a Class of Its Own

The title of this article makes it seem like I'm heaping some sort of superlative description upon what is, more or less, a typical Zink-based printer that doesn't require ink or cartridges. And when it comes to this, the $129 HP Sprocket 3x4 Instant Photo Printer, I am. Well, more or less.

Zink-based printers offer many similarities, but also differ from the typical dye-sub printers in this price point. The ink is embedded into the paper and is brought out in only one pass to produce an image (instead of the four for typical dye-sub printers). While this results in faster printing time, it does compromise on image quality, as is typical for Zink printers compared to dye-sub or inkjet.

Why It’s Unique

The HP Sprocket 3x4 has all of the same virtues I've extolled about other Zink-based printers in the past. It's quite portable. It connects to your phone. It doesn't need to be plugged in to print. But none of these are worth mentioning, since that's true of almost all Zink printers.

Where the Sprocket 3x4 (and I feel like for context, I need to mention those two numbers every time) beats the competition is in the size of the prints. The printer is one of the few on the market that can output 3.5 x 4.25" prints, which is a notable size increase over the typical 2x3" printers in this class. In fact, in poking around for a good while on the web, I can only find the Polaroid Pop Wireless Portable Instant 3x4 Photo Printer & Digital Camera, and that's a whole other animal with a built-in camera and the "classic Polaroid borders" on photos.

The Sprocket 3x4 does force a border on all photos, but it's a small one that's even all around.

Like most other Zink printers, the prints have a sticky back, so you can easily place the photos on things. It's this fun-factor of having photos that are also stickers that make the compromises with Zink image quality tolerable. While the prints are a just a bit more expensive than the usual 2x3" Zink printer cost of about $0.50 a print (in 3x4 size, a 50-pack of paper costs $40), you are getting a significantly larger image for the price, and there's no real competition in this size to speak of.

This is not the kind of printer you buy for archival quality prints, but if that's your goal, you shouldn't be looking at Zink printers to begin with

Build Quality and Setup

The printer itself is a light, gray slab. It's not an entirely exciting design, but it's not ugly either. It's 5x6.25" and less than an inch tall. The top pops off to load a calibration sheet and 10 sheets of paper at the same time.

The Sprocket app is pretty clean and simple to use. It's not immediately clear that you have to be connected to bluetooth to add the printer, but once you connect, it pops up under "manage printers."

The directions included were a bit thin, only referencing the Sprocket app on the phone and no other instructions. I've used this type of printer before so connecting it to Bluetooth and opening up the app wasn't a difficult process, but I can see how it would be confusing to the novice user. The app is the only way to print to the printer.

It's not a complicated app, and since I used it last year, the company has added helpful features, such as a camera that helps guide you as you take official ID photos, such as for a passport.

Printing time isn't too fast but it's adequate for the class. From the moment I hit the print button in the app until I had a finished print, I was looking at about 1:20 per print. For reference, I was using an iPhone 14 Pro and all of my photos were large files from a mirrorless camera, so your mileage may vary.

If there's one gripe I have, it's the use of a USB Mini-A connector on the printer itself for charging, when at this point, everything should be USB-C. Yes, the printer has been on the market for a couple of years, but it was a backwards-thinking decision even then to use this older-style of port and to also not include a charging brick.

As I've often said with Zink printers, print quality is, objectively, not great. Here's an example of what happens when images have a lot of black in them:

A side-by-side of a scanned print from the Sprocket with the original digital file.

It's hard to capture with a scanned photo, but this shot of a toy had a lot of blacks and shadow detail that were just crushed in the print. If you're looking for ultimate image quality, this printer, or any Zink printer, isn't it. But if you're using this printer for scrapbooking, that sticky back makes all the difference. With the right photo, i.e. one that is a bit brighter and more colorful, the printer does decently:

When a photo has bright colors, prints come out a little better.

At $129 for the printer, the image quality is acceptable when you consider the utility the sticker-back provides.

One of the things I've always extolled about HP is the reliability of its printers, and the same is true here. When I've reviewed other printers, I'm often cleaning heads or fighting with calibration sheets. This one worked without a fuss. I usually have some software or hardware complaint to air out in a review, but this time, I simply don't.


If you're in the market for a Zink printer, but think the typical 2x3 size is just a bit too small, then this is pretty much the only game in town, and it's not a bad one at all.

What I Liked

  • Larger-sized Zink prints make for a unique offering in this class of printer
  • Everything just works without any fuss
  • Print quality, for a Zink printer, is pretty good

What I Didn't Like

  • USB-A connector to charge the printer is a drag
  • There could be a fleshed-out instruction manual included, since this printer is aimed at inexperienced users


You can purchase the HP Sprocket 3x4 Instant Photo Printer at this link.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

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