For 75 years, Polaroid has been synonymous with instant prints. And while you won't be able to find any Polaroid film to shake in the near future, the company is bringing instant gratification to digital photography. The PoGo Instant Mobile Printer spits out 2 x 3-inch photos when paired with any Bluetooth camera phone or any digital camera with PictBridge, and it uses no ink. This is a fun, innovative accessory, especially for teens, but the printing is slow and the image quality mediocre at best.
PoGo is the first commercial product to feature Zink (short for Zero Ink) technology, whose proprietary paper contains crystals that change colors when heated. Ink cartridges aren't part of the equation, and that's why PoGo weighs only 0.4 pounds, whereas other mobile printers, such as theCanon Pixma iP100weigh a good 4.4 pounds.
For proof that the PoGo is aimed toward youngsters, look no further than the packaging: Inside the rainbow-adorned box is a denim cutout of a back pocket, with "Fits in Your Pocket" etched in dainty white embroidery. Inside the pocket, of course, is the PoGo printer, measuring just 4.7 x 2.8 x 0.9 inches (so, it's a smidge longer and thicker than most point-and-shoots). With the exception of the gray sides and strip across the front, it's matte black. The titanium alloy shell makes it feel heavier than, say, a digital camera, but it also gives the impression that it can take a beating.
On one side is the power button, a battery-life LED indictor, and a USB port. On the other side is a port for the bundled AC adapter. The prints come out of a slot in the front. To insert paper, simply open the top cover as you would a notebook: press the latch and lift. The printer takes 2 x 3-inch, adhesive-backed Zink paper, and can hold a scant 10 sheets at a time (a pack of 10 sheets costs $3.99; a 30-pack, $9.99).
The printer connects to camera phones wirelessly through Bluetooth and digital cameras through PictBridge (via the USB port). To begin, we printed a 2-megapixel picture from a Samsung camera phone. The phone recognized the PoGo immediately; sending images to the printer took an average of 2 minutes and 18 seconds. Then it paused an average of 17 seconds between sending and printing, and the printing itself took an average of 43 seconds. At first, we were amazed by how long it took, but when we kept getting similar results, we realized the printer is just slow; it doesn't need time to warm up.
Printing was significantly faster when we hooked our Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 up to the PoGo using a USB cable. When we turned the camera on, the PoGo immediately detected the PictBridge connection and asked which picture we wanted to print. Sending the picture to the printer took 19 seconds, and printing our 10-MP shot took 40 seconds.
If the PoGo's selling point is that you can get instant, mess-free prints on the go, the drawback is that the photo quality is unremarkable. For starters, if you're printing from a low-resolution camera phone, your pictures might look blurry, even on a 2 x 3-inch card. Although the 10-MP shots we took with the FX500 looked sharper, the color quality was dismal regardless of whether we printed from our camera or phone: all of our pictures took on a blue-green tint. To be fair, the Zink paper is meant to be used as stickers, not frameworthy prints. Of course, our prints were dry when they came out of the printer. Unfortunately, the printer felt warm to the touch after just two prints.
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The PoGo is rated at 15 prints per charge. On our tests, we were able to eke out 14 prints before the battery died (the fifteenth came out as soon as we plugged the printer into the AC adapter). The battery-life LED indicator lit up red after 12 prints, giving us a small heads-up that its charge was running out.
The PoGo is innovative and fun to use, but $149 isn't cheap for a phone or camera accessory that doesn't output full-size 4 x 6 prints. We'd feel more comfortable recommending it to grown-ups if it were faster and delivered better-quality, but teens will get a kick out being able to instantly print photos as pint-size stickers.