Kodak Mini 3 Retro (3x3) Portable Printer Review | PCMag

2022-05-14 23:58:15 By : Ms. Cassie Yang

It's hip to see square

The Kodak Mini 3 Retro pocket photo printer produces good-looking 3-by-3-inch images quickly and inexpensively. It's a great smartphone partner if you can live without 4-by-6-inch prints.

Kodak's Mini 3 Retro Portable Printer ($156.99) is a snapshot photo printer that prints on 3-by-3-inch square media, as opposed to the 2-by-3.4-inch paper of the Kodak Mini 2 HD Instant Photo Printer reviewed here in April 2018. Like the HP Sprocket Studio, the Kodak printers use dye-sublimation (commonly called dye-sub) imaging technology, instead of inkjet or the zero-ink (Zink) process of other Sprocket and competitive models. Dye-sub printers and their four-pass imaging process usually produce photos superior to those of their Zink rivals, and its handsome output and low running costs render the Mini 3 Retro an excellent take-it-anywhere photo printer and our latest Editors' Choice award winner in the category.

The Mini 3 Retro measures 1 by 5 by 4 inches and weighs just under a pound. You have your choice of three colors—white, yellow, or black—and two bundles, the kit reviewed here with 68 sheets of media or a cheaper ($141.99) package that comes with only eight sheets.

Versus other pocketable dye-sub photo printers like the HP Sprocket Studio and the Canon Selphy CP1300, the Kodak is small. But then, it prints 3-inch-square images, against those models' 4-by-6-inch snapshots.

Otherwise, the Mini 3 Retro is a simple device. On the back edge of the printer, you'll find a mini USB port for powering and charging, and your printed photos roll out of a slot on the front edge, as shown here.

Photo paper and the dye-sub ink ribbon cartridges load into a compartment accessed by opening the side. The printer comes preloaded with enough ink and paper to print eight images. (We'll look more closely at consumables and running costs in a minute.)

As mentioned, the dye-sub printer makes four passes—laying down cyan, magenta, and yellow ink, plus a clear coat that helps colors pop and protects the image from fingerprints and dust. (Zero-ink printers use special paper infused with colors released by the printer's application of heat.) Kodak says that, with proper storage, images from the device should last for up to a century.

The Mini 3 Retro software supports both Android and iOS mobile devices—i.e., smartphones and tablets—but, like many photo printer apps, is designed to run only on handhelds and doesn't support Windows or macOS laptops or desktops. In any case, you start by pairing the device to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth, after which you can download and install the Kodak Photo Printer app that lets you print images from your device's storage or your favorite cloud site.

While, as I said, the printer has a mini USB port for charging, Bluetooth is its only connectivity option. According to Kodak, the onboard battery charges in about 90 minutes and lasts long enough to produce 25 prints.

Replacement cartridges are available in packs of 30, 60, and 90 sheets (part numbers ICRG-330, ICRG-360, and ICRG-390 respectively). To change the cartridge, simply open the compartment door, slide out the spent cartridge, and then slide in the replacement. 

The Mini 3 Retro and its 2.1-by-3.4-inch sibling, the Mini 2 Retro, are the only pocket photo printers I know of that allow you to print either bordered or borderless images, as shown below.

To my eyes, borderless images look more finished or more professional. There are, however, applications where bordered photos work better, so having the option to print with or without borders is a nice touch.

With replacement media cartridges available in 30, 60, and 90 prints, buying the last will predictably get you the lowest cost per photo (CPP). Kodak says prints from the 90-pack will run you about 40 cents each, but during my testing I encountered sale prices that push running costs down to roughly 30 cents per print.

Thirty cents is currently the lowest CPP I could find among the numerous pocket photo printers available, but not by much. The Canon Selphy, for example, churns out 4-by-6-inch snapshots for 35 cents each, while the Kodak Mini 2 HD's 2-by-3.4-inch prints cost 70 to 75 cents. HP's Zink-based, 2.3-by-3.4-inch Sprocket Select costs about 65 cents per photo, and the dye-sub Sprocket Studio's 4-by-6-inch prints are about 44 cents apiece.

Besides being relatively thrifty to operate, the Mini 3 Retro is also quite swift compared to its peers. The borderless prints I made averaged 43 seconds each, with bordered prints a few seconds quicker. The HP Sprocket Select took about 76 seconds to produce a snapshot in our tests, while the dye-sub Sprocket Studio's larger prints averaged 2 minutes and 5 seconds. The Selphy CP1300 was the second fastest after the Kodak, taking about a minute.

While Zink-based pocket photo printers have gotten better over the years, zero-ink technology still can't match the quality of dye-sublimation imaging. The Mini 3 Retro's photos looked first-class, with brilliant colors and fine detail. It's worth repeating, however, that HP's and Canon's dye-sub models produce images that are quite a bit bigger. You'll have to decide whether the 3-inch square format fits your needs.

The Kodak Mini 3 Retro offers a unique square image format similar to Instagram's. It prints well, inexpensively, and with a choice of borderless or bordered images. The printer is also plenty small enough to fit in your pocket, purse, or backpack when you're on the go, though spare media cartridges are almost the same size as the printer, making them harder to carry around than small Zink paper packs. Even so, the Retro meets all the criteria—excellent print quality, relatively inexpensive operation, and a unique media size—to make it an easy Editors' Choice winner among portable photo printer partners for your smartphone.

The Kodak Mini 3 Retro pocket photo printer produces good-looking 3-by-3-inch images quickly and inexpensively. It's a great smartphone partner if you can live without 4-by-6-inch prints.

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I focus on printer and scanner technology and reviews. I have been writing about computer technology since well before the advent of the internet. I have authored or co-authored 20 books—including titles in the popular Bible, Secrets, and For Dummies series—on digital design and desktop publishing software applications. My published expertise in those areas includes Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Photoshop, and QuarkXPress, as well as prepress imaging technology. (Over my long career, though, I have covered many aspects of IT.)

In addition to writing hundreds of articles for PCMag, over the years I have also written for many other computer and business publications, among them Computer Shopper, Digital Trends, MacUser, PC World, The Wirecutter, and Windows Magazine. I also served as the Printers and Scanners Expert at About.com (now Lifewire).

The SOHO, SMB, and enterprise printer and scanner markets

Printer and scanner technology (and accompanying software)

Consumer-grade and pro-grade photo printing

When testing products, whenever possible and/or logical, I use our current testbed, an Intel Core i5-equipped PC running Windows 10 Professional. But I don’t, of course, use the same machine for writing and editing photos and graphics.

Instead, I use a Dell XPS 17, a 17-inch laptop with an 11th Generation Core i7 processor with 32GB of RAM and running Windows 11 Pro. When working in my home office, I connect the laptop to a 49-inch monitor, which allows me to view three windows at once comfortably. I traded in three 24-inch monitors (all from different manufacturers) for that single panel, Dell’s UltraSharp 49 Curved Monitor (U4919DW), in early 2021, and I haven’t looked back. (When you work the hours of a freelance journalist, you need all the help you can get to increase comfort and productivity.)

My smartphone is a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 running the latest version of Android. (Yes, it’s time to look for a 5G model, but this Note still works great…)

I write in Microsoft Word 365 and organize and save research in OneNote. OneDrive is my cloud service of choice, though I also use Dropbox and Google Drive. I create and edit artwork for my stories with Adobe Photoshop, which is overkill in many cases but an indulgence I’m not ready to give up. (I also don't want to forget how to use it!)

For email and other personal information management, I use Microsoft Outlook on my laptop (primarily because I’ve used it forever), but Gmail on my phone. And finally, after working all day, many evenings I like to settle in for an hour or two of gaming. As I write this, I’m deep into Ubisoft’s Anno 1800—and it plays well and looks beautiful on my 17-inch XPS and on the 49-inch curved monitor.

My first computer (after a year or so on a dedicated word processor) was an off-brand AT clone with two 5.25-inch floppy disk drives. The monitor was a big and heavy monochrome CRT. Moving to the XT with a 10MB hard drive was wonderful, but Windows was oh-so-sluggish and far from stable enough—yet!—to run any serious software. Everything was still pretty much text-based.

Alas, I don’t recall my first cell phone, though I do remember it costing so much to use that few people distributed their mobile numbers freely.

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