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Tom's Back To School Guide: Gear for Work


By Rachel Rosmarin

Kodak ESP 5 All-In-One

$169, available from

This 13 pound workhorse would be a smart purchase for any household, dormitory, or off-campus apartment filled with students. The “All-In-One” name gives away the printer’s goals — to meet your every printing need: photos and text, copies and scans, and both wired and wireless connectivity (the latter via Bluetooth).

At $169, the ESP 5 isn’t the cheapest do-everything printer on the market, but it might be a better deal in the long run. Ink cartridges cost only $10 to replace for black, and $15 for color; photo-quality color ink cartridges for competitors can cost up to $40. Kodak also sells the ESP 5 in a bundle with four black ink and three color ink cartridges for $189.

The printer can accommodate paper sizes ranging from the standard photo snapshot 4”x6”, to larger-than-standard documents at 8.5”x14”. It reads just about every flash media format, and prints quickly, too, for an ink jet: 30 pages per minute in black, 29 pages per minute in color, and best-quality photos at two 4x6s per minute, according to Kodak.

Unlike most other All-In-One printers, the ESP 5 isn’t a drab gray block of plastic. Kodak’s version is a variation in shiny and matte black with textured dips and dots on the outside. It is also smaller than expected due to a paper tray that functions as both an incoming and outgoing slot.

Canon Selphy CP770

$149, available from

Make sure Canon’s newest portable photo printer is on your back to school bucket list: the Selphy CP770 is, quite literally, a bucket. The petite apricot-colored printer snaps into the top of a white bucket, complete with handle, that stores paper, ink cartridges, a power supply and just about anything else.

We can see this device coming in handy multiple times during the school year, for soccer games, school plays, recitals, classroom art projects, field trips and more. An enterprising parent might even make back a few bucks off the Selphy’s $149 price tag by bringing the printer to some of these events, and charging other parents money for photos. Or, you could just donate the cash back to your kid’s school.

Photos are editable on the Selphy’s 2.5" LCD screen: you can correct red-eye, adjust skin tone, and enhance photos with effects like sepia, vivid and black & white. The printer is also built for little art projects, and Canon sells printer media for wallet-size prints and miniature photo stickers.

Canon admits that each ink cartridge only lasts for about 36 4"x6" photos, and the quality of each print isn’t the highest we’ve seen for a portable photo printer — HP’s older PhotoSmart models take the prize there — but the photos print quickly and they certainly aren’t bad. The Selphy can spit out around two prints per minute using its dye-sublimation thermal transfer technique, which sequentially does coats of red, green and blue, followed by a glossy topcoat.

Setting up the printer isn’t especially easy — it’s not child’s play — but once the paper and ink cartridges are in place, a kid could easily connect a camera, phone, or memory card to the device and print out snaps without help. For most print jobs, a computer isn’t even needed. Keep in mind, though, that a device must be enabled with PictBridge, DirecPrint, Bluetooth (if you buy the Bluetooth Selphy device, sold separately), or IRSimple to connect seamlessly with the Selphy CP770. We tried to insert a standard USB flash drive into the Selphy’s USB port and got an angry error message because it wasn’t PictBridge enabled. Surprise, surprise — we got our best results with a Canon PowerShot Camera.

Polaroid Pogo

$149, available from

Where the Selphy CP770 is perfect for homes with kids, Polaroid’s new PoGo photo printer seems ideal for a teenager’s backpack. It’s a stretch to say that the tiny PoGo could do much for your teen’s academics — maybe the device would be better served as a reward for stellar grades. For now, the iPod-sized device can only be purchased from Best Buy, Urban Outfitters and Target.

The PoGo riffs on the Polaroid of yore, providing instant gratification with funky-shaped photographs. But instead of being a printer and camera in one, the Pogo is just a printer that reads pictures off phones and cameras via Bluetooth and PictBridge. The pictures it prints are 2”x3”, and take about one minute each to creep out of the PoGo. Beware that not all Bluetooth-enabled phones work with the PoGo.

Rather than ink, the eight-ounce PoGo makes use of heat-activated “dye crystals,” billions of which are embedded within special paper to produce images. A company called Zink makes the paper — a 10-pack of sheets costs $3.99. Some of the paper has a peel-off adhesive layer, making it perfect for decorating notebooks, lockers, skateboards and so forth.

The photos don’t have the same artsy, low-tech look as old-fashioned Polaroid shots — instead they’re brighter, crisper and less ethereal. And, unlike traditional Polaroid pictures, you don’t have to shake these.