Almost every day I take photos on my smartphones while traveling or enjoying great times with friends. But far less often do I ever organize them and immediately print them so I can put them in photo albums or share them with others.
The problem is that it takes a significant time commitment to regularly download all those images, especially if you carry multiple phones, then load them into a photo printing website or onto your computer to print them at home.
So, when the latest Kodak Photo Printer Dock arrived for a review from C+A Global, which distributes the printers under the Kodak name, I eagerly set it up to see how it would print images right from my smartphones.
Printer Dock Specifications
The $140 Kodak Photo Printer Dock, Model PD450W, was introduced in June and works with a wide variety of the latest Android and iOS smartphones as well as USB sticks, tablets and digital cameras.
The starter pack includes a printer that is 6.5 inches long, 2.7 inches wide, 3.9 inches tall, along with a power cord, an attachable paper tray, a very basic user manual, a starter pack of 10 sheets of 4-inch by 6-inch photo paper and a starter print cartridge that will make 10 prints. Each photo paper set includes a fully-enclosed ink pack that uses dye diffusion transfer inks to print the images.
The setup of the printer dock, which weighs only 1.67 pounds, is relatively intuitive. Plug in the power cord, then fill and attach the separate paper tray to the front of the printer and you are ready to go—after you use your phone or tablet to download and install the Kodak Photo Dock app from the Google Play store or the Apple app store.
Press the printer's "on" button and hold it until the circle around it glows yellow and then you can plug your smartphone onto the top-mounted micro USB port (or use the included micro USB to Lightning adapter for iPhones).
You can also attach your phone or other devices using its own charging cable, which can be plugged into the printer's side-mounted USB port. Devices can also be attached to the printer via WiFi.
Getting the Kodak dock to produce that first print can be confusing. The brief user manual isn't up to date with apparent command changes in the most recent version of the printer app, making the process less than intuitive—at least to start.
With your phone or other device attached, you can select images from the folders in the app on your device and prepare them for printing. There are multiple editing capabilities you can perform, including cropping and re-orienting the images, as well as adding decorative "stickers" and text to the prints. Be sure to save your changes, though, because if you try to go back, you lose the changes you made. The tools work fine, but they are nowhere near as sophisticated as Adobe Photoshop.
After your images are edited and decorated, they are almost ready to print. The printed instruction book tells you to look for the app's "print" button on your device screen, but you quickly discover that such a button isn't in the app. Eventually I figured that the real print button is the "1-Touch" button on the bottom left corner at the top of the printer, but it is not highlighted with contrasting labeling so it was tough to spot.
After this procedure was sorted out, however, the magic began.
Instead of laying out the inks in one pass, the Kodak Photo Printer Dock runs each 4-inch by 6-inch paper sheet back and forth four times to lay down each color—yellow, magenta and cyan—onto the paper.
The last pass lays down a protective coating to seal and protect the image. The instructions should explain this process better, though, because some users of the printer posted negative reviews about it on Amazon, saying the images only came out with yellow ink. Well, that's because they must have removed the print before it was given time to complete the printing cycle. This could have been prevented with more information in the user guide.
About 90 seconds after starting the print cycle, your print falls out from the rear of the printer and should be left to dry for a few minutes before handling it.
When done, the images are clear with sharp and full colors. Are they as good as images from a professional photo printer or from an online photo printing vendor? Perhaps not that spectacular, but you just printed them out on your dining room table and can take them along perhaps to surprise grandma with photos of newly arrived grandchildren.
To me, that is the best benefit of this photo printer. You can easily carry it to a party. Encourage friends and family to download the app and you can all print instant photos without having to send the images elsewhere or pick them up at a store.
They are instant prints that are nice, affordable and fun to share. The fact that it works with just about any smartphone, tablet, USB stick or camera makes it even more useful.
It's like a modern-day version of the ground-breaking Polaroid Land Cameras of the 1960s, which provided instant color images using photo packs made up of paper, gelatin developing chemicals and their own protective coatings. You could take photos and see the prints in just a few minutes. It was game-changing.
Printer Dock Connection Options
I used the Kodak printer dock with my older LG V10 smartphone, which had to be connected through the USB port and with a Motorola Moto Z2 Force handset, which also worked with the USB port. My girlfriend's Samsung Galaxy S7 phone worked through the built in micro USB port on the top of the printer.
When using my LG V10, I was able to press the Kodak 129-D icon on the phone's app display screen to initiate a print. It seems as though each phone model provides a different way to get the same result, which can be confusing.
The photos can be printed edge-to-edge or with a border, but the selection process is not intuitive. I prefer the images edge-to-edge to keep them brighter and more powerful, but wasted several sheets trying to find the right settings.
If I used this printer regularly, I'd probably connect my phones and other devices to it through the USB port all the time, due to concerns about the long-term strength and sturdiness of the top-mounted micro USB plug. So, consider the USB port for connecting your devices. It works great and is much sturdier for everyday use.
Refill ink and paper packs are available for $20 for 40 prints (50 cents per print), $35 for 80 prints (43.7 cents per print) or $47 for 120 prints (39 cents per print), through Amazon and other retailers.