If you are a road warrior or a frequent flyer, and you need to produce print-outs of your work ‘on the hoof’, the range of convenient, lightweight and compact printers to choose from is not too great. But if colour output is not essential, you can choose smaller and lighter solutions. One example is the PocketJet II from Pentax, a company better known for making cameras.
Pentax has done a great job of keeping the dimensions of the PocketJet II down to the minimum. It weighs just over a pound (497g), is just 30mm high, 55mm deep and, at 255mm wide, it’s only slightly wider than a sheet of A4 paper. Paper loading is strictly one sheet at a time – a paper tray or guide isn’t even an option. The process is quite tricky at first, but is mastered with practice.
The PocketJet II is a thermal printer and so requires thin thermal paper, which doesn’t help paper handling . It’s the same kind of paper as used in many fax machines, but instead of a roll, Pentax supplies A4 cut sheets. One problem with thermal paper is that if it’s stored in the hot confines of a car on a hot summer’s day, there is a chance the paper will degrade, but Pentax claims that its thermal paper is resistant to such degradation, and has an archival life of up to 10 years under normal conditions. As a plus point, you don’t need to worry about running out of ink.
With a print resolution of 300dpi, print quality is very good – more akin to laser output than fax, despite the device’s fax machine lineage. However, in operation, the PocketJet II does sound like a fax machine, with that characteristic rattle. Speed is quite respectable for a portable, with a page of text emerging in around 35 seconds. A page dominated by graphics took about a minute.
In the box you get a cable for a PC’s standard parallel printer interface. It’s disappointing to discover that USB is not supported, and if you expected to be able to use infra-red wireless connectivity, you would be frustrated to find that an IrDA interface is an optional extra. It’s also curious that Pentax has stuck with old-fashioned and environmentally-unfriendly NiCad rechargeable batteries. A battery charge is good for 35-40 A4 sheets, a number which could have been doubled or even tripled with NiMH or Lithium Ion batteries if Pentax had adopted them. There is no provision for using disposable batteries, but an optional cigarette lighter adapter is available.
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