Liene 4×6 Instant Photo Printer Review (2022)
After the impressive debut of the Liene instant photo printer last year, what is the company doing for a recall? While Liene, which sells through Amazon, still offers its original 4 x 6-inch dye-sublimation printer for $136.99, the new $159.99 model sports a rechargeable battery. This distinction – the ability to operate without an external power source – makes this overhauled photo printer much more adept at working with portable smartphones and tablets. Like its predecessor, the 2022 edition prints well, but costs more to buy and operate than our favorite 4 x 6-inch dye-sublimation printer, the Canon Selphy CP1300 Wireless Compact, which was introduced in 2019. is enough to keep the Liene an Editors’ Choice snap, but not much.
New portable printer, new tricks
At 3.4 x 8.1 x 4.9 inches and weighing 2.5 pounds, the new Liene Instant Photo Printer (also known as the Amber M200) is the same size as its predecessor but weighs about a third of pound more. Of its many underwater competitors, as opposed to zero-ink (or “Zink”) photo printers, which I’ll get to in a minute, the Canon Selphy CP1300 is slightly smaller and about half a pound lighter; the HP Sprocket Studio is a few centimeters taller but weighs the same as the Canon; and the 2017 Kodak Photo Printer Dock is about an inch smaller in all directions, but two pounds heavier than the battery-powered Liene.
Zink pocket photo printers typically store their paper inside the device (left), but the Liene sublimation instant photo printer has a removable 20-sheet paper tray.
Then there are the many Zink pocket photo printers, including a few HP devices such as the Sprocket Select and Sprocket Second Edition (PCMag Best of Year winners in 2019 and 2018 respectively) and products from Canon, LifePrint and others. Typically, Zink machines produce smaller images than their sublimation counterparts, with most printed photos measuring around 2 by 3 inches. (The Second Edition Sprocket are 2.3 x 3.4 inches.)
We are far from exhausting the list of portable photo printers, with many other variations and exceptions available. A recent Editors’ Choice award winner, the Kodak Mini 3 Retro, is a dye-sublimation device that prints 3 x 3 inch square images.
Inkless machines produce photos in a single pass through the printer, using special paper impregnated with bits of ink released by the application of heat. Dye-sublimation printers require four passes, applying cyan, magenta, and yellow inks plus a clear coat. The latter helps colors pop and protects photos from dust, scratches and fingerprints.
This Liene diagram shows the overlay of three colors (cyan, magenta and yellow) and a transparent layer to protect the image.
A look at the Liene printer reveals a meager control panel on the front, consisting of a power button and a set of status lights (power, battery, service and Wi-Fi) . Although you can use the device with your laptop or desktop computer, like its predecessor, the new Liene is optimized for printing from your Android or iOS phone or tablet with the Instant Photo Printer mobile app ( more on that in a moment). According to the company, a fully charged battery lasts about 40 prints. This is against 54 for the Selphy and 35 to 40 for the Sprocket Second Edition.
The control panel consists mainly of status lights: power, battery, service, and Wi-Fi.
However, not all pocket photo printers come with batteries. To take HP’s Sprocket Studio outside, for example, you need to get a $90 external power bank good for (HP claims) around 40 prints. Not only does this significantly increase the cost of the printer, but it also means carrying around an extra, relatively heavy gadget with you.
The ink cartridges slide into a compartment on the right side of the machine.
The ink cartridges slide into a compartment on the right edge of the printer. Each waxy ink cartridge prints 40 photos. The removable paper tray holds up to 20 sheets of glossy 4 x 6-inch photo paper, and a slot in the back makes it easy to move back and forth through all four paper passes through the printer. When packing the device for travel, you can detach the paper tray and store it above the printer; a magnet holds it in place.
Connectivity includes USB-C and Wi-Fi, including the ability to establish up to five simultaneous peer-to-peer wireless links.
On the back of the printer, you’ll find a USB Type-C port and an AC adapter port. Besides USB, connectivity options include Wi-Fi and a peer-to-peer hotspot.
Using the 2022 Instant Photo Printer app
Although you can connect a laptop or desktop computer via USB cable, you are more likely to use the Liene Instant Photo Printer with Wi-Fi. Acting as an access point, the unit allows you to connect up to five computing devices (Android, iOS, macOS or Windows) to the printer simultaneously. You can connect several more through your Wi-Fi network router, but I doubt many scenarios require more than five.
You can connect up to five mobile devices simultaneously.
Available for Android and iOS, the Liene Photo Printer app lets you edit and apply simple filters to your photos, as well as add text, drop shadows, and borders. You can also print directly from your favorite cloud site, your phone’s photo gallery, or most PC programs (USB cable not included).
The 2022 Instant Photo Printer is a great mobile companion.
Link test: respectable print speeds, output quality
As these little photo printers run, the Liene is fast, averaging around a minute per image. I ran my tests over a USB-C connection from our Intel Core i5 PC testbed using Windows 10 Pro. I repeated the tests over a wireless connection to my Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone and got very similar results in terms of speed and print quality.
The Canon Selphy was about as fast, but the HP Sprocket Studio took twice as long (2 minutes and 5 seconds). As for Zink photo printers, although their prints are usually smaller than 4 x 6 inches, they normally take longer than their dye-sublimation rivals. HP Sprocket Select, for example, produces a 2.3 x 3.4-inch image in a minute and a quarter, about as fast as Lifeprint’s 2 x 3-inch Zink printer. (Lifeprint’s 3 x 4.5 inch model takes a minute and a half.)
Speed isn’t the only advantage that dye-sublimation photo printers have over their Zink counterparts. The output quality is also better. Just like the 2021 model, the Liene 2022 Instant Photo Printer produced brilliant, accurate colors with excellent detail. Where Zink media looks thin and flimsy, Liene’s glossy 4 x 6 inch sheets (like most other undercolor media) look like the premium photo papers that they are.
Admittedly, these images aren’t up to par with the quality you’ll get from a five- or six-ink consumer photo printer from Canon or Epson. As portable photo printers, however, the Liene prints well and at a respectable clip.
Competitive running costs
While writing this review, I found three 2022 instant photo printer bundles. The basic $159.99 package includes the printer, an AC adapter, and enough paper and ink for 20 photos. An extra $6 buys you the printer and enough supplies to produce 60 photos, and for $169 the top plan gets you 100 prints. When it comes time to buy replacement consumables, a pack of 40 4×6-inch sheets and the accompanying ink sells for $19.99, or about 50 cents per print.
Consumables sell in packs of 40 for about half a dollar per print.
That’s about 8 cents more per photo than Liene consumables cost in October of last year (although I found a two-pack for $38, or 47.5 cents per print). The Selphy CP1300 is considerably cheaper to run at 35 cents per print, and the HP Sprocket Studio splits the difference at 44 cents. Again, these figures include both ink and photo paper, but even so they are more expensive than a photo-optimized inkjet such as the five-ink Canon Pixma TR8620.
Even though they are smaller, Zink photos cost more. The Lifeprint 3×4.5 and HP Sprocket Select use packs of their special inkless paper which retails for $1.25 and 65 cents per sheet, respectively. The Liene’s 50 cents per photo isn’t bad, though the Selphy’s 15 cent savings can add up if you print a lot of photos – print 100 photos a month and the CP1300 will save you $180 a year.
Still a solid value, now with portable power
As we said of its battery-less predecessor, the Liene 2022 Instant Photo Printer is a no-frills device that produces beautiful snapshots from your phone, PC, or the cloud. It’s a breeze to set up and use, and it supports multiple connectivity options. Its consumables are quite expensive, however, so you’ll want to keep an eye out for sales. But otherwise, there’s a lot to like about the Liene for printing personal and family photos, especially if you have to do it away from a power outlet.
Liene 4×6 Instant Photo Printer (2022)
The 2022 Edition Wireless Liene Instant Photo Printer produces beautiful 4 x 6-inch snapshots relatively quickly, making it a good choice for families looking for a printer to go.
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