Remember the days when you would "shake it like a Polaroid picture?" Well, OutKast may want to consider revising those lyrics because Dell has introduced a new player in the inkless printer world, the Dell Wasabi. Read on for the full review.

WASABI SPECIFICATIONS

  • Print speed: 55 seconds per print
  • Paper capacity: 12 sheets of 2x3 ZINK paper
  • PictBridge, Bluetooth 2.0 connectivity
  • Average battery life: 15 prints per charge
  • Automatic reprint button
  • Happy/Sad LED icons
  • Automatic power save mode
  • 1-year advanced exchange warranty

BUILD AND DESIGN
The Wasabi is definitely a stylish little printer with its checker board pattern in three different colors: blue, pink and black.   Each printer has three logos: the Wasabi logo on the bottom right corner, a small ZINK Zero Ink logo on the bottom and the Dell brand logo on the back.

On the top of the Wasabi, you’ll find what amounts to a small control panel.  There is a power button, a reprint button and the lock for the paper door.

Flip the lock, and the door to the small paper tray will release.  Each Wasabi can hold up to 12 sheets of the special 2 x 3 inch ZINK paper along with the ZINK Smart Sheet.  The Smart Sheet basically calibrates the printer and need to be loaded in with the barcode facing down. 

The battery, happy face and sad face icons are all located on the front of the printer underneath the transparent paper door.  They each light up or blink depending on what the printer is trying to tell the user about its current condition.

The printer spits out the 2 x 3 inch inkless photos through a slit in the bottom.  The PictBridge Port and power connection (to charge Li-Ion battery) are located on the right side of the printer.

If for some reason you need to access the battery, the back panel slides off revealing said battery.

For a closer look at this stylish, ultramobile printer watch our hands-on look below!

PRINTER PERFORMANCE

Setup
Setting up the Dell Wasabi couldn’t possibly be easier.  Insert the battery, charge the printer for about an hour and a half, load the paper with the ZINK Smart Sheet facing down, turn on the power, and then you are ready to print from any capable device.

Ease of use
There is no software or drivers, making the Wasabi about as easy as they come to use.  Any device with Bluetooth 2.0 or PictBridge capability can be used with the Wasabi to print off full color 2 x 3 inch prints.

You will need to charge the battery before you go out to make sure you can get your full 15 prints and you should probably bring back up ZINK paper since the Wasabi only holds 12 sheets at a time.

Print tests
Dell was surprisingly accurate with the advertised specs for print speeds, charging estimation and battery life.  In my tests, I found that the Wasabi usually took about a minute to print from when I hit “Send to Bluetooth” to finished product.  The fastest I got a finished print was in about 45 seconds; the slowest printed in about 1 minute, 20 seconds.  The times varied because of the processing length varied from each device depending on how they were connected.

The Wasabi must be “paired” to both camera phones and computers; meaning they need to have Bluetooth 2.0.  I got mixed results trying to pair the Wasabi with different phones and computers.  I did manage to pair it with a Dell Latitude E6400 and HP Mini 2140 (seen in the video) but I had problems pairing it with my Dell Latitude D620. 

As for phones, it paired with an HTC Touch Pro, the Blackberry Curve and Pearl, Palm Centro and even an old school Samsung SCH-u620 (which I’ve been using since I lost my Chocolate).  I could not get it to pair with my friend’s iPhone 3G even though she had Bluetooth.  Not sure if it was her phone (she said she had never used her Bluetooth before) or if it is compatibility issue but if you are an iPhone user, I would double check that before purchasing a Wasabi.

Any digital camera that is PictBridge enabled should be able to print with a Dell Wasabi.  I personally tried it out with Pentax Optio E70 we had in our office and a friend’s Nikon Coolpix.

It took the Wasabi literally about an hour and thirty minutes to charge fully; users can print from the Wasabi while plugged in without any noticeable delay in charging.

Dell estimates that the Wasabi Li-Ion battery will hold enough power for about 15 prints or a little over one full tray of ZINK paper.  I printed out 36 2 x3 inch prints and had to charge the Wasabi twice (not counting the initial charge).  After printing 13 photos and two ZINK Smart Sheets, the Wasabi completely died on me.  It did warn me the battery was low, though; a blinking red battery light came on twice before it kicked the bucket. 

I proceeded to charge it and then printed another 14 photos and one ZINK Smart Sheet before I got the flashing battery light of doom.  For this second charge, I actually printed two photos while the Wasabi was charging just to see if it could.  It was successful.  After the second charge I kept printing until I ran out of paper, so about seven more prints. 

Also, you may be wondering if I turned the printer off diligently after each use to conserve battery life.  I did not.  The Wasabi will turn itself off after a short period of inactivity.  I don’t have the attention span to count the exact seconds between the last print and it powering off but it wasn’t long; I would say less than five minutes.

Print quality
This really varied between devices and even photos.  Printing directly from computers, I got crisp, full color shots but a few of the photos “cropped” themselves.  In other words, they printed out with weird white bars on both sides.  But overall, when using a PC, the photo quality was as good as can be expected from such a small device and “inkless” technology.

I got similar results printing from a digital camera using PictBridge.  The colors were good and I was surprised by the detail you can see in the image of our plants.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a far cry from a professional print but that isn’t exactly the Wasabi’s market.  This is a mobile printer for quick on-the-go prints where you can’t get them normally. 

I found the worst picture quality when using various camera phones and I think that has to do with two things: lighting and megapixels.  None of the camera phones I tested the Wasabi with had over a 1.3 megapixel camera and only one had a flash.  So the quality really varied from phone to phone and picture to picture.  Overall, I found the quality to be decent when the photos taken with the camera were outdoor or in good indoor lighting.

Outside reaction
The Wasabi is different from most printers I review; it is really meant to be shared in social environments (at least in my opinion).  So I took it out with me when I went to dinner with my family and when I met up with a few girlfriends after work. 

I was really shocked by the positive reaction I got when I brought the Wasabi out; everyone loved it.  Honestly, I had been expecting a sort of lukewarm reaction from people my age and especially older generations.

Two of my friends work in event planning and commented on how cool it would be to have such a portable device at concerts and fairs. I got a similar reaction at my family but it centered on how cute it would be to print out the twelve hundred pictures that have been taken of a 1-year-old cousin. 

I did have one quasi-negative reaction; one of my relatives pointed out (somewhat sarcastically) that the Wasabi has been around for about twenty years and it was called a Polaroid camera. 

Obviously, there are some major differences between the old school Polaroid cameras and film and the new school Wasabi printer and ZINK paper but, honestly, it is sort of a valid comparison.  Before you run out and buy a Wasabi just because it’s so cool, ask yourself do you really need a device that can print instant photos?  If so, a Wasabi printer might be for you.

PROS

  • No ink
  • Instant photos anywhere
  • Compatible with several devices

CONS

  • Only prints 2 x 3 inch photos
  • Sub par photo quality from certain devices

CONCLUSION
The Dell Wasabi is cute, fun and less than $100.  For people who love instant gratification, the Wasabi can deliver with multiple devices and brands.  The main issue should be whether the Wasabi is right for you since it can only print one size of photo paper and sometimes the photo quality is less than stellar.

My advice? Before you purchase the Wasabi, make sure it works with the device(s) you own.  If it does, I would totally recommend the purchase.  If it doesn’t, may I suggest an old school Polaroid off EBay?

PRICING AND AVAILABILITY
This little gem is available now on the Dell website for $79.   A 24 pack of ZINK paper is $12 and a 48 pack is $20 so it makes more sense to buy the 48 pack and only pay .41 cents a photo as opposed to .50 cents.

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