Polaroid Grey Label GL10 Instant Mobile Printer Review aka the Lady Gaga Printer

Back at CES last January, Lady Gaga took the stage at Polaroid’s booth to unveil the Grey Label collection, which includes a slew of new products that she designed for Polaroid as their creative director. Amongst the line-up was the the GL10 instant mobile printer, along with the GL20 Sunglasses with Built-in Camera and the GL30 Instant Camera. Well the first product from the Grey Label series has officially landed. Gaga came up with the concept for the device because she wanted to free photos from the prison of the smartphone. To that effect, the GL10 Instant Mobile Printer lets you wirelessly print photos off of your smartphone using bluetooth. The device is compatible with most cell phones, including Android, Windows and BlackBerry devices. It can also connect to a digital camera via USB. Unfortunately, it does not support the iPhone.

Unlike traditional printers, the GL10 is able to print without ink. Instead it uses ZINK Zero Ink Printing Technology from ZINK Imaging. This Inkless printing technology embeds color into the paper, so that there are no replacement ink cartridges or ribbons ever needed to keep the printer going. The printer can print out about 35 to 40 photos on a charge, and paper packs are sold in packs of ten. No one besides Polaroid offers technology like this, but the technology isn’t new. The technology used inside the GL10 is actually 2nd generation ZINK technology, so it is a lot like an upgraded version of the PoGo Wireless Bluetooth printer we reviewed back in 2010.  However, the GL10 can print 3″ x 4″ prints, whereas the PoGo can only print smaller sized 2″ x 3″ prints. Also, this time around the printer’s look has been designed by Gaga herself, so it’s naturally much more attractive looking. Furthermore, the hardware of the printer itself feels very well made, even more so than the Polaroid PoGo.

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To get started with the GL10, first you’ll need to pair it with your smartphone. You’ll need to refer to the guide for the 4 digit pin number, since it isn’t the standard “0000” or “1234” pin. The printer comes with a blue ZINK Smart Sheet that says “must load barcode facing down – put on bottom of pack when loading”. So you must load this card into the printer before you try printing anything. Overall, operating the GL10 is not complicated, but isn’t all that intuitive either, so you’ll need to use the guide to learn how to use the system at first. Unfortunately, we had a problem with our first few sets of prints. They kept printing with horizontal bands running through them. The guide’s troubleshooting section instructs you to reinsert the blue ZINK Smart Sheet if you experience bands on prints. But that didn’t immediately fix the issue for us. We were using the blue ZINK Smart Sheet that came with the printer. So we opened up a second pack of Zink papers and used the included blue ZINK Smart Sheet from the new pack. After we inserted the newer blue ZINK Smart Sheet into the printer, our prints came out fine without any banding issues. Besides for that initial snafu, the experience of operating the device is solid. Also, overall quality of the prints are pretty good. The prints are no replacement for a dedicated inkjet printer but they are still capable prints that are pretty sharp with pretty good color reproduction. Of course, the quality of your pictures are very dependent on the quality of your phone’s camera too, and unfortunately the reality is that most smartphone camera’s down right suck.

The GL10 prints full bleed by default. To enable the Classic Polaroid Border, you’ll need to Press and hold the “Reprint” button on the side of the printer for 5 seconds. This is a perfect example of why you need to refer to using the guide first before operating the printer, because how else would you figure that out. We also noticed that printing with the Polaroid GL10 Android app actually sends prints to the printer faster than sending a print directly to the print directly via Bluetooth. The app will automatically resize your photos so they can print at 3″ x 4″. The app also lets you choose from different border styles to print with, including the classic Polaroid border. In addition, the app  features a couple of neat filters and effects like black and white, a frame, black or white white graffiti, black or white grunge, and woodblock. You can also add a caption of text to print on the photo from within the app. As of today, the Polaroid GL10 app is not yet listed in the Android marketplace, so you’ll need to download it here. The app is also supposed to let you choose between landscape and portrait photos, but we couldn’t find that setting – and it’s also supposed to provide you with 3 font options, but we couldn’t find that option either. It’s possible that once the app becomes available in the Android Market, it will be updated with these extra features.

It’s important to note that the GL10 instant mobile printer also has pictbridge support and can connect to a digital camera via USB. Overall, the Polaroid GL10 Instant Mobile Printer is a solid product, that has the potential to be a lot of fun. However, although it’s plenty portable by printer standards, we can’t imagine that many people would be carrying it around on a daily basis in their bags. But if and when they do, it could be a lot of fun to use around town, especially at dinner parties and what not. Kids and teens should especially enjoy using it. That said, the $169.99 price tag is a bit hard to swallow – even if Lady Gaga is the brains behind it. We also wish that the device had iPhone and iPad support. Regardless, the GL10 Instant Mobile Printer holds a lot of potential and it offers a healthy introduction to Polaroid and Gaga’s Grey Label line. But the truth is, we can hardly wait to try out the GL20 Sunglasses with Built-in Camera. That product really is the star of the Grey Label line so far.

The GL10 instant mobile printer is currently available for preorder on Polaroid.com and it will become available nationwide starting on June 20th for $169.99. However, if you really cant wait till June, you can always pick it up now at Bloomingdales. The printer comes with a single pic of paper too, and additional packs of paper containing 10 sheets each retail for $19.99.

The Good: Solid construction, no ink required, fun to use, Lady Gaga designed it!

The Bad: Can only print one print at a time, no iPhone support, paper is costly

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