Working from home tech: We review an ultraportable printer and scanner
It was a time of innocence. It was a carefree time. It was a time when sitting alone at a coffee shop table far away from the other patrons was an act of writerly solitude, not state mandate.
It was February.
Back then, when I was approached by the folks at Canon to look at their tiny printer and their even tinier scanner, their use case was obvious. I’d bring my laptop, printer, and scanner to the coffee shop to work, surrounded by the owner’s collection of vintage cameras, with a never-ending supply of Elixir of Writerly Productivity, and the occasional baked good made exclusively for the shop by the bakery down the street.
I had a family project to do that required a lot of scanning and printing, and in late February, an #adulting man’s mind automatically is drawn to the upcoming tax season. It’d be nice to be able to do all that work in a welcoming environment, enhanced by the aroma of always-brewing coffee.
Now, in June, I’d be surprised if that coffee shop (and many like it) is still in business. We’ll probably lose a lot of restaurants in our rural little town.
But even trapped at home, sheltering in place as my wife and I have been since March, there are uses for these tiny devices. And, with the postponed tax day coming up this month, it’s an ideal time to invest in small gear that will get the job done while taking up minimal space.
Let’s get started with the inkjet printer. As you can see from the picture above showing (from top to bottom), the scanner, the printer, and my laptop, the TR150 printer folds down into a nice, portable rectangle. It’s not much bigger or heavier than a hard bound college textbook.
The printer weighs 4.5 pounds, but if you add the optional battery pack, the total weight comes up to 5.1 pounds. The battery pack is interesting. It attaches to the back of the printer, increasing the folded depth of the device by about 3/4 inch (about two centimeters). The printer itself is $199 and if you want the battery, that’ll set you back another $99.
Max paper size is 8 1/2 x 11, and the printer outputs both documents and color photos. The tiny paper tray can hold up to 50 sheets, but it seems to be most reliable at about 20 sheets.
The printer has a USB-C port for connectivity, but it also supports AirPrint over Wi-Fi. I found setting that up to be a little fiddly, but after a few tries, I made the connection. It wasn’t much harder than any of the other fiddly printer connections we’ve all dealt with over the years.
While a printer this small can’t print on both sides, we did find one very cool feature for the road warrior (if those still exist). You can pre-load the printer with a few page images and then print them out from the small LCD panel. This feature could be very useful for contractors and sales folks who have to regularly print out a few specific forms. The ability to reproduce some paper forms while on battery power and without the need to connect a computer or a phone could well be a win.
Overall, this is not the printer I’d choose if I had plenty of space in my office because I like the ability to have a big sheet feeder and duplex printing. I recommended a whole bunch of those in my best printers article.
But there’s almost nothing like this PIXMA TR150 for on-the-road work, and I found that setting up the printer in a corner cubby for those of us who need to set up an impromptu workspace at home can be a win, especially since it tucks away quite small when not in use.
I have needed a scanner while on the road a whole bunch of times, and while using a smartphone as an ad-hoc scanner works, the resulting image can suffer from glare and is often distorted. A portable, slightly-bigger-than-pocket sized scanner can overcome those problems.
The painfully-named Canon imageFORMULA P-215II Scan-tini (I didn’t make that up, it’s on Canon’s site) scanner is a capable little scanner that’s just about the size of one of those ubiquitous blue boxes of spaghetti.
At about 2.2 pounds and $175, it has a built-in card reader and a document feeder. The 20-sheet document feeder is fine for a few sheets, but if you try to feed in more than about ten at a time, you’re likely to have a mis-feed or two. That said, for portable, on-the-road work, ten sheets at a time is perfectly workable. I also found that it scans color photos that result in nice quality JPEGs.
While the scanner is limited to scanning items 8 1/2 inches wide, it has a long document mode that will scan documents up to a meter long (about 39 inches). So if you have those super-long receipts we all get stuck with, you can scan them in without hassle.
There is a bit of a gotcha for USB-C users. The scanner comes with a USB 3.0 cable, so you’ll need an adapter. But if you’ve bought a MacBook Pro in the last few years, you’re used to adapters, aren’t you?
Overall, it’s a great little scanner. If you want to scan in big documents or books, this isn’t the scanner for you. But if you have to grab quick scans of forms, contracts, house-purchasing documents, etc., this can be an ideal addition to your kit.
And, like the printer earlier in this article, it’s small enough to fit in an available cubby during shelter-in-place and folds up to be packed away when not in use.
I want to wrap this up with another use case for these portable devices. I could have so totally used these when I was managing the renovation of the fixer-upper house we recently bought.
During the about three months of the renovation, I had to spend many days at the house. I ordered Internet the day we closed on the contract, but other niceties – like air conditioning and heating and furniture, and even electrical power – were unavailable on most of those days.
One example was during the electrical wiring rebuild. The house was heavily modified by the home-owners, to the point where the electrical throughout the house was a nightmare. In our walkthrough, the previous owner pointed out some open, live wires and bragged, “I know where they are. As long as you know where they are, you’ll be okay.” The very next day, I reached out to a team of electricians.
They spent two long days completely rewiring the house and our ginormous breaker panel. I had to be on-site, but I also had to work. I brought down a folding table and chair, but that was it. Because they were rewiring power, we didn’t even have that. I used my phone’s hotspot for Internet and the power from my devices and a spare charging brick to make it through the days.
My daily carry was the bag shown above. I filled it with my computer, but often with filming gear as well. I bought this carry bag because I liked its style, it had good capacity, and it was relatively inexpensive.
For those two days with the electricians, I was doing mostly administrative work, and I would have killed for the printer and scanner profiled in this article. What you probably don’t know is that the picture above shows the bag containing my laptop, the printer, and the scanner. They fit quite well.
At around 11 pounds, the bag isn’t exactly light, but it’s also not too heavy. It’s certainly easy enough to grab from the car and take into and out of the house (or the coffee shop, if we ever get to do that again).
What about you? Do you think you’ll ever work from coffee shops again? Do you have a need for portable printers and scanners?
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