Kodak ESP 5 Printer Review

by Reads (10,392)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Service & Support
    • 6
    • Print Quality
    • 8
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 6
    • Performance / Print Speed
    • 6
    • Features
    • 6
    • Operational Costs
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 6.67
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Overview

  • Pros

    • Good print quality
    • Extremely low print costs
    • Novice-friendly operation
  • Cons

    • Slow print speeds
    • Flimsy build quality
    • Frightening noise levels

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When Kodak unveiled its latest ESP 5 all-in-one photo printer/scanner, we were impressed with the specs sheet: a sub-$200 printer with a sleek new look, an easy-to-use interface, and outrageously low operation costs. All of this makes the new Kodak sound like the perfect combination of features for casual shooters looking to do a little more with their photos than a basic desktop inkjet or drug-store photo kiosk allows.

When Kodak unveiled its latest ESP 5 all-in-one photo printer/scanner, we were impressed with the specs sheet: a sub-$200 printer with a sleek new look, an easy-to-use interface, and outrageously low operation costs. All of this makes the new Kodak sound like the perfect combination of features for casual shooters looking to do a little more with their photos than a basic desktop inkjet or drug-store photo kiosk allows.

Of course, in actual use it’s rare that anything proves to be that simple. In the case of the Kodak, some complications with operation and performance may ultimately make this device less appealing than it initially looks.

Build and Design

The Kodak ESP 5 is a multifunction print/scan device that provides photo-res as well as office-quality printing, scanning, and copying in a compact unit that can function on its own or connected to a PC or Macintosh via USB 2.0.

Kodak ESP 5Kodak ESP 5

On the connections side, the ESP 5 sports a multi-format card reader capable of printing JPEGs directly from your SD/SDHC, MemoryStick, XD-Picture Card, or Compact Flash memory.

Kodak ESP 5

A PictBridge port also allows compatible cameras to be connected directly to the ESP 5 for easy, direct image printing without working through a computer.

Kodak ESP 5Kodak ESP 5

Somewhat frustratingly, Kodak doesn’t provide resolution specs for its printer, preferring to describe the ESP 5’s print resolution as “lab quality” and leave it at that. While I have what you might call an “agreement in principle” with Kodak on this point, namely, that resolution doesn’t tell the whole story of print quality, just as megapixels don’t define the overall image quality a camera’s capable of, it’s an important point for technical comparisons nonetheless.

Whatever its resolution numbers, the ESP 5 claims the ability to do black and white printing/copying at speeds of up to 30 pages per minute, print color documents at 29 pages per minute, and print borderless 4×6 photos in as little as 30 sec/print per Kodak. Along the same lines, the Kodak is capable of borderless photo printing at sizes up to 8.5×11. These specs compare favorably with other all-in-one devices costing much more, giving the ESP 5 a theoretical edge on the competition.

Kodak ESP 5

Likewise, while the Kodak uses a simple two-cartridge configuration (one for black and one for all five pigment-based color inks, rather than individual ink tanks), the printer still boasts extremely low operation costs using black and color cartridges that run a mere $10 and $15, respectively. Serious photographers will dislike the waste and lack of flexibility that a cartridge-based system affords, but with the ESP 5’s cartridge costs under control it?s doubtful that this will be a point of serious concern for most buyers.

Hypothetical situation time: if you had to choose between a device that looks good and a device that feels well-built, which would you pick? Visually, the ESP 5 is a very nice printer that will look right at home in a number of settings; in terms of build quality and functionality, it’s a little more challenged.

Visually, the ESP 5’s black-on-black body with subtle design cues and the occasional splash of color looks convincingly high-end, with a nice combination of high-gloss and matte materials. Simple, clearly labeled controls provide easy access to all standalone functions from the main panel.

Kodak ESP 5Kodak ESP 5

In the same vein, one of the ESP 5’s most impressive features given its price is the inclusion of a large, bright 3-inch LCD, which makes reviewing, selecting, and even applying corrections to images before printing a snap.

(In fact, with a computer-side interface that is a little more trying at times, the size and color accuracy of the ESP 5’s LCD often made printing direct from memory cards my preferred method of use with this device.)

Kodak ESP 5Kodak ESP 5

The same can’t be said for the ESP 5’s build quality, however: the device feels flimsy all around, with one of the most unappealing scanner lids we’ve ever dealt with and an access deck for getting at the cartridges that feels poised to fall on your hands (thankfully its all-plastic construction means it’s not very heavy) at any moment.

Even worse than flexy plastics and other less-than-desirable materials choices are some of the ESP 5’s functional decisions. There’s no dedicated cassette for holding paper, rather, it’s all fed through a single tray with a single and difficult to operate plastic retaining fence. Getting paper properly aligned for feeding (the ESP 5 will jam and/or bend paper edges if you skimp on this step) is an exercise in frustration, especially with smaller paper sizes.

Worse still, there’s no separate output tray: paper is drawn up around a roller at the back of the unit and then deposited unceremoniously atop the feed stack when printing is complete. Besides seeming mildly cobbled together, the bigger problem with this solution is that heavy papers that tend to stick together (i.e. photo rag) can get easily drawn back into the printer with another sheet, leading to jams, overprinting, and an assortment of other messes. If you’re printing a multi-page document, near-constant vigilance is required, making the ESP 5 ultimately somewhat impractical as even a light-duty office printing solution.


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