HERO 9.1 PERFORMANCE
Setting up the HERO 9.1
The contents of the HERO 9.1 consist of the printer itself along with two bright yellow boxes marked 1 and 2. Starting with the first box labeled 1, you’ll find the Start Here Guide, software/driver CD, a hard copy of the User’s Guide, two pairs of 3D glasses and sample photo pair (4×6).
Box 2 contains the ink cartridges, print head, power cord and fax cord (a telephone cord).
The Start Here Guide walks users through the usual motions: Remove packing materials, plug in printer, set the language and country, install the printhead and ink cartridges, load paper, align cartridges, set up fax and choose a connection type.
Once this is completed, pop in the CD. It will bring up the Kodak Printer Installer front page where you can agree to accept all installation procedures or review them. If you choose to review, you can opt out of the Printer Performance and Ink Usage collection as well as select what software is downloaded to your computer.
You’ll then need to choose if you want to register and the Kodak Printer Installer will begin the installation. About halfway through, you’ll need to confirm the connection type and then select whether you’d like to update the firmware. Once the installation is completed, you can open up the Home Center and print a 3D sample.
Ease of Use
Kodak includes many of the same easy-to-use software options that I raved about in the ESP Office 2170 review, but also has plenty of new features to offer customers including Google Cloud Print and Kodak Email Print Service.
In order to make this section a little easier to read, we’ve broken it down into web applications and printer hardware and software.
Printer Hardware and Software
As we mentioned in the Build and Design section, the Kodak HERO 9.1 is in a class of its own when it comes to the design and navigation. The HERO 9.1 has an adjustable 4.3 inch touchscreen with a layout similar to what we’ve seen from Canon’s Intelligent Touch System. The buttons around the screen are only lit up when they are applicable to what device you are using.
There are four device menus highlighted on the screen at anytime with a total of ten to scroll through including: copy document, copy photo, print photo, scan, fax, forms, network settings, printer settings, cloud printing and maintenance.
There are also three smaller icons in the bottom right corner that give quick status updates on paper, ink and wireless connectivity.
I found the touchscreen to be very responsive and easy to use. The only annoying quirk was the beeping noise it makes every time you touch it, but that can be turned off. What was funny was when I turned them off; I realized the default setting was soft and that you could actually make them louder.
The HERO 9.1 comes with the AIO Home Center software, one of my favorite programs when it comes to all-in-one inkjet software. It’s so simple to use with a well laid out navigation, interesting add-ons and linkage to useful “outside” information. And the color scheme is quite pleasing, a black and red motif with a hint of yellow.?
Kodak hasn’t updated the overall AIO Home Center framework since our recent review of the ESP Office 2170, but did add on additional features that we’ll discuss in the web application section.
The basic layout is the same including traditional photo printing, photo stills from video, 3D photos, scan documents and picture, home center tools and documentation, printer tools, tips & projects center and ordering supplies but also includes a Photo Card section and a Cloud Printing Setup section.
What’s great about the HERO 9.1 is that there is emphasis on photo printing in both quality and ease-of-use. Users can print a variety of photos using the three photo applications. Starting with the traditional photo printing, I could pick and choose photos from my hard drive, edit them using Kodak’s one-button edits or custom solutions, and then select how I’d like to “finish” them.
The options are the same as I saw with the ESP Office 2170: you can print to your AIO, save the photos to file, email using your default (likely Microsoft Outlook if you have a PC), open using other programs and send them to your Kodak Gallery account. The one new option allows users to send items to Google Docs. Users can also link outside photo galleries to the AIO Home Center through the home center tools section.
With the video print option, I can print stills from video saved on our hard drive. It doesn’t have to be taken with a Kodak camera as long as it’s a media supported by Kodak’s software: .mov, .avi and .mp4 video file types, H264, mpeg1 and motion jpeg codecs, and both standard and HD resolutions. Kodak also added support for H264 encoded video. Users have to “unlock” this feature by downloading an installer from Kodak’s website.
As I saw with the ESP Office 2170, owners of the HER0 9.1, can print 3D photos and the printer came with 3D glasses. In order to do this, you will need to take “picture pairs” which Kodak outlines in the 3D photo printing section. According to Kodak, users will: “take one picture, then move camera 3 in. /75 mm to the right; within 20 seconds, take the same picture without changing the angle of the camera.”
I decide to see how the 3D printout would work on one of our test photos. Below, I scanned in the test photos from the installation which includes a normal photo and the 3D photo printed by the HERO 9.1.
Using the scan software is similar to using any of the photo software. Select your media – be it a photo, document, etc. you want to scan – and hit next (or preview the scan). The HERO 9.1 will scan in the image(s) and then you’ll have a chance to edit them. This is where the scan software starts to overlap with the photo software. The edit options are identical. Once you finish editing, you’ll be taken to the final Finish page where you can select to print, save or email your scan.
Like the ESP AIO line, the Kodak HERO 9.1 automatically scans multiple images or documents on the flatbed into individual files unless the user checks the collage button.
I had no problems scanning in documents or images and the quality was better than what we’ve seen on previous models.
The HERO 9.1 also includes a front side USB port and a card reader for standalone photo printing. As always, users can adjust print settings using the print properties menu found in your browser or word processors print menu.
Users can enable their new online printer tools by opening up the Kodak Home Center and selecting Printer Tools. There is a small section entitled Online Printer Tools, select the Cloud Printing Setup option. From here, the software will open up a browser window with step-by-step instructions on how to set up your Google Cloud Print. Three things you need: the printer setup over a wireless network, the computer setup over the same network and a Google account. If you have Gmail, use Picasa, Google Docs, etc. then you already have an account. If you don’t have one, it’s pretty easy to sign up for a new Google account.
Once registered, you can dive deeper on the subject or move on to setting up your Kodak Email Print Service, but you need to set up the Google Cloud Print first. Again, the Kodak software will take you through a series of prompts asking you to confirm you hold a Google account, allowing Kodak access, etc. Once connected, it will bring up a new screen with your new email address, options to change it and information on how to manage/edit privacy controls.
For users that have never used services like this in the past, they can be extremely useful for on-the-go printing of both documents and photo prints. Google Cloud Print is basically connecting you to your printer from anywhere using your phone, tablet, Chromebook, or other web-connected device.
Find a list of all apps that work with Google Cloud Print depending on your device here.
The Kodak Email Service is very similar to what we’ve seen HP and Epson. Once you are given the unique email address, pass it out to whomever you want to have access to the printer or simply save it in your contacts. I printed from multiple email accounts using my BlackBerry Bold, PC and an iPad.
The one problem I did notice is unlike HP, who sends email alerts and keeps a list of all printed jobs using the service, Kodak does not give customers any notification that a document or photo has been sent to the printer or been printed. There is also no way to look up past jobs in the Online Print Manager. That is one thing I’d like to see changed in the future.
EDITOR NOTE: Kodak says: “Users can actually see the Queue, but it is on the Google Cloud Print service, not KODAK Email Print Service: http://www.google.com/cloudprint#jobs.”
Good to know that there is some way to track the sent jobs, but I’d still like it to be more accessible, perhaps in the Online Print Manager or through an email alert as we’ve seen from other similar service.