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We expect more out of a $100 all-in-one printer than the Kodak ESP C310 delivers. We were disappointed with the build quality of the Kodak ESP 5, and Kodak seems to struggle with the same issues with this model. The entry-level C310 may register decent print speeds and wireless setup is easy, but we recommend spending your $100 on the Canon Pixma MX410 instead--you'll get a more versatile and attractive imaging device that even has an auto-document feeder and more shortcut buttons on the control panel.
The ESP C310 has a compact footprint relative to other multifunction printers. It can print, scan, and copy, but you don't get an auto-document feeder, so you have to endure scanning large stacks of documents or snapshot photos on a sheet-by-sheet basis. Unlike on the ESP 5, the input and output trays sit on opposite sides of the device, and the 100-sheet input tray in the back bows down on top of the scanner lid when not in use--we prefer the Canon Pixma MX410's folding auto-document feeder, which lends a more streamlined look to the machine.
The paper output tray sits flush with the unit and folds down with an extendable plastic arm that pulls out of the edge to corral sheets of paper as it completes each job. On the whole, the printer is made of a light plastic that reminds us of a Playskool toy and gives the device a flimsy and delicate feel.
When you raise the cover to reveal the ink bay, a thin plastic arm pops up and braces the cover, similar to the hood of a car. The mechanism requires two hands to close and is an overall poor design choice; it's almost guaranteed to break over time, and we're not sure why Kodak didn't just use a standard spring-mounted lid. Also, the cover on top of the scanner bed folds on a fixed hinge that doesn't reach over thicker items like large books.
The ESP C310 retains the standard-size ink cartridge bay: one slot for black and one for five different colors, which is common for printers in the low-end price range. The Kodak Web site reports 10 cents per color photo, a price on par with the average inkjet printer. In addition, Kodak sells three different printing bundles that include black and color ink cartridges as well as several types of paper.
The top of the device has a small (1.5-inch) LCD that walks you through installing the printer on your wireless network at home, and a glowing light on the front shows your network status in relation to the host computer network. Kodak keeps the rest of the buttons on the control panel to a minimum, with simple shortcuts for power, cancel, navigation, and start. Just below the buttons you'll find a multimedia card reader for Memory Stick, xD-Picture Card, SD, and Compact Flash cards, but the printer is lacking a USB port for printing directly from a digital camera.
By contrast, the Canon Pixma MX410 offers the additional benefit of a fax machine and a host of buttons on the front including auto-dial buttons and a full set of numerical buttons for dialing. And while the Canon's two-line dot matrix display isn't quite as fancy as the Kodak's color LCD, we see no added benefit to a full-color LCD on a printer that isn't designed to print a large volume of photos.
The Kodak ESP C310 ships with a helpful driver CD that walks you through the installation process and includes the Kodak Home Center software. The Home Center acts as a hub for the copy, print, and scan functions. The copy feature is easy to navigate and offers a unique collage copy setting that duplicates several pictures in the same orientation as the originals. The scanning center is a little too simplified and lacks an option to scan directly to a PDF or an e-mail; both are almost an industry standard and we're disappointed to see that Kodak skip these two crucial features.
The ESP C310 neither impressed nor disappointed us with the results of its output speed tests. As you can see in the chart below, it registered roughly average speeds across the four categories of presentation, photo, graphics, and text, so we have little to complain about in terms of its print engine. Compared with the MX410, the C310 trades slower photo and text document results for faster graphics and PowerPoint presentation output.