The $250 Hero 9.1 is Kodak's newest flagship printer with do-it-all features including a fax machine, a 4.3-inch touch screen, and dual paper trays, and for only $50 more than its linemate, the Kodak Office Hero 6.1. Competing models from HP, Canon, and Lexmark offer similar features to the 9.1 at the $250 price point, but Kodak sweetens the deal with its new e-mail print feature that lets you send jobs from any Web-based device. Despite its minor setbacks like a smaller paper input capacity than the 6.1 and average print speeds, the Kodak Hero 9.1 remains a smart all-in-one device for getting work done quickly and efficiently in the home or office, and I recommend it to anyone shopping for a do-it-all device.
Design and features
The Kodak Hero 9.1 does away with the tactile keypad and speed-dial buttons that gave the 6.1 its business-friendly productivity. This one has an adjustable 4.3-inch touch-screen display with a slim profile that matches the chiseled angles and alternating glossy black, silver, and perforated matte black finish of the whole machine. In fact, if you don't necessarily need the buttons, I don't see why graphic designers and general offices wouldn't be satisfied with its aesthetic. Like the 6.1, the Hero 9.1's exterior gives off a more streamlined attitude than the older Kodak ESP line with a small red strip marking off the control panel and the hidden scanner bay. The angled display contrasts with the narrow auto-document feeder up top that can hold up to 30 sheets of a document at a time for hands-free copying and scanning.
The printer also has a small green Wi-Fi indicator LED on the right side of the control panel, and just below the buttons you'll find a multimedia card reader for Memory Stick, xD-Picture Card, SD, and USB via the PictBridge-compatible port just above it.
The auto-duplexer that flips pages over for double-sided printing adds a bulky extrusion to the back of the printer, but the extra weight is offset by its economic benefits for offices that print more than the usual amount. Kodak estimates that the 9.1 can handle about 12,000 printed pages a month before it loses steam, which should be more than enough for SMBs and home offices with moderate to large output.
Kodak throws in two separate paper trays along with the matte touch screen to lure shoppers into choosing the 9.1 over its Hero line cousins, and with good sense. You get a diminished 100-sheet main paper tray for everyday printing on the bottom of the unit and another 40-sheet tray on top for smaller media. Depending on your intended uses and monthly output volume, the 140-sheet total input capacity may dissuade you from purchasing this printer. If that's the case, the Epson WorkForce 845 all-in-one serves your needs better, with a combined paper input capacity of 500 pages.
The Hero 9.1 uses Kodak's model 10B and 10C cartridges with a single tank for black ink and a separate five-ink cartridge of pigment color. Kodak claims its ink totals the lowest cost per page in the industry, and my calculations based on their XL-capacity cartridges corroborates those claims at just 2.4 cents per black page and 7.2 cents for a page of color, but keep in mind that all five inks are bundled into one cartridge, so you'll need to buy a new one when the first color runs out. That's why it makes more fiscal sense for photographers to print snapshots on competing photo printers that house five and sometimes six individual ink tanks.
Kodak offers several ways to print to the Kodak aside from the standard USB connection. You can hook it up to an office network using wired Ethernet or distribute it wirelessly using its 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi server.
Headaches quickly arrive when its time to connect a printer to a wireless router, but I'm impressed with Kodak's streamlined handshaking--the printer is set up for the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) computing standard that boils the process down to a push of a button, if you have a compatible wireless router. It's just as easy to connect without WPS, however, but you'll need to create an ad-hoc connection using the USB cable first. Unfortunately, Kodak doesn't provide this cable in the box.
The printer ships with a helpful driver disc that walks you through the installation process and includes Kodak's All-in-One Home Center software. The Home Center acts as a hub for the copy, print, and scan functions, but remember to check for firmware updates soon after you connect the printer; Kodak said version 7.3 is coming soon. 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 simple as well, but lacks the option to scan directly to a fax in lieu of scanning directly to a Google Doc, which serves a similar purpose if you want to send a link to a PDF file.
The new Home Center also lets you print 3D images, which means you'll need a pair of red-and-blue glasses to see them pop. The 3D print process works as you'd expect, with the device printing dual images close together but slightly offset so viewing through the paper glasses makes the image come alive. The 9.1 comes with a 3D starter kit that includes two pairs of 3D glasses and a sample pack of photo paper for experimentation.