Kodak has sat out the desktop printer space for some time now, but it's returned with three photo all-in-one models. The middle child of three, the $200 EasyShare 5300 All-in-One printer offers print, scan, copy, and photo print functions in an easy-to-use device. While it offers the basics, it lacks a lot of the features found on other $200 all-in-ones, such as individual ink tanks, the capability to make copies of photos on photo paper in standalone mode, and the capability to edit and improve photos in standalone mode. Its print speed and quality are decent, but for our $200, we prefer the Canon Pixma MP600 for its better print quality and larger set of standalone features.
The Kodak EasyShare 5300's design is basic and looks prim. The white-and-brushed-silver body stands 18.8 inches wide, 14.7 inches deep, and 8.8 inches tall, and it weighs more than 21 pounds. The scanner lid reveals a flatbed scanner that can hold up to A4-size originals, and the lid's hinges lift about an inch to accommodate thick originals. Two front-mounted memory card slots take most common cards, though some will require an adapter. Also mounted on the front are two USB ports, which can be used to connect a PictBridge-enabled camera, a USB storage device such as a flash thumbdrive, or a Bluetooth adapter (optional) for wireless printing from Bluetooth devices. Having two USB ports (as opposed to the usual one) is great for having a Bluetooth adapter plugged in constantly and still being able to print from a camera or a storage device. We haven't seen this on any other printer.
The paper-handling system is similar to that of some of HP's Photosmart printers. The cassette comprises the input tray on the bottom, which holds as many as 100 sheets of plain paper, and the output tray/photo paper tray above it. The input tray has guides and an extender to conform to different sizes of media. The photo paper tray takes only 4x6 paper (as many as 20 sheets), and you'll need to manually push in the tray to engage it. If you want to print from the regular paper tray, disengage the photo paper tray. It's topped with a clear cover that lets you see if you need to refill it. The output tray includes an extender flap that pulls out and folds open, with a paper stop at the end. There's no duplexer for automatic double-sided printing, but Kodak offers a duplexer as an add-on.
The EasyShare 5300's control panel is simple and uncluttered. It includes the usual buttons for navigating menus; task buttons to switch between copy, photo, and scan; and several photo-oriented buttons including rotate, zoom in/out, print proofsheet, and a button to initiate file transfers between cards or storage devices plugged into the printer and your PC. The menu is easy to navigate and organized well. The 3-inch LCD is colorful and bright, and best of all, it's mounted on a swivel and moves through a range of 90 degrees, so you can optimize your viewing angle.
With the return to inkjet printers, Kodak has touted its cost-cutting inks. The printer uses a two-cartridge system and what Kodak calls "six-ink" printing. Actually, it's a four-ink color photo printer, because the black-only cartridge is for nonphoto text printing, and one of the five colors on the second tank is actually a clear coating that is deposited on all photos for finish and protection. The black-only tank costs $10 to replace and the color tank costs $15; those prices are a fraction of what other vendors charge. One reason for the low price is that Kodak's ink tanks don't include a printhead; it's permanently mounted into the printer itself. It's worth noting that both HP and Brother do something similar on some of their printers, including the HP Officejet Pro L7680 All-in-One and the Brother MFC-440cn. Kodak estimates that a page of black text costs 3 cents and a page of color graphics costs 7 cents. Both numbers are great for a $200 all-in-one inkjet, though it's difficult to verify the numbers, as Kodak's site doesn't offer information on how much ink each tank actually holds. In addition, we generally prefer individual ink tanks, as they result in less wasted ink.
The subject of Kodak's color-photo print costs is somewhat contentious. Kodak maintains that by using its Photo Value Pack, which includes a color tank and 180 sheets of 4x6 Kodak Photo Paper ($18), people can get 10-cent 4x6 prints, a rather huge savings over the competition. Using the Premium Photo Value Pack, which includes 135 sheets of higher-quality paper and a color cartridge, 4x6 prints come out to a low 15 cents each. However, testing done by magazine disputes this, saying that in order to get these low numbers, the quality of the print must suffer. Pop Photo says these prints are of no better than "draft quality" and to achieve lab quality prints, the cost goes up to about 37 cents per print. When we talked to Kodak about this discrepancy, its representative said that the company had issues with Pop Photo's methodology and the issue is still being worked out.
Although the Kodak EasyShare 5300 offers many of the same features as its all-in-one competition, it leaves some out. When copying a document, you can choose black-and-white or color prints, change output quality, scale by preset values or custom values, and adjust brightness. However, you can't copy a photo to be reproduced on photo paper as you can with most photo-oriented all-in-ones such as the Canon Pixma MP600 previously mentioned. If you want to reproduce a print, you need to scan to file and, when the Kodak All-in-One Home Center window pops up, select Printer under Destination (or scan to your PC or memory card and print from there). While this obviously accomplishes the task, it's not as elegant as being able to complete the job in standalone mode.
We also found some shortcomings in the scan feature. When scanning you can designate the original as a document or a photo but your target options are limited to application, memory card, and file. Despite having USB ports for storage devices, you can't save scans to them. The built-in scan-to applications are limited to Kodak AiO Home Center, Microsoft Paint, and Kodak EasyShare, though you can add applications to the list in the Home Center. Most of the all-in-ones we've reviewed, such as the Canon Pixma MP600 and the HP Photosmart C6180, build in the ability to let you scan to programs such as Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop. And when scanning to a file, your options are TIFF, JPEG, bitmap, and PNG; unfortunately, you can't scan to PDF, which is a very useful option.
When printing photos without your PC, you have the choice of printing from a memory card, a storage device, or a PictBridge camera. For the first two, insert the device and step through to select the photos you want printed. Alternatively, hold down the OK button for two seconds to select all (and again to deselect all). If you're satisfied at this point, press Start. If you'd like to specify some options, press the Photo button. Here, you can adjust the number of prints, set the layout, choose between color and black-and-white prints, and designate print quality (draft, normal, best). You can't make tweaks to the photos such as cropping, red-eye removal, or adjusting contrast and brightness as you can on most of Canon and HP's photo-centric all-in-ones.
Alternatively, you can make an index print on either 8.5x11 or 4x6 paper or a proof sheet on 8.5x11 paper. The index print serves as a reference and includes file names and image numbers, while the proof sheet is a scannable document on which you can designate which photos you want printed and select the layout.
Finally, you can transfer files from a memory card or flash drive to your PC. When you initiate the transfer on the printer, it causes the Kodak EasyShare window to pop up on your PC. Here you can choose where you want the photos saved and their naming convention.
If you do a full install when setting up the printer, you'll get both the Kodak EasyShare software and the Kodak AiO Home Center. The AiO Home Center is a central location from which you can initiate scan, copy, and print tasks from your PC. You can also configure printer settings and order supplies. The EasyShare software itemizes all the photos on your PC and lets you view your collection. You can initiate photo prints, order prints online, and share photos (via e-mail or the Kodak Gallery). There's also a tab for creating projects, but oddly, you have to select the photos before selecting your project. The program then uploads them to the Kodak Gallery (online), where you create your project and place your order with Kodak. While this feature can be useful, we find it odd that it pushes you back to online printing instead of helping you create and print calendars, cards, and collages at home...on your Kodak printer.
The Canon Pixma iP1800 that we recently reviewed includes bundled software you can use to create projects on your PC and then print them on your home printer. Granted, products printed and bound by Kodak are likely to be of higher quality, but we think the software should at least give you the option of choosing between printing at home or ordering from Kodak. The EasyShare software lets you edit photos, however, and one nice touch we found was that some of the effects (such as color balance) were only applied to half the photo first, so you can see the before and after side-by-side before committing.
Overall, the Kodak EasyShare 5300 offers an oddly unbalanced feature set. The basics are there, but a lot of the features that make printing photos at home compelling are absent. It may be a fine product for those with the most basic photo-printing needs, but anyone who desires more advanced features will be disappointed.
When compared to comparably priced photo all-in-ones from other vendors, the Kodak EasyShare 5300's task speeds were all over the map. It was the slowest of four printers at text prints, producing 4.34 pages per minute. The Dell Photo 966, the HP Photosmart C5180, and the Canon Pixma MP600 were all faster, the Canon by a huge margin. With color graphics prints, however, the Kodak beat the pack, just edging out the HP printer. It was also fairly quick with 4x6 photo prints: when printing a single photo, it was nearly twice as fast as the print speeds of the Dell and the HP, though it's twice as slow as the Canon. Its photo print speed did improve to an average of 1.55 ppm when we did a 10-print job. The Kodak was fastest with scans, scoring 6.36ppm for grayscale and 6.3ppm for color.
|Color scan||Grayscale scan||4x6 photo||Graphics||Text|
The black text print showed mostly well-formed characters, though we saw some blips and fuzzy edges. The color graphics prints displayed smooth color gradients and detailed photo elements. Curved lines revealed some minor jagginess and though color blocks show nice saturation, they were also slightly grainy. The 4x6 color photo quality shows it to be serviceable enough for casual snapshots. Details were sharp and colors looked true, though they didn't pop. Close inspection showed some minor graininess in flesh tones, though.
The grayscale scan was a bit soft, and it had problems distinguishing some patterns. There was also some compression in the dark end of the grayscale, resulting in lost details in shadow areas. The color scan was better, displaying bright colors and sharp detail.
Overall, the speed and quality of the Kodak EasyShare 5300 peg it as a printer for casual users. For the same $200, you can get a better printer in the Canon Pixma MP600, though we did like the Kodak's scans better.
|Color scan||Grayscale scan||Photo||Graphics||Text|
Service and support
Kodak backs the EasyShare 5300 All-in-One with a one-year warranty. Toll-free phone support is available every day from 9 a.m. to midnight, ET. Online chat with tech support is available Saturday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., ET. You can also fill out an online form for e-mail support (the site says you will get a response within 24 hours). Kodak's site also has manuals, software downloads, an interactive troubleshooter and interactive tutorials, and FAQs.