You can buy a fairly decent entry-level printer for as little as £30, but there's a hidden cost: a set of replacement cartridges can cost as much as the printer itself. In fact, some experts have estimated that the unit cost of ink exceeds that of vintage champagne.
The EasyShare 5300 range is Kodak's attempt to reduce the cost of printing. The company claims it can save you up to 50 per cent compared to similar consumer inkjets. It also reckons the EasyShare 5300 can print Kodak lab-quality pictures that last a lifetime in as little as 28 seconds.
The main control panel, located on the right side of the lid, is home to 18 separate control buttons. This isn't as daunting as it may sound -- each one is suitably large and clearly labelled. There's a big, circular Start button flanked by on/off and cancel buttons, above which is a menu button and accompanying four-way cursor for navigating through the menu system.
Like most mid-range inkjets, the EasyShare 5300 has an integrated display. This particular one is 76mm (3 inches) in size and is used for displaying menus or previewing photos. Below the screen are buttons for scanning, copying and for photo adjustment. The latter lets you rotate, zoom, show a proof-sheet or to transfer images from a USB device, or from a Bluetooth device provided you have the optional adaptor.
The very front of the unit is very well-equipped -- it's home to a memory card reader supporting Memory Stick, SD and micro XD cards, plus a CompactFlash card reader. Below this you'll find two USB ports for attaching external storage devices. All of this is great for transferring pictures from a USB memory key or memory card -- without the need to use a PC.
The paper output tray is somewhat unusual. It has adjustable guides to help it spew paper in the right direction, but there's also a dedicated 100x150mm (4x6-inch) tray section beneath a Perspex panel, which can accommodate up to 20 sheets. Printing 4x6-inch photos on an A4 printer is often a daunting prospect, but not so here. It's a nice touch that we'd like to see in other printers.
The EasyShare 5300 is quite bulky. It measures 478mm wide, 224mm high and 373mm deep, so it's not the sort of thing you'd want to carry home from the shops: the box is quite large and the total package weighs a hefty 9.7kg. We don't appreciate the presence of the external power brick, either -- this is prone to getting lost or tangled. An integrated power brick would have been far better.
The 5300 uses a two-cartridge ink system, which Kodak refers to as a "six-ink" system. It's actually a four-ink system because the black-only cartridge is for mono text only, and one of the five 'colours' in the colour tank is actually a clear coating designed to protect the image. EasyShare black cartridges cost a relatively meagre £6.99 and have a 351-page yield, while colour cartridges cost £9.99 and have a 105-page yield.
According to Kodak, this equates to 7p per page for 100x150mm photos. It also says this isn't on a draft setting -- there's no such mode on the printer. We weren't able to independently verify Kodak's print cost claims, but it's worth bearing in mind that inks can't be replaced individually. If you run out of cyan, for example, you'll have to replace the entire colour cartridge, which can be hugely annoying, not to mention expensive.
The EasyShare 5300 is well-equipped but the software has some foibles. In the scanning feature, for example, there's no way of saving scans directly to USB key. You can scan directly to an application, but only if you use Kodak AiO Home Center (included), Microsoft Paint or Kodak EasyShare (also included) -- it's not possible to scan directly to MS Word or Photoshop, for example. We also don't like the way you can't directly copy a photo -- to produce a duplicate you'll need to scan to file then print it. It gets the job done, but it's not a very elegant solution.
You can edit photos but you can't, for example, create projects like calendars, cards and collages for printing at home. The software redirects you to the Kodak Web site and asks you to place an order for an online print -- somewhat nonsensical if you've just bought an economical, easy-to-use photo printer.
Print speeds were generally impressive. 100x150mm photos printed at 1.08 pages per minute (ppm), A4 graphics pages at 2.59ppm and plain text documents at 4.34ppm. The speed and quality of scanned images was also high. A4 colour scans were handled at 6.3ppm and greyscale at 6.36ppm.
Photos aren't quite lab quality, but you, and more importantly your loved ones, will be very hard-pressed to spot any flaws. There are a few reservations, though. Black text looked terrific from reading distance, but closer inspection showed slightly fuzzy edges. There were also jagged edges on curved lines, and flesh tones showed very minor graininess.
The EasyShare 5300 is one of the best inkjets in its class. We applaud Kodak for attempting to make printing less expensive, but there are a few shortcomings that spoil the party.
The software and user-interface can be a little screwy and individual inks can't be replaced, but this aside we'd recommend it wholeheartedly to the casual user.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield