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Kodak ESP 3.2 All-in-One Printer review: Kodak ESP 3.2 All-in-One Printer

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The Good The Kodak ESP 3.2 manages decent output performance on both speed and image quality.

The Bad A fixed-angle display limits its usability in tight spaces.

The Bottom Line Despite its remote-printing capabilities, the Kodak ESP 3.2's design blunders and inconsistent performance are unacceptable in the face of competing multifunctions in the sub-$100 category.

5.3 Overall
  • Design 4
  • Features 6
  • Performance 5
  • Support 8

The $100 ESP 3.2 is Kodak's beginner's multifunction device that can print, scan, fax, and copy, but a week of testing is all I need to give it a thumbs down. I'm especially disappointed that this entry-level device still suffers the same mechanical design issues of legacy models like the Kodak ESP 5. Despite its multiple connectivity options (including cloud printing), it's a tough sell against the Epson Stylus NX430 that offers more versatile features in a much sexier package.

Design and features
"Small-in-Ones" notwithstanding, the ESP 3.2 still has a compact footprint relative to other multifunction printers at 16.5 inch wide, 12.4 inches deep, and 7 inches tall. Its multifunction moniker means it prints, scans, and copies, 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. The Epson NX430 doesn't have one either, but the $80 Canon Pixma MX372 does if that's a purchase priority for you.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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 folds down on top of the scanner lid when not in use. Still, I prefer the Canon Pixma MX372's folding auto-document feeder for the streamlined look it lends to the machine.

The paper output tray sits flush within 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 me of a Playskool toy and gives the device a flimsy and delicate feel.

Sarah Tew/CNET

A thin plastic arm props up the cover when you raise it to expose the ink cartridges, similar to the hood of a car. The mechanism requires two hands to close and is a terrible design choice, almost guaranteed to break over time. I'm unsure why Kodak didn't just use a standard spring-mounted lid like the rest of the industry. Another serious complaint is the cover on top of the scanner bed folds on a fixed hinge and subsequently can't reach over thicker items like large books.

The ESP 3.2 retains the standard-size ink cartridge bay: one slot for black and another for color. This setup is common for printers in the low-end price range, and the Kodak Web site reports yield prices on par with the average inkjet printer. Additionally, the company also sells extra-large cartridge capacities that cost slightly more up front, but save you money in the long term.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The top of the device has a small 2.4-inch LCD display 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. Unfortunately, the screen sits at a fixed angle that may not be easy to see on taller shelves, so be cautious during the set up to ensure usability.

Kodak keeps the rest of the buttons on the control panel to a minimum, with virtual buttons on the side for power, cancel, navigation, and start. Just below the buttons you'll find a multimedia card reader for Memory Stick, SD, and MMC, but the printer lacks a USB port for printing directly from a digital camera.

By contrast, the Canon Pixma MX372 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. While the Canon's two-line dot matrix display isn't quite as fancy as the Kodak's color LCD, I see no added benefit to a full-color LCD on a printer that isn't designed to print a large volume of photos anyway.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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 it's 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 ESP 3.2 is also accessible on the run using the free Kodak Pic Flick App for iOS, Android, and BlackBerry device. Though the app doesn't offer the opportunity for heavy photo editing, you can specify the print quality and canvas size from 2 inches by 3 inches all the way up to the standard 8.5 inches by 11 inches.

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