The simplistic design, barebones editing software, and lack of features peg the $170 Kodak ESP5 as an entry level all-in-one printer. Unfortunately, you can do much better for the money; for example, the HP OfficeJet J6480 is meant for the home office, but still produces excellent quality photos and even includes a fax machine with an autofeeder for just $30 more. The inflated price tag and mechanical deficiencies prevent us from recommending Kodak ESP5.
Design and Features
The printer has the same simple black design as the ESP3, its cheaper cousin that lacks the LCD screen. The perforated scanner cover adds an elegant touch and the smaller footprint (6.9 inches tall by 16.6 inches wide by 11.8 inches deep) will easily fit into tight quarters, but the majority of the printer is made of a light plastic that 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 printer industry has slowly started to steer more toward photo printers with five individual color ink cartridges for less waste, but the ESP5 still retains the standard-size ink cartridge bay: one for black and one for five different colors. The Kodak Web site reports 10 cents per color photo, a relatively decent price for 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 most obvious advancement over previous models is the ESP5's 3-inch LCD screen that lets you perform light photo-editing features right on the printer. The options aren't nearly as sophisticated as the HP Photosmart C8180, but the choices are fine for the average photo enthusiast. We're also happy to see that the home screen has a shortcut to copy or scan a document--we usually see this option at least two or three clicks into the menu. The screen itself moves on a hinge so you can see it from a variety of angles and also folds down flush into the printer when it's not in use. The rest of the basic faceplate features zoom, menu, start, and cancel buttons. Just below the buttons you'll find a multimedia card reader for MemorySticks, xD, SD, and Compact Flash cards. There's also a USB port at the bottom for printing directly from a USB key or a PictBridge-compatible digital camera.
The ESP5 feeds paper through one tray for both input and output and can accommodate up to 100 sheets of paper in a variety of sizes. At this price, we would have liked to see two separate trays for output organization and perhaps even a separate tray for 4-inch-by-6-inch photo paper so that you don't have to deal with taking out paper every time you want to swap media. We also encountered several paper jams--enough to where we found ourselves constantly monitoring our tests to watch for error. Most of the jams are caused by the small plastic guide that's supposed to align the paper according to its size, although most of the time its tiny reach results in bunched up, misfed bundles of paper.
The printer ships with the two separate installation discs for Mac OS X and Windows XP/Vista. It also 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 let these two crucial features fall by the wayside.
Luckily, you get more options in the print center. In the initial set up, you can set the software to automatically scan your computer for photos and is actually very easy to navigate, like an iPhoto for Dummies. Once you've chosen the photos to print, the software offers the opportunity to edit each individual picture with a variety of one-touch enhancements including color sharpening, red-eye reduction, color restoration, and Kodak's "Perfect Touch" technology that combines all three in one button. You can alter the severity of each adjustment under the settings menu. The software also lets you perform a custom facial retouch that analyzes portraits and fixes skin blemishes and discoloration accordingly. The result doesn't always work as well as a custom Photoshop edit, but the learning curve is much shorter and meant for the average users wanting to clean up their images with little to no hassle.
The Kodak ESP5 is a little inconsistent in terms of its speed. We compared it with several other all-in-one inkjets in a similar price range, and while it printed at almost the exact same speed as the ESP3, the rest of the results aren't as clear cut. The ESP registered at the bottom of the list for text, printing at a low 4.39 pages, yet it topped the competition in the photo speed test, standing tall at 1.37 pages per minute. It's worth noting that the rest of the sample scores aren't very widespread, and we doubt you'll notice a significant difference in speed over a long period of time. It's safe to say, however, that the Kodak ESP5 comes in at a very average pace.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Photo Speed||Color Scanning Speed||Graphics Speed||Text Speed|
We complained that the ESP3 produced blotchy, transparent colors and unrealistic skin tones, so we're happy to see the improvement Kodak has made in the ESP5. Color text under the "normal" setting still leaves a bit to be desired and we can still see visible banding in darker shading, but the transition from color to color is visibly cleaner with more distinct line formation. We recommend specifying "best" as the default print quality; you'll notice a significant difference between "normal" and "best."
Service and support
Kodak protects the ESP5 with a comprehensive one-year warranty that covers the printer as well as the print head. It also covers ink cartridges for 13 months from the date of manufacture or until it needs to be replaced, whichever comes first. The warranty includes toll free phone support from 9 a.m. to midnight ET every day, and an online chat system that lets you speak with a Kodak technician from Saturday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET. Kodak's site also has manuals, software downloads, and interactive tutorials to help with the troubleshooting process.
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