Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Kodak ESP-3 Review

Finding that my stack of resumes was running out, and that the wallet-raper known as our printer was out of ink, rather than throw more money at Brother Inc, Sunny and I took the opportunity to upgrade.

For once this was actually a necessary and intelligent upgrade.

You see, ink for our current printer costs almost $80, but we discovered that for just ten dollars more we could get a Kodak ESP-3 all-in-one printer from the local Wally-World. The benefits of owning a Kodak photo printer are obvious, but what really grabbed my attention with the new Kodak line was the price of the ink. It costs just ten bucks for a black and white cartridge and fifteen for the color.

Basically, this printer pays for itself. We spent ten dollars more for this printer (that comes with ink) than we would for just ink cartridges alone on our old model…and the next time we run out, we'll be spending $25 instead of $80…which means we're $45 up on the deal after our first refill.

So the ink is dirt-cheap, but this begs the question…is the ESP-3 any good?

Well, we bought the most basic model from the new line of Kodak printers, but for $90, what you get for your money isn't exactly what I'd call basic.

What you get for your money is a fairly standard all-in-one printer than scans and copies but also has a built in CF/MS/XD/SD card reader and camera port. It has a lot of nice features like the ability to connect your camera directly to the printer, and the software comes with a number of nice presets such as the ability to scan a faded photo and have the software restore the color automatically.

However, what really jumped out at me was the print quality, which can only be described as outstanding. As long as the picture you're printing is at an appropriately high DPI, the print quality is absolutely indistinguishable from 'professional' prints. As a test, I also printed a jpeg of this Penny Arcade laser cell, partly because it has a wide range of tones, but mostly because I like it…and what came out of the printer was truly mind-boggling. The colors were reproduced absolutely perfectly and it looked professional. It looked like something I'd bought rather than something I'd printed myself. The quality was absolutely amazing

This is even more surprising because this printer also prints incredibly quickly, taking between twenty and thirty seconds for a borderless 8X10 photo-quality print.

One of the things I really like about this printer is that it also takes a lot of the frustration out of printing. The printer will automatically detect the size and type of paper that you're using, meaning that printing photos is a breeze. With my old printer I often wasted ink and paper trying to get the picture scaled right on the paper. With the ESP-3, it's a matter of clicking 'scale to fit', putting in the number of copies you want and setting it going.

It's not just the pictures either. After printing a copy of my resume I held it next to one of the copies from my old printer, and there was a very noticeable quality difference. The copies from the Kodak printer just looked sharper and crisper.

There are a few minor downsides, however.

The first is that this printer is pretty noisy. Obviously, I'm not talking about dot-matrix levels of noise, but its motor can be fairly loud.

Also, and this may just be down to a faulty cartridge or first power-up 'priming' but immediately upon installing, the ink monitor showed that both the color and ink cartridges were about 5/6ths full. Having said that, I've printed four borderless 8x10 photos and a huge stack of resumes since then, and the ink monitor hasn't moved.

However, those problems are a small price to pay for such an amazing printer. Not only is the quality amazing, but you'll actually find yourself using it more. With my old printer, I rarely printed photographs simply because it was so expensive to do so. With the cost of printer ink so high, for most people, printing was relegated to 'work only' applications. With this printer it's entirely possible to 'print for fun' simply because the associated costs are so much lower.

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