Small and unassuming, the $99 Kodak ESP 3.2 sports many of the same features as competing all-in-one printers from Canon, HP and Epson for half the price. That includes an integrated flatbed scanner and copier, and a plethora of mobile printing options, from Google Cloud Print to print-by-email. Is this deal too good to be true?
Click to EnlargeIn a world of nothing-but-black printers, the Kodak ESP 3.2 certainly stands out from the crowd. While it has a glossy black finish on the lid and a matte black finish around the sides, a bright yellow accent line runs around the front lip of the lid in homage to Kodak's traditional colors. Unfortunately, in our opinion, the yellow accent line gives the ESP 3.2 a slightly retro look that clashes with its otherwise modern aesthetic.
At just 16.5 x 12.4 x 7 inches and 11.5 pounds, the ESP 3.2 is lighter than the Canon PIXMA MG6220 (18.5 x 14.5 x 6.9 inches, 20.1 pounds) and Epson WorkForce 845 (17.6 x 14.5 x 11.8 inches, 22 pounds), and takes up much less space on the desk. Only the HP Photosmart 5520 matches the ESP 3.2 for size and weight, coming in at 21.5 x 17.5 x 5.6 inches and 11.2 pounds.
Click to EnlargeA small 1.9 x 1.4-inch capacitive LCD touch screen sits just to the left of the lid, flanked by buttons for Home, Back and Help on the left, and Cancel and Go on the right. Although small compared with other printers, the touch screen was easy to read and proved responsive to our taps. Just below the display are the power button, an LED indicating if the Wi-Fi is on or off, and a card reader. Supported formats include SD, SD High Capacity, MMC, Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro, with further support for Memory Stick Duo, miniSD and microSD enabled via an adapter.
A 100-sheet rear-feed paper tray sits on the back of the printer, with a collapsible output tray just below the lid. Printed pages can be as large as 8.5 x 11 inches for borderless photos and 8.5 x 14 inches for documents.
Setting up the Kodak ESP 3.2 was a simple process. In less than 10 minutes, we installed the ink cartridges, installed the bundled software on our notebook, and connected our printer to the wireless network. The printer didn't require any calibration or download and installation of updates, unlike the Canon PIXMA MG6220 and Epson WorkForce 845.
Kodak Email Print Service
Like Epson and HP, Kodak allows ESP 3.2 owners to send documents directly to their printer via email (thus bypassing the need to be connected to your printer over the network). Setting up Email Print was fairly simple. When we set up the ESP 3.2, we had used the disc that comes with printer to install Kodak AiO Home Center on our notebook (you can download this software from Kodak's website, as well). From there, we clicked on Cloud Print Setup and followed the on-screen instructions. Within five minutes, our ESP 3.2 had its own unique email address and Email Print was up and running.
To print documents and photos, we simply emailed the files to the printer's unique email address as attachments. In terms of speed, Kodak Email Print proved to be middle-of-the-road: A 2-page black and white Word document printed in 61 seconds, a 2-page color PDF in 62 seconds, and a 4 x 6 color photo in 1 minute and 26 seconds. HP's ePrint service printed the same files in 0:38, 0:48 and 2:16, while Epson's Email Print took 0:58, 2:15 and 2:40, respectively.
Google Cloud Print
Unlike Canon, Kodak makes it easy to get Google's print-over-the-air service up and running. In fact, setting up Email Print installs Google Cloud Print at the same time. Of course, Google Cloud Print still suffers from the same limitations on the ESP 3.2 as on other printers: You have to download a third-party app to your Android device (we installed an application called Cloud Print) to use the service. However, we can't fault Kodak for Google's failings.
Thankfully, Google Cloud Print works quickly on the ESP 3.2. A 2-page black-and-white Word document and 2-page color PDF printed in 53 seconds, and a 4 x 6 photo in 1 minute and 12 seconds. By comparison, the same documents printed using Google Cloud Print completed in 1:05, 0:55 and 2:30 on the HP Photosmart 5520; 1:10, 1:13 and 1:23 on the Canon PIXMA MG6220; and 1:51, 1:20 and 1:23 on the Epson WorkForce 845.
Kodak Pic Flick App
In addition to Email Print and Google Cloud Print, Kodak offers a few mobile printing apps of its own. The Pic Flick App, available on iOS, BlackBerry and Android devices, allows you to send photos directly from your phone or tablet to a Cloud Ready printer such as the ESP 3.2. Setting up the app on our Toshiba Excite 10 proved exceedingly simple - we just downloaded the Pic Flick app from the Play Store, and it automatically recognized our ESP 3.2.
Using both the Excite 10 and iPhone 4S, the app printed a 4 x 6 photo in a mere 32 seconds. iPad owners can also use Kodak's Pic Flick HD app to create prints, frames and cards. Printing a 4 x 6 photo via the Pic Flick HD app took a mere 21 seconds. Canon offers a similar application called PIXMA Cloud Print, but it allows users to only print photos from Picasa or the CANON iMAGE GATEWAY and performs twice as slowly as Kodak's app.
Kodak Document Print App
Despite its heritage as a manufacturer of photographic equipment, Kodak doesn't restrict itself to just photos. Android users (sorry, no iOS support here) can also download the Document Printer app, a robust application that lets users print documents (and photos, despite its name) from local storage, a Web page, Google Docs, Dropbox or Evernote. Printing a 2-page black-and-white Word document from Google Docs took 56 seconds, a 2-page color PDF in 54 seconds, and a 4 x 6 color photo in 54 seconds, nearly on a par with printing speeds over the wireless network.
Unfortunately, the Kodak ESP 3.2 doesn't support Apple's over-the-air printing app. Considering how much simpler we found it to print documents on the HP, Canon and Epson using AirPrint, this lack of support is a drawback.
Printer Performance and Photo Quality
The ESP 3.2 offers wireless printing speeds that were in the same ballpark as the HP Photosmart 5520 and Canon PIXMA MG6220, but at times it was slightly slower. The ESP 3.2 printed a 2-page Word document in 22 seconds (0:22 on the HP, 0:27 on the Canon), a 2-page PDF in 47 seconds (0:35 on the HP, 0:45 on the Canon), and a 4 x 6 photo in 1 minute and 17 seconds (0:49 on the HP, 0:57 on the Canon). The Epson WorkForce 845 delivered the fastest printing speeds of all the printers we tested, printing the same files in 18 seconds, 34 seconds and 1 minute and 20 seconds, respectively.
Although it may not be the fastest printer on the block, the ESP 3.2 offered nearly the best overall quality. Text printed on plain paper looked sharp and suffered from less of the subtle graininess that we found when printing text on the HP, Canon and Epson. Images on the color PDF looked similarly sharp; only the Canon produced similarly clean results.
The Kodak ESP 3.2 also takes the cake in terms of photo quality. Not only were its colors much more vibrant, but details in a 4 x 6 photo of a Sonoma Valley vineyard, such as leaves on grapevines, cracks in a barn roof and distant hills, exhibited much greater fidelity.
Kodak offers replacement color cartridges for $19.99 ($35.98 for high-capacity cartridges), black cartridges for $12.99 ($19.99 for high-capacity), and a combo pack for $32.98. This isn't much more expensive than other manufacturers, who offer replacement cartridges at $18 to $19 each.
Besides wireless and mobile printing, users can print documents directly from memory cards on the ESP 3.2.
Like every other all-in-one, the Kodak ESP 3.2 doubles as a scanner and copier. The scanner, found just below the lid, sports an optical resolution of 1,200 dpi. Among its special features, users can scan multiple photos simultaneously and have them separated automatically, and scan and edit documents using optical character recognition. Users can scan documents to their PC, email, Google Docs or a memory card.
The scanner can also be used as a copier, which supports documents up to 8.5 x 11 inches in size.
Click to EnlargeInexpensive, easy to set up and boasting excellent print quality, the $99.99 Kodak ESP 3.2 provides exceptional value. Those looking for a more business-centric printer might prefer the Epson WorkForce 845, which has such features as a 500-sheet feeder, duplex printing and faxing. However, home users will find the ESP 3.2 meets or bests more expensive competitors when it comes to quality and speed. While we wish the ESP 3.2 supported AirPrint, given its excellent overall performance and affordable price tag, we're willing to look past this deficiency.