Kodak has recently directed its considerable resources towards marketing its new range of inkjet printers. Having succeeded in its original aim of bringing imaging into people's daily lives with affordable, easy-to-use cameras, Kodak is on a mission to cut the cost of printing photos at home. It claims that its ESP all-in-one printers can save up to £75 per year on consumable costs compared with similar inkjet printers. The big question is whether they really are that cheap to run and, of course, whether they are any good.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that all the ESP printers use a combined colour ink cartridge, rather than separate cyan, magenta and yellow cartridges. This is par for the course in entry level inkjet machines but the ESP9 costs £193 and most printers in this price range use a four- or six-ink engine. The main benefit of separate ink cartridges is that you only need to replace one colour at a time; if you use a lot of cyan, you only need to replace the cyan cartridge. With a single colour ink tank, the whole cartridge will need to be replaced if the cyan runs out, regardless of how much yellow and magenta is left; this obviously impacts on the running costs.
Kodak has used the industry standard ISO/IEC 24711 methodology to test their printers' page yields and running costs, arriving at a cost of 4.6p per page for a mixture of text and colour on the EPS7. These tests use a standard A4 print with 20% coverage and equal volumes of all four colours. In the real world, though, home users will use the colours at different rates, which means that the actual running costs will be higher. Computer Shopper estimates that a cost of 8.6p per page is more realistic, although this still compares well with similar inkjet printers.
Early feedback suggests that print quality is good, although not exceptional (a bit disappointing from Kodak) and print speed, as always, is nowhere near the manufacturer's claims. With the exception of its single colour cartridge, the ESP9 is very close in specification to the HP C309A Photosmart printer, which is the same price, give or take a couple of pounds. However, the ESP7 is £13 more than the HP C7280 Photosmart, which comes with duplex as standard, although the Kodak has a larger LCD screen and larger input trays.
The main criticism of the Kodak printers has been the price of the machines themselves, although the cost of the consumables means that consumers should get value for money over the life of the printer. If Kodak are serious about saving us money, though (and reducing waste), then a range of printers with separate colour cartridges would be the next logical step.
by Anthony Morgan