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Kodak was a late arrival in the ink-jet all-in-one market when it introduced its 5300 and 5500 models last year. Its big claim to fame at that point was that printing costs would be much lower than those of its competitors. Now it has followed up with two further machines, the ESP 3 and ESP-5 and here we are reviewing the cheaper ESP 3 device.
In a break with the design of the earlier machines, the ESP 3 is kitted out entirely in black with the occasional silver and Kodak-yellow highlight. The textured top cover of the flatbed scanner is bordered on the right by a strip of high-gloss, which contains the device's controls.
These include buttons to select colour or black print, to automatically fit an original to the printed page and to scan, copy and cancel a job. What is conspicuous by its absence is any form of colour LCD display. In its place, you get a single, amber, seven-segment, numeric display for the number of copies (up to nine).
This lack of a pixel-based screen is reasonably common in entry-level all-in-ones, but Kodak's is a bit expensive for entry-level. Most offer a contact print facility, too, so you can print out thumbnails and mark up those you want to print as photos. Without this, you can't print from memory cards without having a PC connected and running, which limits the ESP 3's convenience.
The front cover of the Kodak printer pulls down and then out, to provide its paper feed tray. This can take up to 150 sheets, but without a cover for the paper you'll probably want to fold it up again when you're not printing, to prevent dust entering the mechanism.
That mechanism consists of a very similar print engine to Kodak's earlier machines and uses the same black and five-ink cartridges, too. This isn't a six-colour printer, as the five inks are cyan, magenta and yellow, plus a second dye-based black and a clear coating layer for photos.
Setting the printer up is easy enough, but you do have to clip in the machine's print head, before seating its two ink cartridges. There's then a quite prolonged charging cycle, in which a fair amount of ink is used to charge the print head. This only happens with the first cartridges you install, though.
Kodak provides its EasyShare software to control the device and this includes scanning and OCR software, as well as a well-featured printer driver. The device auto-detects the type of paper used, though only if you stick to Kodak photo papers.
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