Kodak has come a long way since it launched its EasyShare 5000 range of inkjet all-in-ones back in 2007. Then it was breaking into a mature market and some commentators wondered if it would ever be a major player. The release of its third generation of machines, after the EasyShare and ESP models, shows how far the company has come.
At the launch of the hero range, Kodak showed data from industry analysts GfK which gives it second position in both value and unit sales in Britain. Although it’s still some way behind HP, the company has done well to steal share, mainly from Epson, and rise to this position. It’s advertising campaign, which majors on low running costs, must be getting through.
The hero 5.1, the entry-level machine in the new range, is pitched at just under £100, which is not a budget purchase, but the ESP C range will continue in parallel, for those with less in their pockets.
The industrial designers have been in at Kodak and the new machines all have a more angular, square-cut look, which is smart and functional. The highlight under the scanner lid, which has been Kodak orange for years, is now Kodak red and the flip-up 61mm LCD sits to the right of the scanner, behind a very simple control panel.
With a navigation ring and seven clearly-labelled ancillary buttons, it would be hard to get confused using this machine. Just under the front lip are two slots, one for SD and MemoryStick cards and the other for USB and PictBridge connections. All very convenient.
There's a single paper tray at the front, which can take up to 100 sheets of plain paper, or around 20 photo blanks. The paper feeds out to the front, too, but you need to extend the support in the paper tray lid and flip up the stop at the end.
The printer supports both USB and wireless connection, but wireless is favourite, as it also gives access to Cloud printing. This is the big selling point of the hero range, as it provides access to the printer from all sorts of phones and tablets. Rather than going the proprietary route, as HP did with ePrint, Kodak has tied up with Google, so with a Google account you can send e-mails directly to the printer.
We tried this and it certainly worked from our Samsung Galaxy Mini, though the limitations on controlling size of prints, number of copies and other things you'd normally find in a print driver are absent, as they are with ePrint.