Kodak ESP 3 All-in-One Inkjet Multifunction Printer
Sunday, June 8, 2008; 12:19 AM
The Kodak ESP 3 All-in-One color inkjet multifunction printer offers a little bit of a lot of things, for a low price. Because it's slow and sparsely featured, however, it's best suited for a light-use, home or student setting.
The ESP 3 is so sleek and compact, you can barely tell it's an MFP--and in fact, it barely is one. Its flatbed scanner lacks an automatic document feeder (ADF) for handling multipage documents. Its control-panel copy button counts up to just 9 (you can make up to 99 copies via Kodak's included scanning software). Its paper handling is also minimal. You flip   down a front panel to reveal an open bay. Thin, flimsy extensions pull out from the panel to form a small, 100-sheet input area (which takes plain paper as well as photo stock, envelopes, and other thick media). Printed pages exit from the same bay and simply fall atop the input area. Clearly the ESP 3 is designed for people who plan to produce just a handful of pages at a time.
The control panel looks better than it works. The bar-shaped buttons are sleek, but the labels are in many cases located far away--not right above the buttons or immediately to their side. Some buttons have a name in the documentation but no label on the control panel, which is even more confusing. Status lights turn on or off, blink, or change color to indicate various things, most of them inexplicable unless you check the documentation.
In our tests the ESP 3 struggled on multiple fronts. Plain-text pages crawled out at a rate of 6 pages per minute (ppm), color graphics at 2 ppm. On plain paper, plain text looked charcoal rather than black, finely drawn, and just a little imprecise; color images looked yellowish, dull, and fuzzy. The ink failed to stick to the paper in some instances, leaving random white speckles known as artifacts. The paper also had a noticeable curl from absorbing the ink. When we switched to Kodak's own paper, photos suddenly looked marvelous. Color scans also appeared yellowish, while copies of text documents seemed precise, yet a little light.
Kodak is making a name for itself with its low-priced inks.The ESP 3's black-ink cartridge costs $10 and is estimated to last 349 pages (2.9 cents per page). The tricolor ink cartridge costs $15 and is estimated to last 378 pages (4 cents per page).
For Kodak's consumer audience, the ESP 3 All-in-One is an adequate entry-level MFP. ButHP's Photosmart C5280costs just about the same and offers a great deal more.