The Kodak ESP 3 does not come with an official manual, just a short start-up guide pamphlet, which was disappointing. While the printer is a simple printer with few on-unit options, it still would've been confident to have a hard-copy manual for instructions, software, connections and troubleshooting. Kodak appears to have a trend of not including a print version of manuals, as the Kodak EasyShare 5300 also did not come with one. But other manufacturers like HP and Canon do include manuals. In the Canon MX850 initial package, a 188-page hard copy manual was included.
Out of the Box 7.00
The Kodak ESP 3 comes with black and color ink, sample paper, a software CD, a quick start pamphlet, power supply, adapter cord and the printer itself. A USB cord is not included with the printer, which is needed to connect the printer to your PC.
Hooking up the printer was simple and required plugging it in and connecting to a PC with a USB cord, which again, was not supplied with the printer.
The Kodak ESP 3 gets a lower setup score because of its poor performance in software installation. Because a previous version of the Kodak EasyShare software was present on our tested PC, the ESP 3 software took not only a lot of time to install but provided a lot of run-arounds, which made the setup process very painful and tedious. The ESP 3 official website has troubleshooting options for this exact problem, which tells us this may happen more often than not. It took a nearly two hour chat session with Kodak live chat representative to fix the problem and even then, it wasn't fully repaired. Although this may not be a problem for those new to Kodak or whose PCs are clear of Kodak software, it may happen for those upgrading from another Kodak printer, specifically in the EasyShare family.
The driver of the Kodak ESP 3 was visually more interactive than its competing Canon MX850 and HP Photosmart 5180, because it provided more and larger icons and they were clickable. This was really nice because it made the options provided in the driver more comprehensible.
The Printing Preferences window contains three tabs: General, Layout and Advanced. The General tab contains options for setting the quality, paper size, quantity and whether you want the print to be in portrait or landscape. The Layout tab provides options to set the size and scale of the printer, whether you want a booklet, poster layout or what the print to be 100% of the original or more or less. The Layout section also displays the ink levels. And the Advanced controls the options for whether you want use the color ink or just the black, the paper type, and whether you'd like the printer to place a watermark on your prints. The Advanced section also displays the ink levels for the printer.
The main portal into the software is through the Kodak AiO Home Center which provides six clickable options: Scan Pictures and Documents, Copy Pictures, Print Pictures, Configure Settings, My Resource Center and Order Supplies. When the printer is off or not plugged in, the first four options will be grayed out and unclickable. When the printer is properly plugged in to a PC and powered on, those deactivated options will become active.
The scanning and copying options are described in the scan and copy sections later on, but basically are simple, minimal steps to copying and scanning. There are no editing features in the two; the closest thing to an image or document editing tool provided is the "color restored" scan or copy.
The Print Pictures section has a little more to work with, but again not much. The Print Pictures section allows you to browse your PC for pictures and organize their viewing by either the date taken or by name. You can either print via your PC or through a memory stick or other card slot provided on the printer unit itself. Once you've selected photographs, the editing options available are categorized as enhancements, adjustments, custom facial retouch and cropping.
The enhancements tab offers sharpening, color restoration, red eye reduction, facial retouch and Kodak Perfect Touch. The photograph below shows the effects of the Kodak Perfect Touch option when its selected.
If you compare the above image to the original up top, you'll see that the Kodak Perfect Touch feature actually made the image imperfect, making it appear dull and ghostly. All of the options within enhancements are automatic changes, which means the software makes the adjustments for you and you don't have a say in how much impact they will have on your images. And as you can see from the example above, sometimes being able to have control is necessary. You get some freedom in the adjustments tab because it provides toggle adjustments in brightness, contrast, saturation, shadows, midtones and highlights.
The good thing about this program is whatever changes you made in the previous tab gets carried over in the next. So you don't have to go back to undo the changes. But it doesn't carry over past the adjustments tab.
The custom facial retouch tab is probably the most interesting because it allows you to select a face in your image and apply the facial retouch feature. You can adjust it increments of default, low or medium. And the last option is cropping, which allows you to crop within a paper size like 4x6 inch or a free form crop, where you can decide the actual dimensions.
The warm-up time for the Kodak ESP 3 ranged in between times but average out to be about 28 seconds. The ESP 3 doesn't shy away from making a noisy start-up. In fact, the ESP 3 serenades while starting up with a tone so unpleasant, it could rival an alarm clock. The ESP 3's start-up was also 3 seconds longer than the MX850, which took 25 seconds to warm up. The ESP 3 did come far under the HP Photosmart C5180, which took an astounding 40 seconds to warm up.
Power Usage 7.20
The Kodak ESP 3 was moderate on its power usage in comparison. Although the Kodak ESP 3 did not have an idle phase, it's ready mode took up 4 watts. The ESP 3 used the least power, and was better than the even the HP Photosmart C5180 which needed 5.6 watts to stay in ready mode and the Kodak EasyShare 5300 which required a high 13 watts.
The ESP 3 didn't keep this low usage theme through its off usage, taking up 4 watts. It matched the usage of the HP Photosmart C5180 that also took up 4 watts but lost to the Canon MX850 took up only 1 watt. The ESP faltered in printing and cleaning, coming in second and third place, respectively, with 14 watts in printing and 15 watts in cleaning.
Document Speed 5.02
The ESP 3 made decent timings in its document speed tests. It averaged third place in text printing with its speed of 5.45 pages per minute and averaged third place again in graphic printing with its speed of 1.70 pages per minute. This was disappointing because of the compared printers, the ESP 3 is the only one without a fax feature, leaving more room to improve in other areas like print speed and quality. The Kodak ESP 3 only out-did a previous Kodak printer, the EasyShare 5300 and that doesn't say much for the improvement in the ESP 3's performance. While it's good that Kodak has improved its print speed in the ESP 3, it still isn't doing a good job staying on par with its competitors. The HP Photosmart was the ESP 3's closest performer outdoing the ESP 3 in text print speed by 0.15 pages per minute and graphic speed by 0.87 pages per minute.
Photo Speed 7.43
The ESP 3 took a pleasant trend in photo performance to its compared printers. Outside of minor differences in printing 4x6 prints through a PC, the ESP 3 printed out prints at the same speed from source files both small and large. Whether the ESP 3 was printing large file prints or small, it kept the same speed for both. This was a great plus for the Kodak because while other printers like the Canon MX850 produced large filed 4x6 prints at a slower rate than the small filed 4x6 prints, the ESP 3 remained constant. We give the Kodak ESP 3 a bonus thumbs up because this may mean the difference in spending an extra few minutes reducing the size of your prints to save ten minutes in print speed, which can be really inconvenient if you’re pressed on time.
With that said, the ESP 3 also did well in speed performance overall. Although the ESP 3 was slow at printing 4x6 images from a Compact Flash card, it speedily printed 8.5x11 photographs via both PC and Compact Flash executions. The ESP 3 displayed a major improvement in speed from the Kodak EasyShare 5300, which produced .58 photographs per minute while the ESP 3 produced a really good 2.08 photographs per minute. The ESP 3 was even faster when printing 8.5x11 prints from a Compact Flash at 2.27 photographs per minute.
Color Accuracy 2.02
The color accuracy test examines how well the printer can duplicate colors, more specifically the correct shade of colors. This is important in a printer's performance because it shows how well a printer can copy a photograph's colors, which can be from capturing the right shade of grass, skin color or wood paneling. It can even mean the difference from taking a picture with white teeth and having them turn a different shade on the printed photograph because the printer doesn't print whites very white. The chart below is a representation of the chart we use for the test; the closer the printer can get to these colors, the better its score and performance.
The ESP 3 performed poorly on the color accuracy test, with a mean color error of 9.36. This is a large error compared to the Canon MX850 which earned a color error of 4.93 and the HP C5180 which earned a color error of 7.93. It beat the Kodak 5300 by a small margin as 8.34, but again that doesn't say much when compared to competitors.
The graph above shows the results of Kodak's ESP 3 performance. The longer the lines in between the square and circle are, the less the ESP 3 was able to match the actual color. The ESP 3 had big misses in portraying yellows (box 16), greens (box 14) and the combination of the two. It also swaggered in orange and cyan. It followed by significantly missing reds, blues, greens and yellows. Although the ESP 3 didn't miss these shades as gravely as others like box 12 or box 16, it missed enough to make a noticeable difference in shade, which isn't a good thing since it also missed box 2, which is light skin.
Color Gamut 1.98
The gamut test is a measure of how much of the standard Adobe RGB color space the printer can reproduce accurately. Printers that can reproduce more of this color space produce a richer color range in images. The manufacturer’s color profiles are used and compared to the Adobe RGB color space.
The above graph displays the results of the gamut test and the range the ESP 3 was able to cover. The overlay grid represents the entire color space, while the solid core represents the space the printer was actually able to cover. The smaller the core, the worse the coverage and the larger and closer to the grid, the better the performance. The ESP 3 did especially poor on the gamut test. It was only able to cover 30.47% of the color space. This score is very poor when compared with the previous Kodak EasyShare 5300 earned a higher 42% matching the coverage of 42%the HP Photosmart C5180 earned as well.
The DMax test is a test that shows how deep the blacks are that the printer can produce. This is most important and relative when it comes to printing black-and-white graphics or photographs. If you want a really rich black-and-white photograph, then the printer needs to be able to produce dark blacks, rather than dark grays or light blacks, which some printers do. The closer to a score of 2.5 a printer is, the better and richer the blacks it can produce.
The ESP 3 dropped the ball in the DMax section missing the margin with its score of 2.03. It flunked even when compared to the Kodak 5300, which it was so far beating in every other section. The Kodak 5300 earned a value score of 2.43, even out-scoring the Canon MX850 which came in with a value of 2.35.
Black and White 6.00
The ESP 3 produced good black and white photographs, but tended to be on the darker side. While on the standard settings, it blurred out some detail in the darker regions and didn't go as white as it could have in the whiter regions. When we changed the settings to best quality, it didn't make a noticeable difference. If you looked very sharply you might be able to notice the slightest differences, but at first look, they looked identical.
In its entirety, the printer is black and accents of a few silver buttons and white lettering. The Kodak ESP 3 is rectangular in shape with a slightly concaved front end. This printer is not too big or small, its medium, which means it won't fit in small places but won't take up an overly large amount of space.
The top of the ESP 3 contains the scanner, copier and the unit’s buttons and controls. The ESP 3 doesn’t have an automatic document feeder, so all copies and scans must be placed on the scanner one-by-one. There’s no clear handle to open the scanner, but the lid opens very easily and is very lightweight. However, its not one of those lids that can stay open on its own. You must hold it open.
To the right of the scanner/copier are the buttons and controls. These are rightly aligned on the printer with the buttons all against the top right wall and their associating names to the left of the buttons. The buttons are separated into two small boxes by a thin white line. On the top side of the line is the power button followed by ink alert lights and the cancel and scan button. Below the white line are buttons associated with the copy feature including quantity, whether the copies should be made of color or black ink and the copy button.
The front of the ESP 3 houses the input and output tray, which are actually one single tray. Paper is placed at the bottom of the tray and completed prints are ejected right on top of the unused paper. Although an efficient way to use the one tray provided, it’s not good if you’re unaware of how much paper is left in the input tray and you won’t be able to tell unless you pick up the completed prints.
Also on the front right hand side of the printer are the card slots. The front of the ESP 3 gets a thumbs up because the ports are labeled. On the top right side of the front are two slots: the left slot is compatible with a memory stick, XD card and an SD card. The slot to the right is a Compact Flash slot. Below these two slots at the bottom is a USB port for syncing cameras.
The left side contains no slots, ports or buttons.
The right side contains no slots, ports or buttons.
The back of the printer is clear outside of a USB port and a power cord port. The USB port is intended to connect the printer to a PC. Outside of these two ports, the only thing visible is the joints of the scanning bed and the joints of the top half, which you open to replace the ink.
Right under the scanning bed lid is another lid, one that opens up into the interior of the printer. This isn't nearly as light as the scanning lid, but there is extra reinforcement to keep it open. A bar on the right side of the lid comes out and rests itself its appropriated slot, much like a car's hood support arm. There is just enough open space in the interior to replace the ink cartridges. To the right of this is a sort of platform where instructions are graphically labeled.
The ESP 3 has no on-unit display. All print requests and scans must be executed through the PC, making these features less efficient.
Paper Trays 1.50
The Kodak ESP 3 has one tray for both input and output paper. The tray opens manually and paper is placed at the bottom of the tray. The ESP 3 releases printed and copied paper right on top of the blank papers. Although it's making good use of the one tray provided, it isn't an efficient method because the completed prints fall right over the blank pages.
CD Burner 0.00
The ESP 3 does not come with a CD burner.
A power cord is provided with the printer to supply power. Although the printer may be small enough, it does not provide the capability to operate on a battery.
Internal Memory 0.00
The ESP 3 has no user accessible internal memory.
Although the Kodak ESP 3 has multiple functions, it is unable to multi-task. You cannot scan and print at the same time.
Hard Drive 0.00
There is no hard drive on the ESP 3.
The ESP 3 comes with a good assortment of accessories from paper, ink to a USB 2.0 Bluetooth adapter and even a USB wireless device server. Additional accessories include a wide variety of SD cards ranging from 256 MB to 2 GB. Paper for the ESP 3 can be purchased separately or in Kodak's prepackaged bundles.
Controls and Buttons 6.50
The buttons on the ESP 3 are laid out well for its size and design. All aligned on the right side, the buttons are well-sized and readable with black push buttons accompanied by white lettering.
Since the Kodak ESP 3 doesn't have an on-unit screen, there are no menus.
The Kodak ESP 3 fits in the middle range in terms of size. It's neither large nor compact, but it's lightweight enough to be easily moved around with a weight of 13.1 lbs.
The inks for the ESP 3 are conveniently separated into two cartridges, one for black and the other for color. The color cartridge has also separated itself by color, as seen below. Although this may be good thing in terms of only have to deal with two cartridges, its actually inefficient because the color cartridges is one whole unit, meaning when one or two colors run out, the entire color cartridge will need to be replaced. The driver of the ESP 3 also doesn't measure individual colors, but the cartridge as a whole. So you may end up with a lot of yellow or magenta but since the cyan has run out, you'll need a new color cartridge. With that said, the ESP 3 did a good job of making ink last, especially compared to the Canon iP2600, which also only uses two cartridges but went through ink much faster.
The prices of ink for the ESP 3 are very reasonable at $14.99 for the color cartridge and $9.99 for the black. The black ink is one of the least expensive inks we've seen and lasts long for the price. The color cartridge is on par with other multi-color ink cartridges.
The one draw back with the ESP 3 ink system is that while other printers have the option of a black ink tank, or additional volumes of ink, the ESP 3 does not. You only have one size of ink cartridge to choose from.
Ink Management 4.00
The printing preferences window always has a graphic for ink levels on the bottom right hand corner. When the printer is properly connected to a PC and powered on, the printing preferences first tab, General, will let you know how much ink remains. Every time you execute a print, a status window will open and also updated ink levels.
Print Quality 0.00
Because the ESP 3 doesn't have an on-unit menu or monitor, there are no on-unit print quality settings. All quality settings must be made through the driver and printing preferences window.
Internal Editing 0.00
Again, because the Kodak ESP 3 does not have an on-unit menu there are no editing options through the printer itself. The printer software and drivers, or third party software like Photoshop, can edit photographs.
Dedicated B/W Settings 1.00
Outside of selecting to use the black cartridge from the unit, there are no other black and white settings.
Media Types 3.50
The ESP 3 takes plain paper, photo paper, greeting card paper, transparencies and envelopes.
Scan Features 1.50
The scan features for the ESP 3 are all in the Kodak AiO Home Center and consist of whether you want the scan output to be a color picture, a black and white picture, a color restored picture, a color document, or a black and white document. After selecting an output option, you can either go straight to scanning your item or previewing it before your officially scan it on to your PC.
Scan Speed 5.48
The scanning software for the ESP 3 was a bit tricky when it came to choosing the resolution size. There's a separate configuration section on the Kodak Home Center for just the scanner, but it makes no difference when you execute a scan through Kodak Home Center's Scan command. If you're going to execute a scan from the Kodak software, it must be chosen in the scan section itself.
Above is the scan window where the resolution changes should be made. You can switch back and forth between basic (shown in the top right hand corner of the window) and advanced (which the screen is on now in the above window).
The ESP 3 didn't do well on the scan test. Although it was on par with other printers in the lower resolutions like 75 and 150, it didn't do well in the higher resolution scans of 600 and 1200. The ESP 3 produced the slowest scans in all of the 600 to 1200 resolution scan tests. It did especially poor in the 1200 resolution 8.5x11-ink text document. Most of the 1200 resolution scans failed several times. Although a warning was giving at the beginning of some of the 1200 resolution scans, warning that it may stall the PC, it ended up freezing it and producing errors before completely closing the software. This isn't a problem with the computer (we've done 1200dpi scans from this system with other printers), but seems to be a problem with the printer software.
Scan Color Quality
Like the Color Accuracy segment in the Photo Performance section, we measure the color quality of the scan by scanning the Colorchecker Chart (displayed below) and then running it through a program we use called Imatest, which tests how accurately the ESP 3 scanned the colors.
The ESP 3, again, had problems accurately capturing colors through it scan feature. Although it was pretty good with yellows, it gravely missed greens, blues and reds. With that said, its overall performance in color accuracy was better in the scan than in the print version. If you recall, the mean color error for the printed chart was 9.36, for the scanned feature it's 8.62. Not a big improvement or a score to be proud of, it is better than what the ESP 3 printed out.
Copy Speed 4.72
Using the copy feature on the ESP 3 was a big pain at times because of continuous paper jams and loud noises. It jammed often, and sometimes gave no reason or explanation for causing the paper jams and other copying misfortunes. The ESP 3 didn't discriminate against types of paper, jamming both regular document paper and photo paper.
The above is the error message that displayed when a paper jam occurred. Instead of acknowledging or displaying what the problem was, it simply displayed instructions on what to do, which actually made it more annoying and tedious because it didn't work. Even after following these instructions several times, the ESP 3 persisted to produce paper jams during copying.
In terms of speed, when the printer was able to shape up and produce some copies, it was pretty fast. It took about 21 seconds to copy a black and white text document and nearly 47 seconds to copy a photograph, making the copy rate of a document about 2.8 pages per minute and the copy rate of a photograph about 1.28 pages per minute. With all the fuss the ESP 3 gave, this was impressive because its copy speed was able to beat all three of the compared printers. It especially through the HP C5180 out of the water, which came in at .86 pages per minute for text documents and .77 pages per minute for photographs. The Kodak 5300 came in second place with is semi-fast copy speed of 1.56 text documents per minute and .90 photographs per minute.
Copy Color Quality 6.68
Like the print test in the photo performance section and the scan test in the scan section, we check the color accuracy of the copy as well. In case you want to make copies of photographs or high quality and color business presentation graphs and so on, it's important to test the color accuracy of the copier to ensure your copy will be more exact than not.
The good news is that copy feature of the ESP 3 is better at matching color than the printer and the scanner. The bad news is that there's still a significant amount of color error, which for the ESP 3 is 7.48. Show below is the graph of the results.
In this chart, the squares represent the original color, and the circles represent the copied version. The farther the boxes are from the circles, or the longer the lines are, the further the copied color was from the original color. So the ESP 3 did do a poor job of accurately representing blues, greens and reds, which is similar to the misses it produced in its scans.
Ease of Use 5.50
The printer itself was easy to use.It wasn't difficult to figure out where the buttons were or how to use the Kodak Home Center software, which was pretty clear cut and simple. The difficulty with the ESP 3 came with the problems it gave and the troubleshooting required to resolve them. Copying was a pain due to the paper constantly jamming and the software was a problem because it conflicted with a previous version that hadn't been removed before the ESP 3 software was installed. Also the ESP 3 is very loud. While printing, copying, starting up and configuring itself, it was unharmonic with definitive pitches and sounds that could rival a remote control car.
For the cost of the ESP 3, it's worth browsing around before you buy. Although $129.99 is an attractive price for a printer, copier and scanner in one unit, it doesn't provide the best value since the ESP 3 gave us paper jam and software problems right from the start. And its consolidation of resolution is not credit-worthy either. The ESP 3's ink are a good value, keeping the cost of ink lower than some other manufacturers.
Kodak EasyShare 5300
This printer is older than the ESP 3, but was able to beat it in photo print speed, color range and color accuracy. However, being an older printer with an added fax feature, it naturally used more power than the ESP 3 and it wasn't able to keep up in document print speed. Price-wise, the Kodak EasyShare 5300 is priced at $149, a good value for the features it offers. However the printer is an older model and a bulky one as well.
HP Photosmart C5180
HP's all in one did really well on the document speed test, blowing the Kodak ESP 3 out of the water. With speeds of 6 pages per minute, it was very fast. It also did very well on the photo speed test being able to print 1.19 4x6 photographs per minute. The drawbacks of the HP Photosmart C5180 is that it performed poorly on the color accuracy test and had mediocre scores on the color range test.
Canon Pixma MX850
Canon's flagship all-in-one is a very bulky printer to say the least. It performed well on most all of our tests, earning the highest document print speed score with its ability to print a little over 10 pages her minute, which was very impressive. It also produced one of the lowest color error in our color accuracy test at 4.93, which was much more accurate than the ESP 3. But the MX850 is expensive; a hefty $279.99, as hefty as its 30lb weight and size.
The Kodak ESP 3 rarely passed a test with flying colors against its compared printers and in a few cases it was beat out by its predecessor, the Kodak Easyshare 5300. It was slow at copying, slow at scanning in the higher resolution and gave a lot of problems while doing both. Memory became an issue with high resolution scanning and paper jams were a constant problem while copying. These issues came on top of inaccuracies in color matching and color range. The ESP 3 did an especially poor job in producing a good color range and lost to its compared printers. To top it all off, the ESP 3 produced sounds and in high pitches that could rival an alarm clock. On the upside, the ESP 3 was fast at printing text documents, and it's pretty cheap at $129.99. Whether this represents value for money depends on how important color accuracy and high resolution scanning are; if you need these features, it would be a false economy. But if all you need is a cheap, fast text printer, then the ESP 3 is worth considering.
Meet the tester
Binde Rai is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
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