Kodak ESP 7250 All-in-One Printer , Scanner and Copier review.

Kodak’s latest all in one printer is aimed, says Kodak, at “helping you share your mobile life for less”. Yeah, right! Well it is easy to set up with a compact and attractive design, provides neat direct print features, even for WiFi enabled Smartphones alongside simplicity of use and inexpensive inks. Doug Harman finds out if it lives up to its hype.

The 7250 is a new compact all-in-one that's an attractive looking machine combining a scanner, copier and photo quality printer with low ink costs (saving up to £75 a year says Kodak) and clever WiFi direct print features for WiFi enabled Smartphones (Blackberry phones to be precise) and Kodak even claims this as a “world first” for those devices, while iPod Touch and iPhone users can also join in on the fun using the Kodak Pic Flick application.

The ESP 7250, joins Kodak’s ESP printer range at the top of the tree, a range where you pay that bit more for the device and less for the ink, with Kodak claiming the overall cost of ownership enables a saving on ink of around £75 on other maker’s similar devices.

There’s a front-loading 100-sheet paper feed tray beneath the front of the device, paper must be loaded print side down, where it is fed into and back out on top of the paper tray. A 40-sheet dedicated photo paper tray is also built into the same feeder tray set up and accepts 6x4, 7x4 and 5x7-inch paper sizes.

Paper guides can be moved to adjust for paper of varying sizes easily, though photo paper on top of plain paper produces tendency to drag in the plain paper along with the photo paper, so load only one type of paper at a time.

Clever Technology
Some of the clever technology you pay for in the 7250 includes the wireless print function from a Smartphone, but that only supports Blackberry phones unless you download the previously mentioned Kodak Pic Flick App which allows iPhone and iPod Touch users to print directly too. Via my iPhone, Kodak Pic Flick is very easy to install and use, I was printing in a few clicks.

Then you Kodak’s “intelligent” features where the printer can select the correct paper/paper tray for the print job at hand as well as the automatic quality settings when using Kodak’s own paper. Back printed codes tell the printer what settings to use.

The print head holds a single black and combined five-colour pigment based ink set up that slot home easily into a removable print head carriage, which sits beneath the scanner/copier platen.

A direct print control panel on the front is well laid out with the menus clear and easy to follow on the colour screen. Each function can be easily controlled, allowing copying, printing and scanning as a standalone device, or you can control the device from your computer.

The supplied software drivers are simple enough to follow, the print dialogues for the printer are easy to understand and as discussed earlier, the 7250 can automatically select the print quality depending on the paper type used; Kodak papers have a special “bar” code on the reverse, which it uses to check the paper type in use to help set the print quality accordingly.

As a result, the machine is easy to use for the less technical minded users out there, but you do have manual controls over print quality too, within the printer’s advanced driver options, but these could are a tad confusing and so could be easier to understand.

There are a raft of features for image enhancement called Kodak Perfect Touch technology, while these are only available on Windows computers they provide facial retouching as well as colour and brightness enhancements, colour restoration and redeye reduction all built into the machine.

Getting A Print
Kodak’s Ultra Premium Photo Paper is the best quality paper for best photo prints, but you can “force” the printer to use the higher quality settings although if you do this, more ink will be used and it may not provide the cost savings Kodak claim. This is because suing the auto settings from the paper, the printer will set up in a way that’s very conservative and while prints are okay, they are not as good as with manual control where you can make the printer user a higher quality setting.

As with other ESP’s in the range, Kodak’s Dot Replacement print mode allows for better quality output on specific paper types, but disappointingly not if you print borderless, where it is not supported.

Overall, print quality on the better papers is very good, Dot Replacement or not, but it’s a shame you cannot access Dot Replacement for borderless prints where that extra detail might be useful on larger output images.

Automatic print quality can sometimes produce images with a striped effect on lower quality photo paper confirming my suspicion the auto quality settings are designed to use ink more frugally than might otherwise produce a better print.

Manually controlling print quality produced better results and amazingly, it was faster! An example A4 photo print on Kodak’s Premium Photo Paper (High Gloss) took 3.20-minutes leaving the 7250 to do it’s quality settings automatically.

I then printed the same image, manually controlling the quality (setting it the Premium Photo Paper (High Gloss) setting, as above) and not only was print quality better (no nasty stripes) but it took 3-minutes dead. The same image printed using Dot Replacement took a lot longer, a lot longer indeed, at just under 21-minutes! Yep that’s 21-minutes.

Frustrations and Foibles
There’s a very annoying frustration when using or deciding to use the non-borderless/Dot Replacement mode when selecting the print settings. You can select to use the Dot Replacement technology, even with the incorrect, borderless setting and it is only as paper is fed into the printer at the start of the print job that the error is picked up by the machine.

Only then do you get an alert about the incorrect paper selection and all you can do is abort the print process and start again. Why not simply have warnings when you click the Dot Replacement radio button on the print driver if you have borderless selected? That would save time and make the 7250 easier to use in terms of printing.

Print quality on lesser photo papers (in automatic mode) drops quickly with even the Premium Photo paper producing prints with distracting visible dots, akin to blotchy white coloured noise. Get round this by selecting a higher print setting manually but you’ll have to take the increased ink usage on the chin or rather, in the pocket.

When printing text documents – with or without graphics – quality is excellent, text looks very crisp and “laser-like” while graphics pack plenty of colour and punchiness.

Kodak’s claimed print times, which are up to 32 pages per minute (ppm) for mono and 30ppm for colour, but these settings are only achievable letting the printer control things and (usually) at lowest quality settings.

These times are faster than previous models (as are my timed tests for all but Dot Replacement mode photos) but a 6x4-inch photo prints in around 29-seconds, again at a lower quality settings than I’d prefer.

Copy and Scan
Copy quality leaves something to be desired, copied images having blocky-looking darker areas in shadows. Text copies well however, while copying photos, at photo quality settings, provides prints where detail is missing or filled-in and with odd colour casts.

Such issues over copying may not be a big problem for many but it precludes getting good quality copies even with a top-quality source image or document.

In terms of scanning, scan speed is, to a large degree, dependent on the system/connection method you are using. However, using the WiFi connection, it took five minutes to scan an A4 photo at 600ppi. The 89Mb file’s scan quality was good (you can scan up to an optical 2400ppi resolution) with faithful colours and good detail; this is a good solution to copy in higher quality than a straight copy direct from the device.

Overall the 7250 provides a good platform for most printing and scanning needs, copying less so. And while the 7250 costs a penny shy of £170, the inks cost much less than many competitors, the black pigment ink costing  £6.99 while the five-colour ink tank costs  £11.99, and it is here Kodak’s claimed savings come in.

But there’s a big caveat, as we’ve seen already. To get the cost of ownership savings, you’ll need to allow the printer’s systems to always control the print output but as we’ve seen, that also means you get inferior prints to the manual controlled settings you can use and that provide better prints often more quickly.

The cost of ownership therefore varies on how satisfied you are with the machine’s print quality either on lower specified papers, non-Kodak media and with all auto settings.
Overall The Kodak ESP 7250’s print quality is very good and so is the scan quality; copies are just about acceptable however. Print speeds are much slower than those claimed by Kodak, at least for a reasonable photo output, and it is also frustrating you can’t use Dot Replacement on borderless prints.

Nevertheless, the Kodak ESP 7250 is well-made and easy to use and while it might look expensive to some, particularly if you look at competing all-in-one devices from the likes of Lexmark, for example, the low ink cost should be important in your purchase consideration; even if you see cheaper machines on the market, compare ink costs as well to get a truer picture as the Kodak ESP 7250 could save you a lot of money over time.

In the final analysis, while there are issues on the way the device uses ink to get top quality prints using the paper sensing technology, you can get some outstanding print quality out of the 7250. For run-of-the-mill use, or when you want quick and dirty output the all-auto set up is certainly a time and money saver . If you want higher quality output (or scans) you can wrestle control back from the 7250 and achieve it, nevertheless, the Kodak ESP 7250 just misses out on a coveted Best4Reviews award.