If you’re after a new printer in this day and age there seems little reason not to go for an all-in-one, such is the range of models and relatively cheap prices available. If there’s one drawback to these it’s that, typically speaking, they don’t offer such good results for photo printing as you’d get from a dedicated device.
Kodak is one of the most qualified companies that can beg to differ in this area, and the new models in its ESP series attempt to combine versatility and speed with high quality output.
The ESP 7 is the baby brother of the ESP 9, which is almost identical sans fax capabilities. It’s a tidy design that’s completely finished in jet black, and while this should coordinate nicely with the rest of the equipment in a typical home or office setup, it does come across as a bit boxy, so may not be to everyone’s tastes.
A 3-inch colour LCD display offers access to on-board controls and will be your first port of call during setup, where you can configure wired or wireless access directly by choosing the appropriate SSID and pass-code for your network. After the print head and cartridges are fitted you’re ready to go. We found this process to be straightforward and better than many others in handling the first steps with a printer, particularly in the case of network setup.
While it’s not strictly necessary, Kodak’s AIO software is provided to offer direct access to scanning, copying, printing and configuration settings, though most of these can also be adjusted through a relevant application or directly via the controls on the device.
These controls are well thought-out and consist of directional pad, start, cancel and menu buttons. There are also dedicated zoom controls to help you scan images displayed on the screen when a memory card is inserted into the multi-format slot, or a camera connected to the USB port, offering direct access to prints without a computer.
The ESP 7 also offers some handy features that help to distinguish it from the crowd, including enhanced efficiency that allegedly makes cartridges last 50 percent longer and an ‘intelligent paper tray system’ which detects the type of paper you’re using and automatically adjusts settings for optimal performance. It’ll also monitor the number of sheets left and warn you if there aren’t sufficient to complete the current job.
Kodak claims performance of up to 32ppm for black and white prints and 30ppm for colour, though in truth we’re not sure how they reached these figures. In tests of text printing the printer had a warm-up time of around 15 seconds, after which it achieved about 6ppm at the regular setting and 12ppm on draft. While this isn’t exactly slow, we’re intrigued to see how it could possibly reach almost three times this speed.
Print quality results here, though, were very good, with lettering sharp and crisp, and even on the draft setting there was very little bleed and, although this mode uses less ink so the text isn’t as pronounced, none of the clarity was lost.
Next up we tried some full photo prints on A4 paper and the first thing we noticed was that the automatic paper selection feature does in fact seem to work extremely well. The printer successfully adjusted quality settings to ‘high’ for premium photo paper and, although a print at the maximum quality settings took just over two minutes, results were excellent. Colour contrast was accurate, lines were sharp and details were crisp, leaving us with a print that was all but indistinguishable from a professionally processed photograph.
The ESP 7 can also print 6×4-inch images from a dedicated tray and this took just over 30 seconds, which is rather more in keeping with the quoted 28 seconds for this size of image.
Elsewhere the scanning and copying features work as expected, with comparable print times for copies, while full colour A4 scans, at a maximum of 2400ppi, appeared in around 40 seconds with similarly impressive quality results.
In terms of economy, it’s difficult to say exactly how accurate Kodak’s ‘50 percent saving’ claim is, though we did notice that the colour cartridge readout had dropped by around 30 percent after 10 full colour prints on a mixture of A4 and 6×4-inch paper.
These readings are notoriously inaccurate on many printers so it’s difficult to measure usage to an exact degree, though one welcome piece of news is that replacement cartridges will only set you back £6.99/£9.99 for mono/colour respectively.
Aside from the print quality, one of the most impressive things about the ESP 7 is how easy it is to use. You’ll find all the relevant settings adjustable through the controls on the printer itself and, where possible, such as in the case of automatic paper and quality selection, choices are made for you. For those reasons it would be an excellent choice for people who are looking to start printing photos in the home but aren’t particularly computer-savvy.
Where it does fall down is in terms of print speed and, while most people would be happy to wait a while longer for a photo if it means that quality isn’t compromised, it doesn’t double particularly well as a high-volume solution for document printing. Provided this isn’t high on your list of priorities, the ESP 7 is a capable and versatile solution that offers great results.
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