The Hero 5.1 is the entry-level offering in Kodak’s third generation of inkjet all-in-ones. The company has moved forward considerably since it first entered the market four years ago. Its main marketing strategy has been to keep ink costs down, at the expense of slightly high printer prices. According to analysts GfK, Kodak is now in second place, behind HP, in both sales value and units sold in GB.
With the introduction of the Hero range, Kodak’s product line has had a design refresh, and the Hero 5.1 looks very purposeful in black and silver with Kodak red keylines. There’s no ADF on top of the flatbed scanner, but a fold-up 61mm LCD sits to its right, with a simple, but well designed set of controls in front. Just over the front lip of the case is a single slot for SD and MemoryStick cards, and a socket for PictBridge cameras and USB memory drives.
There’s a single paper tray at the front, good for up to 100 sheets of plain paper or 20 or so photo blanks, though you have to swap media manually. Paper feeds out to a telescopic tray just above. At the back is a USB socket, but you miss out on some of the fun if you don’t use the printer’s wireless connection.
Remote printing with Google Cloud Print
The biggest single innovation with the Hero range is remote printing. Similar in principle to HP’s ePrint, in that the printer is assigned an email address of its own and can be reached from virtually any device which can send one, Kodak has chosen a different mechanism. It has teamed up with Google and offers Google Cloud Print as its preferred email platform, though there’s a Kodak Mail version, too.
We tried printing a photo to it from a Samsung Galaxy Mini and had no problem – other than a delay of a minute or more as the file chuntered through cyberspace. The main problem, as with ePrint, is the lack of control you have over size, orientation or any of the other parameters a printer driver would normally handle.
Print speeds are pretty much the same as from the Kodak’s earlier ESP C range, with which the Hero 5.1 shares its four-ink print engine. The machine has a duplexer as standard, though, and duplex speeds are quite good, as the pigment inks (as opposed to dye-based colours used by many other manufacturers’ entry-level models) reduce the drying time between sides. However, duplexed pages appear to be automatically reduced in size, which is an unwanted side-effect.
Print quality is good, with clean black text and a very usable draft mode, which prints more quickly. Colours are bright and photos come through with good detail and natural colours.
Running costs are a little higher than from Kodak printers in the new range such as the Office Hero 6.1, which use the older No. 10 cartridges. Even so, the new No. 30 inks yields costs per page of around 1.9p for black and 5.2p for colour. These are very low, when compared with most comparably-price all-in-ones and will continue to be a key selling point.
- Faster than average duplex print.
- No separate photo tray.
The latest range of Kodak all-in-ones get off to a good start with the hero 5.1. It’s a neat machine with duplex print, direct print from card, camera and USB drive and remote print from any email-ready device, if you want it. Needs a bit more control of emailed images, though.